LOS CABOS, Mexico — Sunlight twinkles on the Sea of Cortez and at its undulating edge, a white-sand beach beckons. But, the call of the off-road and desert driving is my siren song. I head to a nearby 4x4 track where GM's triumvirate of new midsize SUVs awaits me.
Slipping behind the wheel of the all-new 2002 Chevy Trailblazer, I navigate a 4WD loop that has up and downhill grades, tight and twisty turns and a long straightaway back stretch. I'm wowed by this street-prepared player with some true back-country capability. I note that it has ample well-modulated power, capable brakes and crisp steering, with a tight turning radius. Good ground clearance coupled with a compliant but firm suspension allow for moderately speedy travel over bumpy and rough terrain with good result. Forget the waves! This is an ocean of fun!
For the 2002 model year, General Motors has dramatically refined its lineup of midsize SUVs, with updated versions of the GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada, plus the new 2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The triumvirate have three distinct styles with state-of-the-art refinements in both mechanics and special features.
Built on the same platform as the GMC Envoy and the Oldsmobile Bravada, the Trailblazer rides on an all-new chassis with a stiffer frame and dynamic suspension system and shares a brand-new engine that increases performance while improving fuel efficiency and smoothness.
2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer interior
2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
The road to revitalization
The TrailBlazer is Chevy's newest entry into the midsize ute market. Conceived as a complement to the Chevy Blazer – which will still be produced in two- and four-door models – the TrailBlazer is larger with more interior room, along with more power, durability and better overall handling.
Leading the way in efficiency is the all-new Vortec 4200 in-line six engine, the first straight six-cylinder engine produced by General Motors since their use in Chevy trucks of the early 1980s. This new incarnation proves that this was an old idea ready to make a comeback, as the packaging of the in-line six design produces the power of a V-8 yet increases fuel efficiency to an estimated 16/21 city/highway, higher than other vehicles in its class.
Despite its size, the Vortec 4200 produces a segment-leading 270 hp at 6000 rpm with 275 lb-ft of torque, plenty of power and grunt on tap for a vehicle its size, that is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission that has been specially tuned for smoothness and quietness.
The TrailBlazer is available in both rear-wheel and four-wheel-drive versions. Making the two-wheel-drive model more road-ready is an optional traction control system, which gives added stability in slippery conditions.
Standard equipment on all Trailblazers are four-wheel anti-lock brakes. An innovative four-wheel disc braking system has special venting to insure proper heat dissipation, and, therefore, gives the TrailBlazer increased trailering capacity over the Blazer. This system will also improve brake life because of lower temperatures.
An extra level of ruggedness comes from the combination of a coil-over-shock front suspension design, and the proven sturdy five-link rear suspension, which uses coil springs instead of the traditional leaf spring design found in most SUVs and pickups. The benefit, claims GM engineers, is performance – more of a sedan-like feel with better handling.
2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
TrailBlazer differs in appearance and size from its Blazer sibling. It has a
wider stance, a more substantial front bumper and longer body, and as a result
is better at accommodating five passengers and more cargo. Its beltline is
lowered for the look of stability, and pronounced "eyebrows" over the wheel
arches add bulk. The front windshield gently slopes up from the
hood to a roof that can come equipped with a sunroof. The rear window curves up gracefully, as well, with less boxiness than previous SUVs. Larger halogen lamps used on front and back improve active and passive visibility.
The body-on-frame vehicle structure isolates noise and also contributes to a better ride quality. Notable is the use of fully hydroformed side rails — a first in the truck market — in the chassis design, which make a more consistent frame, reduces weight and eliminates scrap during the production process.
Standard tire sizes are 16 inches, with cast-aluminum wheels; or an upgrade to a 17-inch tire and wheel package. A new feature, implemented as a result of customer demand, is a full-size spare, stowed in a rear compartment, for convenience.
TrailBlazer comes with upgraded safety enhancements, including dual-level frontal airbags for both front passengers, as well as seat-mounted side-impact thorax airbags. Three-point safety belts are provided for all five seating placements. GM also reports that TrailBlazer beat its competition in bumper performance, with little or no damage in impacts of up to five mph and in Restraint System Evaluation Considerations (RSEC) testing, it fared remarkably well, with balanced occupant performance throughout the cabin.
Two upscale packages, LT and LTZ, come with a next-generation OnStar navigation system that provides hands-free calling and concierge services. Additionally, GM recently announced that it would be teaming up with a video specialist to offer a second-generation 6.8-inch pull-down video monitor to go with a DVD player set for fall introduction.
Also of note is that TrailBlazer was built with the intention of dispelling the idea that SUVs are not environmentally friendly. More than 90 percent of all vehicle content is classified as recyclable.
2002 Chevy TrailBlazer
Base price ranges: $25,755 (LS 2WD)-$34,330 (LTZ 4WD)
Engine: 4.2-liter in-line six, 270 hp
Transmission: Hydramatic four-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive or
Wheelbase: 113.0 in
Length: 191.8 in
Width: 72.0 in
Height: 69.8 in
Curb weight: 4442 lb
EPA (cty/hwy): 16/21 (estimated)
Safety equipment: Dual-stage front passenger airbags, side-impact thorax
airbags, five-mph bumpers, traction control (optional, 2WD), three-point seatbelts
Major standard features: ABS brakes, dual-zone climate control, five-link rear suspension, in-line six-cylinder engine
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles