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First Look: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Fills Gap Between Trax and Equinox

With the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, the bowtie brand enters the burgeoning "small crossover" segment with impressive feature content, great looks inspired by its big brother, the Blazer, and a low entry price. And along with its VSS-F platform twin, the Buick Encore GX, it will introduce the first three-cylinder engine GM has offered in North America since the demise of the unlamented Geo/Chevrolet Metro.

These two new turbocharged three-cylinder engines had better be great, because in this more-is-better market there's apt to be some confusion about the cheaper Trax getting a 1.4-liter I-4 turbo engine, and this fancier Trailblazer offering only a choice of smaller 1.2- or 1.3-liter turbo I-3s. True, both three-cylinder engines promise better performance than the Trax 1.4-liter turbo's 138 hp at 4,900 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 1,850 revs. The 1.2-liter is believed to produce 137 hp at 5,000 rpm and 166 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm, while the 1.3-liter should deliver 155 hp at 5,600 rpm and 174 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm. But triples suffer an inherent front-to-rear "rocking-couple" imbalance that is typically calmed by fitting heavy counterweights to the crankshaft. These can end up acting like a giant flywheel, making the engines less eager to rev.

Chevy says the standard transmission with each engine is a CVT, and a nine-speed automatic will be optional with the larger 1.3-liter and all-wheel drive. (Buick will make the nine-speed standard with the 1.3-liter in its Encore GX, which will be built on the same Bupyeong, South Korea, assembly line). All powertrains get selectable auto start/stop. The AWD system is also selectable, like those in the Blazer and Traverse. We have openly fretted that such systems could allow a driver to get stuck, then engage AWD only to find the front wheels axle deep in snow or muck, but defaulting to FWD at every ignition cycle lets the EPA test the vehicle in FWD mode, boosting window-sticker numbers. Selectable drive modes on all cars include normal, snow, and sport, with AWD models getting unique calibration.

All Trailblazers come with a similar suite of safety and driver assistance gear to that rolled out on the Equinox, including forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, IntelliBeam headlamps (auto high-beam assist), lane keep assist with lane departure warning, rear vision camera, teen driver safety tech, rear seat reminder, and OnStar. The options list includes plenty of upper-segment features, including adaptive cruise control (camera-based), rear park assist, lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and an HD rear vision camera.

Putting its best foot forward, the two models unveiled at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show were the sporty RS and off-road-oriented Activ trim levels. Outside, the RS telegraphs its sporty mission with a gloss-black grille like those on the Blazer and Camaro RS, a contrast-color roof, body-color extending down to the rockers, and 18-inch wheels wrapped in sport-tuned 225/55 rubber. Inside, there's a flat-bottom steering wheel, RS branded cluster graphics, contrast piping and red stitching, and accents galore. The Activ trim also gets a choice of two-tone roof/body coloring, a matte gray grille and unique front fascia that improves approach angle, standard roof rails, and gray rocker panels spanning between the gray wheel arches.

More all-terrain-oriented 225/60 series tires on 17-inch rims promise better grip and control on two-tracks and the shocks are tuned to optimize for gravel road use, but there are no other off-road-oriented features such as hill descent control, lower gear ratios, or the like, so Jeep has nothing to worry about. Inside, the Activ gets two-tone charcoal and almond-butter dash and seat trim with contrast stitching.

The interior "sits" a little less tall than a Trax, but afforded ample space for this 5-foot-10 scribe to sit behind himself. The front passenger seat folds flat and features hard plastic trim on the back to accommodate 8.5-foot long items with the 60/40 split-folding rear seat down. The cargo floor sits level with the rear hatch opening and folded seats, or it can be lowered for added cargo height (and 54.4 cubic feet of stowage) with the seats up. And the liftgate can be opened by waving your foot over a projected logo on the ground.

We're promised that a model will be available for "under $20,000," but expect average transaction prices to end up several thousand above that. Check back for full pricing and specs closer to the spring 2020 on-sale date.


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Autos News: First Look: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Fills Gap Between Trax and Equinox
First Look: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Fills Gap Between Trax and Equinox
Autos News
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