What's New for 2006
The headlining news for the 2006 Chevy TrailBlazer is the debut of a new SS trim. This is the first time that Chevrolet has applied an SS badge to an SUV. The TrailBlazer SS trim includes a 391-hp, 6.0-liter V8; an available all-wheel-drive system; a sport-tuned suspension; 20-inch wheels; and more powerful brakes. Special SS interior trim pieces and reduced exterior body cladding are also part of this new package. Other changes for the TrailBlazer this year include new front and rear fascias for the LT trim, additional sound insulation and a newly available 300-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8. OnStar, a stability control system and cruise control are also now standard for all trim levels.
After years of lagging behind the competition with old-tech engines, bouncy suspensions and cramped interiors, Chevrolet revamped its midsize TrailBlazer in 2002 and turned it into a true class contender. Rugged and durable, the TrailBlazer has its roots in Chevy's Blazer line of vehicles, which has long provided transportation to those who take the "climb every mountain" maxim literally.
The Chevrolet TrailBlazer is a direct descendant of the S-10 Blazer, a compact sport-ute that first appeared as a 1983 model. Based on the S-10 pickup truck introduced one year earlier, the S-10 Blazer shared most of its components and some sheet metal with that small pickup. In 1991, a four-door S-10 Blazer appeared, just in time to serve up some competition to the Explorer.
By 1999, SUV fever was burning hot. Chevrolet astutely surmised that buyers would appreciate a dash of luxury with their off-road transportation, and the Chevy TrailBlazer was born. This plush version of the four-door Blazer featured a two-tone leather interior, monotone exterior scheme and unique alloy wheels. Unfortunately, this early TrailBlazer didn't quite measure up to its competition, undermined by cavernous gap tolerances between panels, a dated exterior and decidedly subpar handling.
Things took a turn for the better in 2002, when the Chevrolet TrailBlazer benefited from a top-to-bottom overhaul. There was more power under the hood, more style on the outside and more passenger and cargo room inside. While these improvements have certainly boosted the TrailBlazer's standing, they haven't sent it bolting to the head of its class. The bottom line? If you can put up with the mushy handling (the exception to this being the new SS trim) and don't mind the drab cabin aesthetics, the 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer is a competent vehicle. But from our standpoint, there are even more competent vehicles for the same price or less.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Chevrolet TrailBlazer offers two trim levels -- LS and LT. LS models come decently equipped, offering such features as 16-inch aluminum wheels, dual-zone manual air conditioning, cruise control, OnStar, a CD player and power windows and locks. LT models add a power driver seat, premium cloth upholstery, foglamps, keyless entry and 17-inch alloys. The SS package can be added to either model, and includes sport suspension, 20-inch polished wheels, unique interior and exterior trim and the 6.0-liter V8. Major options include leather upholstery, a sunroof, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a DVD-based navigation system, a Bose sound system, an in-dash CD changer and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The TrailBlazer's standard 4.2-liter inline six puts out 291 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Those who tow a trailer will appreciate the added low-end grunt of the optional 5.3-liter V8, which kicks out 300 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. The SS package includes a 6.0-liter V8 with 391 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. Properly equipped, V8 models can tow up to 6,800 pounds; six-cylinder versions max out at 6,200 pounds. Buyers have a choice between two- and four-wheel drive. Four-wheel-drive TrailBlazers with the SS package gain an upgraded system with a Torsen center differential. The SS is seriously quick and can hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 14.4 seconds.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control are standard. Full-length side curtain airbags are optional. If equipped with the optional airbags, the NHTSA gives the Chevy TrailBlazer a perfect five stars for its protection of front and rear occupants in side-impact crashes. Frontal-impact testing resulted in three-star ratings for the driver and four stars for the front passenger. The IIHS rated the TrailBlazer "Marginal" (the second lowest ranking on a four-point scale) in 40-mph frontal offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chevrolet TrailBlazer offers ample interior room, with five adults able to fit comfortably. If you need seven-passenger capacity, you'll want to look at the longer-wheelbase TrailBlazer EXT. Although most of the controls are easy to use, the overall interior design is drab compared to the cabins of competitors, and many of the TrailBlazer's interior materials look and feel cheap. The cargo bay holds 44 cubic feet, and if you fold down the 60/40-split rear seat, you've got 80 cubes at your disposal.
The 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer is great for freeway on-ramps and highway passing, but stop-and-go driving reveals a lack of low-end grunt from the standard inline six that keeps it from earning unanimous praise. While the inline six provides adequate power for most driving, either of the V8s are our choice, as they provide loads of torque for easy passing and merging and extra stamina when hauling heavy loads. The sport-ute's suspension is a mixed bag. Its soft tuning results in an extremely comfortable ride around town and on the highway. But push it hard into a corner, or take a bump too fast in the dirt, and the TrailBlazer's soft setup gets out of sorts quickly. The SS is another story. Around town and at normal freeway speeds the ride is firm but comfortable. When pressed on twisty roads, the SS' body motions are extremely well controlled, the steering feel is excellent and there's very little lean during hard cornering.