Big V-8 engines. Rear-wheel drive. Factory muscle. If you think about it, those are the three of the biggest reasons that this magazine was created (the others being hot rodding and the ability to make money while goofing around with cool cars).
Emissions regulations, fuel shortages and corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) did their best for a while to kill factory supercars, but they are back with a vengeance. Oh, the shape of said machinery has changed-so have the prices-but there are some hitters available. And with the '09 Camaro, a blown Corvette, and a rear-drive Impala on the horizon, the best is yet to come.
True, you can no longer stroll down to the local Chevy dealer and buy a big-block Chevelle (is your local Chevy dealer still even in business?), but if the idea of a 395-horse, rear- or all-wheel-drive vehicle tickles your fancy, the Trailblazer SS has all that and the kitchen sink. (And we're talking SAE net ponies here, too, not unrealistic pie-in-the-sky sixties gross horsepower.)
The Trailblazer SS has all the room you'll ever need for a family of five, but it can also tow your boat or be your favorite weekend bracket car. Don't expect hybrid-type fuel economy-we averaged 15.6 mpg on a 500-mile highway roundtrip excursion to Boston-but how many hybrids can run 98 mph in the quarter-mile in 92 Jersey heat?
This isn't GM's first attempt at an SUV with supercar performance-the '92-93 Typhoon gets that award-but this is the first one you can buy with a V-8. Under the hood is a 6.0-liter LS Corvette engine, making 395 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 400 lb-ft of torque at 4000. Power goes to the 4.10 gears via a heavy-duty four-speed automatic.
Inside, you'll find yourself coddled in very comfortable leather seats (fully adjustable power chairs for the front passengers). The Bose sound system was above average (gotta love XM satellite radio) and it comes packaged with a power sunroof for $1,690. The instrument and door panels are a conglomeration of odd shapes in different plastic grains, but the armrests are where they should be. The tach on the SS model has a silver face, which contrasts with the white-on-black speedometer and ancillary gauges. If we were running Chevy, we'd add a nice fat-wrap steering wheel, shrink it in diameter by an inch, and add auto up to the auto down front windows.
There's plenty of legroom for front and rear passengers and the split folding rear seats give you the option of carrying even more junk from Home Depot-trust us, it's plenty big even with the seats upright.
Just Drive It
You've gotta love the combination of massive torque and 4.10 gears. Even with a curb weight of 4,875 pounds with a full tank of fuel and a driver, the SS can squirt through holes in traffic with the stab of the throttle. In the traffic light grand prix, just mat the loud pedal and hold on. The nose comes up, the massive 255/50VR20s dig in and you're off. Not even a hint of wheelspin.
For the most part, the Trailblazer SS is a comfortable highway cruiser. The seats work well over the long haul, the air conditioning could freeze hell over, and the ride is plenty smooth. Turn in is decent, but the steering is a bit light for our tastes. Hit some rough patches and the SS bounces enough to remind you it is still a truck, but the "Road Course Tuned" suspension with Bilstein dampers works pretty well.
If ultimate grip is your bag, you'll want to stiffen the springs some. If you go over a bump or two in a corner, the truck is prone to porpoising too much. A more aggressive tire than the Goodyear RAs would be nice, too, but there is enough stick in the corners to make your kids squeal and your wife scream.
On the dragstrip, we've seen similar trucks run 13.8s at 100 or so. We had no such luck. We clicked off a string of 14-teens-14.15 (twice), 14.16 (twice) and a 14.18 (all at or near 98 mph). Prolonged cooldowns didn't seem to help, nor did altering our launch techniques. Our quickest times came without powerbraking.
The biggest hindrance we had at the strip was the transmission. The shifts were as soft and smooth as those in Grandma's Buick Park Avenue. There was also a reluctance at times to shift into third, taking an extraordinary amount of time. Twice it even tickled the rev limiter, which no doubt killed e.t. We're sure a good hand-held tuner could firm up the shifts while at the same dropping a few tenths from the elapsed times.
Braking is above average as well. Front rotor diameter goes up to 12.8-inches, up 0.8-inch from stock, while the backs stay at 12.8 (yes, they are larger in the rear than the front on your typical Trailblazer). They inspire confidence, even though they're hauling down 2.5 tons of Bow Tie.
The Conclusive Conclusion
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the eight-day stay of the Trailblazer SS-and generally we pretty much hate SUVs. Why are we so enamored with this tank? Simply, because it really puts the SPORT in sport utility vehicle. Athletic handling, robust acceleration, and rugged good looks combine with 6700 pounds of towing capacity and tons of storage space to make for a unique package.
Trailblazer SS Tech Specs
|BODY STYLE / DRIVELINE||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine,2-wheel-drive|
midsize sport utilities
|CONSTRUCTION||Body on frame|
|EPA VEHICLE CLASS||Midsize sport utility|
|ENGINE||6.0L V-8 (LS2)|
|DISPLACEMENT||(cu in / cc): 364 / 5967|
|BORE & STROKE||(in / mm): 4.00 x 3.62 / 101.6 x 92|
|BLOCK MATERIAL||Cast aluminum|
|CYLINDER HEAD MATERIAL||Cast aluminum|
|VALVETRAIN||Overhead valve, 2 valves per cylinder, hydraulic|
|IGNITION SYSTEM||Coil near plug|
|FUEL DELIVERY||Sequential fuel injection|
|HORSEPOWER||395 @ 6000|
|TORQUE||400 @ 4000|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Premium fuel recommended, but not required|
|MAXIMUM ENGINE SPEED||(RPM): 6600|
|GEAR RATIOS|| |
|FINAL DRIVE RATIO||4.10:1|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Independent, double A-arm, 46-mm shocks,|
|REAR SUSPENSION||5-link solid axle, solid 9.5-in heavy-duty (400-lb|
pre-load) limited-slip axle, 36-mm shocks, 24-mm
|STEERING TYPE||Rack-and-pinion (hydraulically assisted)|
|STEERING RATIO||16:1 low friction|