2017 Holden Trailblazer
In his latest road test for Bartons, Michael Westlake finds the new Holden Trailblazer is definitely worth the wait.
WHEN road-testing cars for Bartons, it is easy to tell when you are about to drive something special.
Of course at Bartons, every car is special.
But to adapt a farmyard allegory from George Orwell, all Bartons cars are special – though some are more special than others.
The first giveaway that something special is coming for a test drive is the amount of time it takes to actually get your hands on it.
There are never any problems with supply or finding stock among Bartons’ huge range of cars. The toughest part is just getting the dealers who drive them every day to agree to part with them.
The second giveaway is how long you get to drive them.
Sometimes it seems like I have barely made it past Wynnum Golf Club before discreet inquiries begin about whether I’ve “had enough of it yet” and am ready to swap for another vehicle.
Which is dealer code for “I miss it, and I want it back”.
As a car lover myself, I completely understand it. I sympathise with them, in fact.
Which brings me today to the review of the Holden Trailblazer Z71 – a review nearly 12 months in the making.
For once, that has nothing to do with an appalling lack of respect for deadlines, and everything to do with getting a vehicle to test.
The Bartons team loved this one so much, it took the best part of a year after it launched in October 2016 for me to actually drive one.
In their defence, it was hard to source a test vehicle because they were being sold and rolling out the door as quickly as they were arriving.
But even then, when my turn finally came, the Bartons team member who had to part with the Trailblazer (who shall remain nameless here) escorted the key to me personally – dragging his feet and with anguish in his eye.
As I put the key in my pocket, he examined me with the look of a father who had answered the door to be greeted by his teenaged daughter’s spotty-faced boyfriend.
My nervous jokes and promises to be nice were met with cynical, token smirks.
As he left, I imagined he was going to position his rocking chair just outside the front door of the dealership, where he would sit until I brought it back unharmed.
Meeting the Trailblazer for the first time, I could understand the protective father routine.
It stood in the Bartons driveway as pretty as a picture, dressed to the nines in blazing fire-engine red, monstrous 18-inch black alloy wheels and black trim courtesy of the Z71 sports pack.
This thing was a beast, and I had a smile on my face even before I had climbed into the driver’s seat.
Inside the cabin, there was a familiar feel. Having already driven the Trailblazer’s tray-backed – and mightily impressive – cousin, the Colorado, everything was as expected.
There was an additional nod to the Z71 pack with embroidered headrests, adding a touch of sporty spice to the six-way adjustable electric bucket seats.
The steering wheel is also height adjustable, so it is easy to get your driving position just right before you hit the road.
In front of you sits the high-definition 8-inch touchscreen, which gives you crystal clear vision from the reversing camera, and is also the front window for Holden’s terrific MyLink infotainment system.
Your smartphone will connect to the system via Bluetooth, to allow you to make phone calls and stream your music, or you can connect directly with a USB cable to engage the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto systems which are compatible here, allowing you to use your chosen apps through the car’s screen.
For a lot of newer cars, this connection is the only way to get satellite navigation – through an app on your phone.
Pleasingly, the Trailblazer Z71 not only comes with its own inbuilt navigation software, it has the added benefit of being excellent as well.
It is precise, accurate and easy to use. The three-dimensional graphics it employs make it much easier to try and spot reference points as you are making your way through unfamiliar territory – especially in and around the city.
Another of the Trailblazer’s features you won’t find on most cars, especially some of the other seven-seat SUVs on the market is the little dial down by gear lever – shift-on-the-fly 4WD.
A genuine four-wheel drive, the Trailblazer is built to get its hands dirty and get off the beaten track.
It is ready to go anywhere you want to take it – the places where some all-wheel drives and two-wheel drive SUVs fear to tread.
The Trailblazer will handle the Monday to Friday stuff with ease, but knowing you have proper low-range four-wheel drive at your disposal means the possibilities for your Saturday and Sunday are endless.
If you want to jump on the barge to Straddie or Moreton to drive along those glorious beaches and find your own personal fishing spot, now you know you can.
Similarly, if you fancy the idea of taking a caravan down to Ballina or Kingscliffe for a getaway, the Trailblazer has you covered there as well.
The 2.8L Duramax diesel will handle the workload easily, and the Trailblazer is packing a heap of technology to make the journey easier for the driver and safer as well.
Chief among them for the caravan set is the Trailer Sway Control, which will detect instability in your trailer or caravan, and automatically apply the brakes and reduce engine torque until things get back under control.
Towing is also assisted by the five-link live axle rear suspension, which brings greater stability and control for the times you are hauling a load.
The Trailblazer also helps the driver with Hill Start Assist and the Descent Control System for when the road gets lumpy, Traction Control, Stability Control and anti-lock brakes.
There is the Forward Collision Alert, which will flash a warning light onto the windscreen in front of you, as well as sound an alarm, if the car detects you are getting too close to a vehicle or object in front of you and action is needed to avoid a collision.
The Lane Departure Warning system makes sure you stay between the stripes, blind-spot warning system makes changing lanes safer, and there is even an extra set of eyes at the back when you are reversing, to warn if there are any vehicles approaching from the side out of your line of vision.
All of these, on top of the seven airbags and a collection of other features designed to keep you in one piece, are what delivered the Trailblazer an unbeatable five-star safety rating from ANCAP.
All of that before I had even got as far as turning the key.
While the Trailblazer undoubtedly has the brains and the brawn to handle any weekend adventure, its most important job is still going to be the day-to-day chores of family life.
As a daily driver to the city, the Trailblazer was compliant and comfortable, with great visibility all around the vehicle, and fuel economy akin to war-time rations.
Despite looking a ladder and hose shy of a fire truck, the big red beast that I drove was remarkably nimble.
It was easy to park, even reversing into notoriously tight school pick-up spots, and had power on tap when you needed it – or when you just want to play.
I certainly don’t say this about every car, but the Trailblazer Z71 is one I would be happy to call my own.
The best part about owning a Trailblazer is never having to wait your turn, or having to give it back again.
I had to do both, but it was worth it. I love it, and I am sure if you go down to Bartons for a test drive, you will love it too (providing someone else has not taken it already).