Behind the Wheel

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Review: Its cuteness doesn't make it compelling

The Chevrolet Trailblazer was added back to the Chevy lineup for 2021 but it's not the same style as the old TrailBlazer - not even close.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

When the new Trailblazer was announced, there was a collective groan from auto industry enthusiasts. They wanted a beefy off-roading that was possibly going to rival the Ford Bronco or Jeep Wrangler. What they got was a cute, little subcompact crossover.

There's no question as to why Chevy makes the modern Trailblazer. The subcompact and compact SUV segments are hot right now. Really hot. They needed something to fill the sales space between the Trax and the Equinox. Why they chose the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer's name is another story for another day.

This particular Trailblazer comes with the buyer's choice of two engines - a turbocharged 1.2-liter or a turbocharged 1.3-liter. Both are attached to a continuously variable transmission but neither is what you'd call exhilarating. As tested, the larger engine provides just enough horsepower to not be miserable to drive.

2021 Chevrolet TrailblazerThe Trailblazer is advertised as being right-priced but options add to the total quick. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Though it feels stable on the ground, the Trailblazer seems to be trying to walk the line between engaging and comfortable to drive. It doesn't work. The Trailblazer is the right size and has the correct center of gravity to want to be thrown through the twisties but its loose steering leads to uninspired handling so that's a no-go.

The suspension, on the other hand, is jittery and stiff rather than supple. Like Vanilla Ice said, "If there's a pot hole, yo I'll find it." Between the road, engine, and transmission noise that is passed on to the passengers and the reverberations from every crack and crevice, prove that Trailblazer's mechanics are more of a failure than anything else.

When it comes to the interior, the Trailblazer earns its praise. Its seats are relatively comfortable though adults won't want to sit in the rear ones for long. The car appears to be well-made with good fit and finish. It has higher than average cargo space.

2021 Chevrolet TrailblazerFor ease, the Trailblazer's front seat also folds flat. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The model has gotten the good bits from the General Motors infotainment and climate control parts bin. It has a 7-inch infotainment touch screen with an 8-inch available. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, keyless entry, and a rearview camera are also standard.

The car's safety tech includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. Those are all pretty standard for the class.

Test test unit 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer sent for review was an Activ grade model (yes, there's no "e" at the end of "Activ" and no, we don't know why). That's just one fo the five trim levels the Trailblazer is offered in for 2021, it's first model year in existence with the new crossover body style. Chevy checked the all-wheel drive option box on the model, which added $1,500 to this particular model's base $24,245 price tag. Another $3,300 in extras later and the test unit's cost came in at $31,225.

2021 Chevrolet TrailblazerThe 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer has a well-appointed interior. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

That's not cheap. You can get a mid-grade Nissan Rogue, a fully equipped Buick Encore GX, base model Ford Bronco 2-Door, or a mid-grade Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for the same money, and have enough extra to take your family on a road trip for a long weekend away from home.

The problem is, unlike the Encore GX, Bronco 2-Door, and Sonata Hybrid, the Chevrolet Trailblazer just isn't compelling. There's plenty of other options in the class that do nearly everything the Trailblazer is capable of doing, but better.

The Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos come with a better warranty. Mazda's CX-30 delivers an enthusiastic and dynamic drive. The Encore GX is better appointed. There's also the new Volkswagen Taos, which was developed specifically for the U.S. market and a number of all-electric options that are out now and coming soon.

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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The Denali Ultimate trim is new for 2023.

GMC

The GMC Yukon has always been a luxurious family hauler with beefy capability, but it moved even more upmarket in recent years with added tech and upscale interior materials. GMC just announced an even cushier version of the SUV for the 2023 model year. The Yukon Ultimate Denali gets unique styling touches and upgrades that take the already plush SUV to another level.

2023 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate22-inch wheels are standard GMC

The Denali Ultimate gets exclusive upgrades over other trims that include 22-inch wheels and chrome accents outside. The full-size SUV just got a complete redesign for 2021, which brought updated boxy styling, and a sleek look, so there are no additional exterior changes for 2023.

GMC offers three engines in the standard Yukon, but only two make it into the Ultimate. The standard powertrain includes a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 420 horsepower. A 3.0-liter turbodiesel is also available that makes 277 horsepower and a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque. A ten-speed automatic transmission is standard for all engines, and four-wheel drive is available.

Inside, the Ultimate comes with Alpine Umber full-grain leather upholstery with 16-way power front seats and massaging. Trim-exclusive contrast stitching and aluminum trim accent the space, and the top model gets an 18-speaker Bose audio system with stainless steel speaker grilles.

2023 GMC Yukon Denali UltimateGrained leather upholstery and upscale interior finishes are standard. GMC

A 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen comes standard, and offers Google services built in. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard, along with wireless phone charging. A Wi-Fi hotspot and Amazon Alexa functionality are available. GMC also offers Super Cruise hands-free driving system in the Denali Ultimate.

GMC hasn’t detailed pricing for the new SUV yet, but we expect it to start at a premium over the standard Denali, which starts at just over $70,000.

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