2008 Chevrolet TrailBlazer Performance

$4,311 - $11,079

2008 Chevrolet TrailBlazer Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Chevrolet TrailBlazer was new.


Performance: 6.4

Except for the sport-tuned and extremely powerful SS, reviewers aren't impressed by the 2008 TrailBlazer's performance. Car and Driver says, "The loose, imprecise feel doesn't inspire sporty driving."

Reviewers feel that the TrailBlazer's performance is marred by soft, unresponsive handling. Car and Driver says, "The loose, imprecise feel doesn't inspire sporty driving." The SS model, with its sport tuning and more-powerful engine, is generally exempt from such judgments, and inspires praise. The base engine is a 4.2-liter Inline-6 and a 5.3-liter V8 is optional. With these engines, the TrailBlazer is available with either two- or four-wheel drive. The SS model gets a 6.0-liter V8 that, when aided by sport-tuned suspension, greatly enhances performance. The Chicago Sun-Times, like the vast majority of reviewers, decides, "The SS version is the TrailBlazer model that's the most fun." The SS is available with either two- or all-wheel drive.

One area in which the SS doesn't excel is fuel economy. The big engine chugs fuel, but, as MarketWatch puts it, "If a prospective buyer isn't bothered by pain at the pump, then the SS Trailblazer is simply a gas to drive." And, as the Orlando Sentinel notes, "There's no denying that the TrailBlazer SS makes the trip from gas station to gas station pretty entertaining." The lesser engines aren't exactly efficient either. As NewCars.com points out, "The Chevrolet TrailBlazer's fuel tank will need to be replenished somewhat more often than the unit in the average midsize SUV."

Acceleration and Power

The base 4.2-liter Inline-6 creates 291 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. The 5.3-liter V8 increases horsepower to 300 and torque to 330 pound-feet. The 6.0-liter V8 makes 395 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. All engines are matched with a four-speed automatic transmission. Reviewers' opinions vary widely from engine to engine, but Edmunds represents the consensus in deciding that the Inline-6 is "adequate" while "lacking in low-end torque," the 5.2-liter V8 is "more satisfying" but "feels like a bit too much engine for the softly tuned chassis," and the 6.0-liter V8 "moves off the line like a muscle car."

The inline-6 is generally well regarded. New Car Test Drive calls it "smooth and quiet," and claims, "The faster it goes, the smoother it seems to get." Kelley Blue Book writes, "This amazing engine has the power of a small V8, delivering ample passing power at all speeds." "When tromping on the gas, few TrailBlazer drivers are likely to realize the source of power is an inline-six-cylinder rather than a V-8," contends Cars.com. "Acceleration is undeniably stronger with the V-8, but it's not a dramatic difference." NewCars.com, however, says this engine "packs quite a punch and will knock the typical midsize SUV down a few rungs."

The 6.0-liter V8 is borrowed from Corvette. Consumer Guide says it's "muscular from any speed," and "lends credence to Chevy's 5.7-sec 0-60-mph claim." It's not just the engine that improves the SS powertrain. As USA Today points out, "The automatic transmission is a steroidal version of GM's nearly ubiquitous four-speed. Shifts are firm, in keeping with the no-nonsense personality of the SS." The Chicago Sun-Times is less impressed, saying that the "transmission is strong and doesn't hinder performance, but delivers very abrupt shifts -- especially second-to-third upshifts."

No matter the engine, fuel economy is poor. According to the Environment Protection Agency, the inline-6 gets 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway with the two-wheel drive and the four-wheel drive models. The 5.3-liter V8 two-wheel drive gets delivers 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway, while the 6.0-liter V8 four-wheel drive gets 12 mpg in the city and 16 on the highway. USA Today believes those numbers might even be higher than achievable in real-world conditions, writing of the SS, "If you drive vigorously, you'll be lucky to keep mileage in the double digits. And why would you buy such a truck if you didn't plan to exercise it now and then?" AutoMedia.com argues, "The numbers are easier to take in a specialty vehicle of this nature. To use a football analogy, if you want the power and speed of a linebacker, you can't expect to feed him like a punter."

When properly equipped, the TrailBlazer is rated to tow up to 6,400 pounds in two-wheel drive and up to 6,200 pounds in four-wheel drive.

Handling and Braking

Handling is the area in which most reviewers judge the TrailBlazer -- in all incarnations save the SS -- to be lacking. "This SUV's handling dynamics are more state-of-the-past than state-of-the-art," finds Edmunds. "The standard Chevy TrailBlazer's unresponsive suspension and imprecise steering don't inspire confidence on back road detours or during quick transitions on the expressway." Consumer Guide says the TrailBlazer "absorbs bumps quite well for an SUV, but is prone to float and wander at highway speeds," and undergoes "marked body lean in sharp turns." Some reviewers are less critical. Cars.com calls the ride "comparable to a car's" on smooth surfaces, and finds that, "Handling is a bit on the slow side, but the driver benefits from a satisfying steering feel." Kelley Blue Book agrees about the steering, saying the "wheel has a solid, firm feel to it."

Handling is much better with the SS, reviewers find. Edmunds points out, "It addresses the base SUV's handling woes via substantial tuning to the chassis and steering." The result, reports Auto Media, is, "The SS corners with assurance and, while ride quality definitely qualifies as firm, it stops well short of punishing." With optional all-wheel drive, "there's compliance, but not enough to make you worry," according to Motor Week. Consumer Guide says the "SS has sharper moves all-around."

The TrailBlazer's standard anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes perform well. They "provide stopping power" and, "under hard braking, the nose didn't dive, keeping the TrailBlazer remarkably level and stable," reports New Car Test Drive. Kelley Blue Book says, "A firm brake pedal brings the TrailBlazer to a quick stop every time, and the brakes show little fade after repeated use." Four-wheel drive TrailBlazers are "quite capable off road," says New Car Test Drive. SS, models, however, with lower clearance, are mostly for smooth surfaces.

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