Kiwis have always had a soft spot for knockabout ute-based low range-equipped 4x4 ‘station wagons’ like Isuzu and Holden’s D-Max-based MU-X and Colorado 7 twins.
Now Holden has piggy-backing on its 2017 model year Colorado ute upgrade to create the Trailblazer, a much-improved replacement for the Colorado 7.
Like the 2017 Colorado ute, which went on sale here in September, the Trailblazer has enjoyed a comprehensive front-to-back makeover which has resulted in night-and-day improvements to the steering, ride, and interior sound, comfort and convenience levels.
Not only that, but the new model hits the market at just $62,990 in LTZ spec, a cool $4000 LESS than the LTZ-spec Colorado 7 it replaces.
Name – and reprofiled nose with new headlights and LCD daylight running lights – aside, the big changes are under the skin. And believe me, if you’ve driven the outgoing model you notice them straight away.
Ditching the old (ponderous and heavy-handed) hydraulic power steering for a new, sharper (down from 3.9 to 3.3 turns lock-to-lock) electric system has made a big difference. As have new body (to chassis) and engine and transmission mounts, a new spec (lower road noise, better grip in the wet and dry) tyre, the relocation of the engine’s contra-rotating balance shaft and the use of a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber torque converter.
Combined with a reduction in final drive gearing (to take full advantage of the benefits of the new torque converter) DOHC/16-valve 2.8 litre turbo-diesel four cylinder engine) the result is a quieter cabin and – despite no change in the peak power (147kW) and torque (500Nm) figures – a much perkier, more responsive feel at the pedal.
The key to the appeal of a ‘ruggedized’ ute-based station wagon is in its potential to be all things to all people. To be able to - at the flick of a switch – engage low range and take the road less travelled, or effortlessly tow a trailer or caravan weighing up to (in Trailblazer’s case) 3000kg, all in air-conditioned and leather-trimmed comfort for up to seven people.
To this end the Trailblazer is a thoroughly modern, comprehensively-specced, 4WD with a rotary dial rather than a lever to swap between hi and lo-range, and the ability to swap between 2WD H(igh) and 4WD H on-the-fly.
It’s also a genuine seven seater, with (just) enough room for two adults (though to be fair, the accommodation is more kid-sized) in the third row of seats.