First Drive: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD RS

The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is all new, and nothing like the last Trailblazer anyone remembers. Gone is the truck-based chassis, thirsty engines, and extended versions which featured a third row seat.

Fast forward and Trailblazer is now a fantastic, efficient, and technological leap into the crossover future. It slots in below the new Blazer, taking all we’ve come to love about the midsize crossover and squeezing it into a smaller package.

Available in L, LS, LT, ACTIV, and RS trims, we were fortunate enough to have an overnight stay with the Trailblazer AWD RS to gather some initial impressions.

Exterior

With a handsome face and sleek, modern lines that give off a masculine vibe, Trailblazer has that charming look that many other crossovers these days lack. Our tester featured Scarlet Red metallic paint paired with a Mosaic Black painted roof which was especially handsome.

The RS trim comes with a hexagon black mesh grille, blacked out bowtie, RS badges all around, and functional chrome exhaust outlets. It’s a slick look that can be paired with a variety of colors, the oasis blue probably being our favorite of all.

The lighting up front is all LEDs, including the DRLs, headlights, and foglights. It’s a valuable impact at the Trailblazer’s price point to come with the latest lighting technology that helps keep the driver safe by seeing the road better.

Taillights are also LED illuminated and in the same pattern as big brother Blazer. At night, we noticed a Chevy bowtie projecting onto the ground and realized our model featured the hands free tailgate. A swipe of the foot across the logo and the Trailblazer tailgate opens magically!

The RS includes 18″ high gloss black aluminum machined wheels that perfectly compliment the look of the Trailblazer.

Interior

Inside, we were once again impressed by the Blazer-esq design theme. The red and black trim, contrast stitching, and overall sporty theme really felt premium.

We love the geometric shapes and stylish dash, center console, and overall look. A flat bottom steering wheel caught our attention with its elegant stitching.

The seats are comfortable front and rear, with a surprising amount of head and legroom in both areas. Headroom is especially plentiful thanks to the panoramic sunroof, a real surprise and treat in the Trailblazer and an upgrade we highly recommend.

Storage cubbies are all around, from the doors to the floor console, and even a little shelf on the dash in front of the passenger seat. We especially like the phone slot between the two console cupholders. Trailblazer is a true crossover in every sense of the word, with the ability to even fold the passenger seat flat for long items.

Cargo space is impressive too. We made a supermarket and warehouse visit on the same trip and had room to spare, now that’s impressive!

Powertrain

Under the hood of the 2021 Trailblazer is a 1.3L turbo three cylinder engine mated to a nine-speed automatic. Power is a peppy 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque.

Around town or hopping on the highway, we never felt we needed any more power and in fact felt like the turbo made the Trailblazer too much fun to drive. In Sport mode, the steering weight changes and increases confidence.

Automatic start/stop works smoothly and restarts quickly, and isn’t aggressive like some European cars to always turn the engine off which can be bothersome in some driving situations.

AWD is optional and aimed more at slippery conditions than routing torque to outside wheels while cornering. It’s controlled via a button ahead of the shifter.

Safety

This is where Trailblazer truly shines. Trailblazer comes with so much standard equipment that we almost couldn’t believe it.

Chevy Safety Assist is standard on all trim levels of the Trailblazer and includes automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping, forward collision alert, and IntelliBeam automatic high beams.

We found the lane departure and assist system to be just right, not overly aggressive and not annoying. The engineers did a great job of tuning it to be just helpful.

The rear HD camera looks great on the eight-inch touchscreen, Teen Driver is a feature parents will love, and the important rear seat reminder system is also standard.

Our RS tester also came with adaptive cruise control, blind zone alert, and rear park assist. All features that are hard to live without once you have them. The camera-based adaptive cruise worked quite well during our highway driving scenarios, acting more naturally than most radar-based systems we’ve used. Now all we need is more seat time to see how it does on a long drive.

Of course, all the expected airbags are still there just in case that time ever comes. There’s even knee airbags, a surprise in this class.

OnStar remains standard and we can’t praise it enough.

Infotainment

The Trailblazer paves a new road for Chevrolet, being the first to offer wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We’re Apple users so we experienced first-hand the joy of wireless integration and found it worked much better than in the luxury European SUV we drove last year.

All the features we love about CarPlay worked beautifully, and Chevrolet’s system was impressive as well. There’s no lag, loading, or delay. Audio was pumped out of a Bose seven-speaker system.

Chevrolet really outdid themselves with the number of charging options. Wireless phone charging is included in the Technology package and the floor console mounted charge mat works perfectly. USB-A and USB-C charging ports are included for the front seats, with another set in the rear and even a 110V household plug. That’s impressive.

Summary

Pricing starts under $20,000, and it’s hard to find a single fault with the 2021 Trailblazer. Many brands are reimagining old names into new vehicles, but Chevrolet managed to reinvent the Trailblazer and make it relevant to more people, with safety and technology are the forefront. That’s a huge victory to us.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling8
Braking10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy9
Noise8
Headlights10
Interior Fit and Finish9
Seating9
Visibility8
Gauges and Controls10
Infotainment10
Crash-Avoidance10
Total Score92


Make: Chevrolet
Model: Trailblazer
Trim Level: RS
Engine: 1.3L Turbo
Transmission: 9-speed Automatic
Options: Sun and Liftgate Pkg, Tech Pkg, Convenience Pkg, Driver Confidence Pkg

Base Price: $26,900
As-Tested Price: $32,350

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