2003 Chevrolet TrailBlazer Review

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Sue Mead Sue Mead Editor
September 30, 2002
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For 2003, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer lineup receives some minor drivetrain improvements, an optional V-8 for the new EXT extended seating model, as well as a few new comfort and safety features.

Introduced a year ago as a 2002 model, the TrailBlazer carves a small new niche within the Chevy/GMC SUV lineup. It is less sporty and more upscale than the Blazer, smaller but sportier than the Tahoe, larger and more capable than the Tracker. Its primary competitors include Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango.

Three times an SUV

Chevy's latest SUV is available in three trim levels, plus the TrailBlazer EXT, which seats seven and competes with the extended-seating versions of the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, as well as the upscale GMC Envoy XL.

On the outside, the 2003 TrailBlazer lineup, including the EXT, has a restyled trapezoidal front end that is an updated version of the current, rectangular Tahoe and Blazer. Overall proportions are similar to the Tahoe, but this vehicle has sleek hood and wheel well seams that improve on the Tahoe's more blocky appearance. Five-spoke 17-inch aluminum wheels are optional on basic models and standard on EXT, as is a roof luggage rack.

A new addition for this year is the North Face Edition package, a co-branded version available on both the two- and four-wheel-drive TrailBlazer, with both the base and EXT trim levels. This trim-and-badge package is layered on top of the Leather Plus feature Package and includes lower accent-color body cladding, body-colored exterior mirrors, running lamps, a liftgate luggage rack, headlamp washers, B-pillar badging and, as a quirky touch, a clothesline.

A Vortec 4200 4.2-liter in-line six-cylinder is the standard engine, while the EXT offers an optional Vortec 5300 5.3-liter V-8. The in-line six delivers 275 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque and can tow up to 5900 pounds with 2WD (5800 with 4WD). The V-8 makes 290 hp and 325 lb-ft and can haul a 7200-pound trailer.

Both engines are matched to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive, and both are available in either two- or four-wheel-drive versions. Models with 4WD include GM's Autotrac transfer case system. Traction control is optional on 2WD models.

An independent front suspension and five-link solid axle rear suspension provide support, and rack-and-pinion steering keeps the vehicle fairly tight through turns. With a wheelbase of 129 inches, this light truck has a stable stance on the road. Its braking system includes front vented discs and rear drums with four-wheel ABS, and standard tires and wheels are 17 inches.

Interior motives

Inside the EXT mid-size SUV are seats for seven. Storage capacity is 100.2 cubic feet of space with the second and third rows folded, 22.3 cubic feet with just the third seat folded. An 85-inch cargo floor allows for stowage of 4x8-foot sheets of plywood or several pairs of skis. As another TCC reviewer opined of the similar GMC Envoy XL, the rearmost seat really isn’t suitable for anyone but children. But the remaining seats are comfortable, especially the front buckets.

The cockpit includes a busy instrument cluster behind the steering wheel that is designed with spoke positioning that makes the tach, speedometer and other gauges easily readable. Controls are easy to reach and good-sized dials make them easy-to-adjust.

Throughout the cabin, dual-zone heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems heat up and cool down faster than any other system in the segment or price range, says General Motors. Safety features include driver and front passenger airbags and a three-point seat belt in the center seat position in the second row.

Overall, the TrailBlazer EXT is a sport-utility vehicle for Everyman. There are those who need extra-high ground clearance, advanced 4x4 systems, headlamp protectors, DVD systems and other bells and whistles in their sport utes, and then there are still plenty of others. With 275 horsepower, trailering capacity of at least 7200 pounds, seating for seven and decent curb appeal, the TrailBlazer EXT isn’t a standout, but it is certainly good enough for many.

2003 Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT
Base price: $30,660 (2WD); $32,885 (4WD); plus $625 destination.
Engine: 4.2-liter in-line six, 275 hp/275 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Four-speed automatic, 4WD or rear 2WD
Length x width x height (inches): 207.8 x 74.7 x 75.5
Wheelbase: 129.0 in
Curb weight (lbs.): 4787 (2WD/six), 4968 (4WD/six); 4670 (2WD/V-8); N/A (4WD/V-8)
EPA City/Hwy: 15/20 mpg (2WD/six)
Safety equipment: Front vented disc brakes with four-wheel anti-lock control, dual-stage driver and front passenger airbags, center three-point safety belt
Major standard equipment: Dual-zone high-airflow HVAC system, 22-character message driver information display, OnStar communication/navigation system
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles

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