A V-8 under the hood makes Chevy’s first SS sport-ute a real muscle machine, but its 395 hp can’t mask the crudeness of even this specially primped TrailBlazer. The TrailBlazer SS certainly looks promising. We loved the cleaned-up styling and lowered stance when we saw the concept at the 2002 SEMA show. The production SS (offered in silver, black, blue, or white) looks just as good, particularly with its standard twenty-inch wheels. Step inside, though, and there’s precious little SS flash to distract you from the cabin’s downmarket materials and dated design. At least the seats have a bit more lateral support.
Of course, the idea of a 6.0-liter V-8 in a mid-size truck is very appealing. Indeed, the TrailBlazer SS rumbles nicely and rips off the quarter-mile in less than 14 seconds. (Impressively, it also retains a 6600-to-6800-pound towing capacity.) And Chevy offers a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. But the automatic transmission is a weak link; it’s only a four-speed, offers no manu-matic function, and has rudimentary electronic controls that do little to smooth out shifts. Every high-rpm gearchange sends a shudder through the body.
Part of the blame, though, rests with the chassis tuning. Despite new springs, dampers, antiroll bars, and the one-inch-lower ride height, the TrailBlazer SS still bobs around too much on its suspension; Chevrolet apparently was unwilling to suffer the stiff ride necessary to achieve levels of body control. The steering is also depressingly mediocre, despite a faster rack and other new components. Saving the dynamics are the 50-series Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires, which are very progressive at the limit and ride well.
We’re also impressed with the brakes (four vented discs), which put in a fade-free performance in our time at the track.
The SS is a $5195 option package, offered on any TrailBlazer except the long-wheelbase EXT. It would be a lost cause to try to make that buslike sport-ute into a Super Sport.
Engine: 6.0L V-8, 395 hp, 400 lb-ft
Drive: Rear- or 4-wheel