When it comes to ute-based 4x4 family wagons, the Holden Trailblazer really hasn’t found favour with Australian buyers, outsold to the tune of three to one by the Isuzu MU-X with which it shares its platform. It’s a pity, because the Holden Trailblazer has a lot to offer at a very keen price.
What is the 2018 Holden Trailblazer LTZ? The Holden Trailblazer is a seven-seat 4x4 wagon that’s based on the Colorado ute platform, but with a shorter wheelbase and coil spring suspension in the rear rather than its sibling’s harsher-riding leaf spring setup. Common components shared between wagon and ute include the engine, automatic transmission, part-time two-speed transfer case and various exterior bits (including some panels and trim), as well as many interior features.
The LTZ is the mid-spec variant in the Trailblazer line-up, sitting between the base-spec LT and the hero Z71 models. Standard gear on the LTZ includes six-speed automatic transmission, electric power steering, leather trim, heated front seats, an eight-inch colour touchscreen with satnav and Apple Carplay/Android Auto, electronic climate control, roof rails, LED DRLs, LED tail lights, heated and power folding exterior mirrors, remote window operation via the key fob, remote vehicle start and 18-inch alloy wheels. Not bad for $52,490.
The Trailblazer’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine is a ripper, producing a claimed 147kW of power at 3600rpm and a meaty 500Nm of torque from 2000-2200rpm. Those peak outputs put the Trailblazer clear of its direct competitors, despite an engine-capacity deficit compared with the Ford Everest and Isuzu MU-X.
What’s the interior like? The interior of the Trailblazer is a mixed bag of high equipment levels and pleasing design but not so fab materials. Sure, the leather seat trim is nice, as is the overall dash layout, but there’s lots of hard grey plastic that can be easily scratched.
The driver’s seat is firm but comfortable, with good fore and aft adjustment, but no lumbar adjustment, and the steering wheel adjusts for tilt only. The small centre bin houses USB and auxiliary inputs (the glovebox is also compact) while there’s a big dial on the centre console for selecting the drive mode (2H, 4H and 4L).
Switches for media, HVAC and the various active safety features can all be easily seen from the driver’s seat; they are big, clearly labelled and logically positioned. And the colour touchscreen is nice and bright, and well shaded from direct sunlight.
If you have two adult passengers in the second row of the Trailblazer, they will likely complement seat comfort, as well as the facilities, which include a couple of cup holders in the centre fold-down armrest, one more each in the door pockets, a 12V power outlet at the back of the centre console and a/c fan control and vents in the roof.
But the seat bases are a little low and a little short, so tall passengers will likely complain of a legs-up seating position. If you need to seat someone in the centre of the second row, they won’t be impressed by the firm seat base and upright backrest, but at least they’re afforded decent headroom and enough space for their feet.
The second-row seats tumble away easily for access to the third row, and while those in the very back don’t get a hell of a lot of leg room, there’s plenty of width, a couple of cup holders, roof vents and a light. And even with all three rows in use, there’s still a reasonable amount of cargo space for some shopping bags or a couple of ‘carry-on’ bags.
No passengers? With all the seats folded there’s a long and flat cargo floor, albeit a high load height due to the raised floor, under which the cargo blind can be stowed. The tie-down points are located too high on the sides of the cargo area to be of much use, but there’s a light back there and another 12V power outlet if you have a fridge or other accessory to plug in.
What’s it like on the road? For those after a wagon that can be driven around town every day and then used to escape to the bush on the weekends, the Trailblazer is a great candidate. Despite its commercial-vehicle underpinnings, it feels quite refined on the road and not too big. The suspension is well sorted, ride quality is good and the electric power steering feels light around town but nicely weighted at higher speeds.
With so much torque available from low in the rev range, the Trailblazer’s turbo-diesel engine provides effortless performance, and is well matched to the smooth shifting six-speed auto, which holds on to tall gears for as long as possible when accelerating on partial throttle, making the most of the engine’s low-rpm urge. Put your boot into it and engine revs will climb quickly, but if you leave the transmission in auto it’ll grab another gear before the tacho needle hits 4000rpm (redline is 4500rpm).
The transmission is also quite active when off the throttle, aggressively downshifting on descents to maintain the set speed. This is great when relying on the cruise control to avoid copping demerit points, but it might be a little disconcerting if you’re used to an auto that simply lets speed get away from you on big downhill runs.
Expect real world combined fuel economy somewhere around 11L/100km, although it will certainly do better than that on the open road, so a safe touring range of 650km is not out of the question from the 76-litre fuel tank.
Once you’re off the blacktop and on to the dirt, you can engage 4H on the fly, but you’ll have to remember to flick back to two-wheel drive once you’re back on a hard surface. This is one area in which the Trailblazer – and MU-X and Fortuner for that matter – are really behind the eight ball compared with the Ford Everest (full-time 4x4) and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (selectable full-time 4x4). It’s not a deal breaker but a part-time 4x4 system is quite rudimentary in this day and age.
What’s it like off the road? The Trailblazer has a lot going for it off the road including its torque-laden engine, decent low-range reduction (37:1 in first gear) and high-enough profile 265/60R18 tyres. Short front and rear overhangs are a plus, but ground clearance isn’t best in class, and ramp-over angle is hindered by the big sidesteps. If you intend to regularly use your Trailblazer off the road, you’ll probably want to flick the OE sidesteps in favour some aftermarket steps or rock sliders.
The electronic traction control works well enough if you pick your line carefully in undulating terrain, but with only a limited-slip rear diff to help the traction control on gnarly climbs, the Trailblazer is no match for vehicles fitted with a rear diff lock.
The Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control systems come in handy in steep country, although the HDC target speed needs to be set lower for completely confident descents.
Under-bonnet components such as the alternator, ECU and other electronics are located quite high in the engine bay, and the Trailblazer’s engine breathes through the inner guard, via a big cylindrical airbox that can only be opened with a spanner. There’s not much free space in the engine bay, so those who want to fit a second battery might have to opt for an under-vehicle set-up, or try to find somewhere in the cargo area for a battery box.
What safety features does it get? The Trailblazer LTZ is loaded with safety features and as such it’s no surprise it’s been awarded a five-star ANCAP rating.
In addition to electronic stability control, hill descent control, hill start assist and trailer sway control, the Trailblazer LTZ has seven airbags (driver, passenger, driver knee and curtains), a reversing camera, front and rear park assist, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitor and rain-sensing wipers.
So, what do we think of the 2018 Holden Trailblazer LTZ? Considering its high equipment levels, raft of safety features, super-strong 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, solid on-road dynamics, class-competitive 3000kg towing capacity and decent off-road capability, it’s surprising the Trailblazer LTZ doesn’t sell as well as many of its competitors. It’s a great package for the money and there are plenty of aftermarket accessories available for those who want to transform the Trailblazer into a genuinely capable off-road tourer.
Words Dean Mellor via Practicalmotoring.com.au Photos by manufacturer