In some ways, the first generation Chevy TrailBlazer represented everything that was wrong with American automakers in the 2000s. It contained a bargain bin interior filled with extremely low quality plastic. Reliability remained an issue throughout its run and GM didn’t feel compelled to substantially update the vehicle despite its decent sales figures. And it was unceremoniously killed after seven years without a true replacement, which gave competitors an opening they exploited. GM waited roughly ten years before reentering the mid-size two row segment and now they’re at a disadvantage.
But will an SUV shopper in 2020 be at a disadvantage if they purchase this Blazer of Trails? I don’t think so.
In 2005, my best friend at the time purchased a lightly used 2002 Chevy TrailBlazer. It was a pretty nice ride for a high school senior. But the interior failed to impress, with its comically oversized radio and HVAC controls and horrible ergonomics. It also smelled weird. I’m reasonably confident nearly all GM vehicles from this era emitted the same odor, because I experienced the same smell when I climbed inside a rental Chevy Malibu Maxx several years later. Was it the plastics or the cloth upholstery?
In any event, the car had some flaws. But the 4.2 liter Vortec inline 6 more than made up for it. With 270 horsepower and 275 Ib-ft of torque, the Chevy was one quick vehicle. That’s an output that most three-row crossovers couldn’t match until recently. For example, the 2020 Kia Telluride comes equipped with a 291 horsepower 3.8 liter V6. That output was actually matched by the Chevy after the 2006 model year. The Chevy definitely impressed my 19 year old self, and I found the TrailBlazer to exhibit a decent ride for what it was.
The question is, does this SUV make sense in 2020? It’s a four-wheel drive SUV that’s slightly larger than a modern Ford Edge, so its size is manageable. The front bumper has seen better days but the body looks clean. It’s an LT model, which included amenities like a leather wrapped steering wheel, OnStar, heated mirrors, cruise control, eight way power driver seat with lumbar support, and auto dimming rear view mirror. And according to the ad it “RUNS AND DRIVES GREAT” and has “GOOD HEAT AND AC.”
One minor issue is the seller’s assertion that this TrailBlazer has third row seating. It most definitely does not. Regardless, it sits at 160k miles, which is slightly below average for a fifteen year old car.
And according to Consumer Reports, the 2005 TrailBlazer had 40% fewer problems than the average vehicle that year. Does that mean it was a relatively problem-free vehicle? No. A quick jaunt over to the reliability chart reveals it suffered from a host of issues. But I have to believe that a clean looking fifteen year old example managed to beat the odds, otherwise it would have been junked by this point, right? I also have to imagine that every GM dealer and most independent shops are familiar enough with these models to understand their weak spots. Parts should be pretty cheap too.
At $1,500, is this a decent winter beater? Or should buyers stay away at all costs? I’m leaning towards the former, if only for the 4.2 liter I-6. In my opinion, this SUV was saved by the powertrain.
Source: HV craigslist