How far off the beaten track can you go with the Chevrolet Trailblazer? We find out with a roadtrip to the Eastern Cape.So when Chevrolet offered a trip to the wild Eastern Cape with its rugged Trailblazer to really get to grips with the vehicle, naturally we jumped at the opportunity.
The Trailblazer is Chevrolet's contender into the bakkie-based SUV segment and past experiences with this vehicle have not been unpleasant. You can read a review of the Trailblazer here and here. For 2015 the Trailblazer has received some upgrades, most noticeably is the inclusion of the intuitive and modern MyLink infotainment system.
After arriving in Durban, we chose our vehicles. On hand were both manual and automatic versions of the 2.8-Litre diesel LTZ. The Trailblazer is a seven-seat vehicle and we were impressed with its load-carrying capacity. We were four up with luggage and the Trailblazers sense of interior space is notable. After escaping the clutches of Durban traffic, we turned onto the backroads.
Now if you have never driven this part of the world before, be advised you will need your wits about you. The rural parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape are renowned for bad roads, fog and livestock on the tarmac.
Our route took us through the towns of Flagstaff, Lusikisiki and Port St Johns - proper untamed country. We overnighted at Mbotyi river lodge which required traversing some incredible dirt roads through forest. A normal passenger vehicle might have made the journey but why would you put yourself through unnecessary stress? An all-wheel drive or 4x4 offers far more capability. While we didn't need to go into low range, having four-wheel drive provided excellent stability, useful when climbing steep roads.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer is not a small vehicle nor is it lightweight. Bringing this two-ton beast to a halt isn't easy, but the Trailblazer brakes are ABS and EBD equipped. We had a great opportunity to try them out on the winding downhill section towards Port St Johns when a herd of cows was briskly coming down the mountain. They bolted into the road, requiring an emergency braking maneuver.
Chevrolet Trailblazer Five Roadtrip FactsWe do like the Chevrolet Trailblazer, but we haven't tested it in such an extreme environment nor been in the cars for that long before. Here are five key takeaways which we picked up on this extreme road trip:
1) The rear bench is a great place to sit. Not only is there plenty of space and legroom, but the second row of seats can individually recline, adding to your comfort.
2)The power band of the engine is narrow so you will be changing gears regularly. For this reason, we swapped our manual Trailblazer with an auto on the second day. The auto is the one to have.
3) The USB and 12v charging points were invaluable especially as we had an abundance of electronic devices. Invest in a cigarette lighter adapter which has two USB ports and you'll never go wrong. We had phones, a WiFi hotspot generator and a walkie talkie plugged in.
4) You are able to switch from 2wd to 4x4 while driving by just turning a dial. Gone are the days where you have to come to a complete stop to engage off road modes and you certainly don't need to get out the vehicle to manually lock the hubs/riffs any more.
5) While the Chevrolet Trailblazer doesn't officially have a drinks fridge,we noticed that the cup holders are strategically positioned to be in direct firing line of the climate control vents by the doors. Within half an hour, most beverages were pleasantly chilled.