2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT

The handling aspect has nothing exciting to write home about. We had no intent to explore the cornering limit of this mammoth or it feels as if there is simply not enough room in the lane to maneuver at the limit. The handling is generally understeering at somewhat faster corners. The body roll from the ~76″ body height is fearful enough to signal the drive to slow down. In car enthusiasts’ point of view, it is painful to drive something that is so isolated, and reluctant to react to drivers’ input. The equipped passenger vehicle tires are muted, regardless pavement conditions. Maneuverability in parking lots is painstaking.

Brake feel is good. Pedal operation effort is within expectation for its size. Braking distance however, it is greater than the standard Trailblazer. A Car and Driver Magazine test result revealed that it takes the EXT 200′ to come to a complete stop from 70mph. Fortunately, we did not notice any apparent fading when enduring extended declines that required recurred braking, partial thanks to the 4-wheel vented disc brakes.

GM’s GMT370 platform is an extended version of the commonly used GMT360 platform. GMT360 was a new development, debuted in 2002, and shared no common design from its predecessors. This hydroformed frame rail chassis in our tester seems rigid with no noticeable body flex and rattles. Chevrolet’s “Enhanced Quiet Package”, where it claims there are 24 strategically placed acoustic absorbers and seals to help prevent outside noise from reaching the interior, which seem to be doing its job. Interior is quiet with virtually no wind or road noises regardless how rough the snow-belt pavement surface condition is. Engine noise is apparent at higher rpm but within expectations. Interior workmanship seems improved for GM but still falls short of the import quality. Interior material and design is generic and dated, seems well-ensemble for the rental fleet. As with almost any GM products, the switchgears and audio controls on the center console are large, legible, and self-explanatory, and the dash emits a lot of heat after awhile of night driving. Gauge cluster layout is easy to read, but feels dull. The dials for the oil pressure, voltage, and coolant temperature gauge in the cluster never seemed to reach zero with the engine off, and ignition key removed from the ignition switch, which we found to be unacceptable for brand new vehicle.

Seating comfort is average for short trip but lack of hip support for the long journey; “a flat spot on the peaks of your backside can be the result from the extended “butt” time in the EXT. Front visibility is outstanding, thanks to the EXT’s telescopic-like seating position, where you seem to be view the road in the cockpit in “bird view”. Rear visibility, however, requires better than 20/20 vision to guess the condition, thru the seem like mile away rear hatch window from the rear view mirror – the theater style step up rear seats are not helping either. Backing up the EXT from a parking stall can be as adventurous as docking an aircraft carrier without guidance from others. Lane changes and merges make you think twice prior. The cargo space behind the third roll seat is adequate to swallow bags and belongings from six passengers for a weekend getaway.

Compare to the standard Trailblazer, every aspects in this EXT’s driving dynamic are a major degrade. As the trade off from performance, the EXT gains in cargo space, and passenger capacity. If you tend to haul a lot of people, and consider the vehicle as a workhorse, this EXT can be a good alternative to a 7 passenger minivan, or Chevy Express Van; so that you will not be labeled as soccer mom, or corporate commuter driver – this EXT maybe for you. Only if you can sustain the driving dynamics of a lifted Cadillac Deville riding on Bigfoot tires, and with your ass sitting 4′ above ground. This EXT is no joy to drive, every maneuver remind its driver its mammoth size – a little similar to a school bus. It feels like it is a job to drive it from point A to B. A vehicle than will not put a smile on your face.

Overall Impression
Scoring System:

Performance & Acceleration: 4.5
Comment: Average around town power. Lacking in passing power.

Drivetrain: 4.5
Comment: Smooth sounding engine. Dated transmission. Engine & transmission do not match with vehicle.

Handling & Cornering: 3
Comment: Painstaking, and can cause anxiousness.

Brake Feel: 5
Comment: Good brake feel. Stop distance is much longer than you thought.

Ride Characteristic: 5.5
Comment: Exactly like a base model Cadillac Deville.

Interior Comfort: 6
Comment: Spacious and practical. Seating is lacking support, and causes numbness in journeys longer than an hour.

Workmanship: 6
Comment: Good fitment in GM standard. Still below import quality.

Functionality: 8
Comment: The massiveness has to be good for something – hauling people, and cargo.

Technology: 5
Comment: Nothing fancy here.

Afterthoughts
The EXT doesn’t have the welcome feel to it, from the seating comfort, interior layout, and driving dynamics. It causes the driver (at least for us) want to get out of the vehicle right away. A closer look at what is out there in this segment of the market, appears to be many other options, with its MSRP at ~$29,000. The EXT is competing with Ford Explore, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder. In which they all equipped with 6 cylinder engines, and seating capacity for seven. The confusion is the position of the EXT in Chevrolet’s own SUV lineup. The V8 equipped EXT is almost in the same price range as a ’06 Tahoe. Makes us wonder how this overlap benefits Chevrolet. But regardless what the answer maybe, Chevrolet or GM in that sense, is currently in a deep mud puddle of vehicle sales. We would think that, GM just has WAY TOO MANY vehicle that are twins to one another but with a different GM emblem on the body. Anyhow, the EXT is definitely not something that we would recommend to others. The success of the EXT can be often seen in the street. The chances of seeing an EXT versus seeing a Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder are quite low. It would completely make sense for GM to eliminate the EXT model, and perhaps have the Tahoe pickup the intended EXT market. END