Full Edmunds Expert Review: 2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SUV
What's New for 2009
The previously optional 5.3-liter V8 engine has been dropped for the 2009 Chevy TrailBlazer, and Bluetooth phone connectivity is newly available.
We've never been fans of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, though we must admit that our skepticism hasn't prevented it from being a popular choice among sport-utility vehicle shoppers. Affordable and generally competent, the latest TrailBlazer has been around since 2002 as Chevy's midsize truck-based SUV offering. However, the TrailBlazer hasn't changed much since then, and time has marched on. Outclassed in almost every area, you might say the TrailBlazer's expiration date lies somewhere in its rearview mirror.
An example of the traditional SUV genre, the midsize 2009 Chevy TrailBlazer has rugged truck-based underpinnings that provide a beefy towing capacity and a decent level of off-road capability. While this is fine for those who use their vehicles for a lot of recreational use, it also limits the vehicle's desirability for those more interested in responsive handling and a well-designed, versatile and up-to-date cabin. And while the TrailBlazer's ride quality remains a strong point as truck-based SUVs go, crossovers like Chevy's own Traverse -- the TrailBlazer's replacement arriving this year -- are better still and also offer three rows of seating and much better overall packaging.
At the right price, the 2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer might offer a lot of value for shoppers who can make use of its truck-based advantages. And high-performance niche fans will also find a lot to like in the limited-production TrailBlazer SS. But for most consumers, there are certainly better choices in the midsize-SUV universe. Traditional models like the Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner offer more cabin refinement and superior road manners, while crossovers like the Traverse, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander deliver greater passenger and cargo capacity and a more contemporary overall design. The TrailBlazer, as well as its GMC Envoy twin, should be avoided.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer is a midsize SUV available in four distinct trim levels: LT, 2LT, 3LT and SS. The base LT package comes equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone manual air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, OnStar, satellite radio and a CD player. The 2LT upgrade adds automatic climate control, rear air-conditioning and audio controls, leather seating, a power driver seat, Bluetooth, heated outside mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Stepping up to the premium TrailBlazer 3LT nets you 18-inch wheels, driver-seat memory, a power passenger seat, heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals and a Bose sound system.
The high-performance TrailBlazer SS has been streamlined into a single top-of-the-line model this year and is equipped similarly to the premium 3LT package in terms of standard and available features. It is primarily differentiated by its powerful V8 engine, sport-tuned suspension with quicker steering, heavy-duty brakes, 20-inch wheels, limited-slip differential, and special interior and exterior trim including SS-specific instrumentation. Depending on trim variation, major options include a two-tone exterior treatment, a Sun and Sound package with a sunroof and a premium audio system, rear-seat entertainment and a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
TrailBlazer LTs come equipped with a 4.2-liter inline-6 that generates 285 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque. It's backed by a four-speed automatic transmission and a choice of rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. The TrailBlazer SS boasts a 6.0-liter V8 cranking out 390 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. For the SS, one may choose standard rear drive or an available full-time AWD system that maximizes street performance instead of off-road ability. Either way, the SS is plenty quick and can hit 60 mph in under 6 seconds. Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 6,800 pounds. A 4WD TrailBlazer with the six-cylinder engine delivers an estimated 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg in combined driving. An AWD TrailBlazer SS, not surprisingly, checks in considerably lower with a 12/16/13 mpg rating.
The 2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer includes standard antilock disc brakes, stability control, OnStar and side curtain airbags. Safety scores are mixed; government frontal impact testing garnered three stars out of five for the driver and four stars for the front passenger, while side impact crash testing resulted in a perfect five stars for the protection of both front and rear occupants. In frontal offset crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, however, the TrailBlazer received an "Acceptable" rating (the second-highest ranking on a four-point scale) for frontal offset tests but just a second-lowest "Marginal" score during side impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The TrailBlazer's cabin hasn't changed in the last few years -- it's still pretty vanilla and constructed with mediocre materials, but at least the layout is straightforward and it's comfortable for up to five adults. For a premium price tag that can easily exceed $40,000, there's nothing special about the SS model's interior aside from a silver-faced tach, monogrammed and bolstered leather "sport" seats and a few pieces of bright trim. Cargo capacity is adequate, with nearly 44 cubic feet of luggage space that increases to 80 cubic feet with the rear seats folded -- sufficient for most uses, but slightly below average compared to its leading competitors.
The 2009 Chevy TrailBlazer's standard suspension elicits mixed reviews. With a soft calibration, it offers a very comfortable ride around town and on the highway but loses composure quickly when pushed hard through corners or over uneven or broken terrain. You might say its handling dynamics are more state-of-the-past than state-of-the-art. The SS, on the other hand, is a much more competent machine, capable of delivering potent performance with a firm but still comfortable ride at all road speeds. The standard inline-6 engine delivers adequate power, though some might find it lacking in low-end torque when pressed.