The 1983 S-10 Chevy Blazer was one of the first compact sport-utility vehicles, helping to blaze the trail for the civilization of the SUVs. But over the last decade the Blazer has been eclipsed by many roomier mid-size sport-utes, like the Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner. Well, now the bow tie brigade is finally rebounding with an all-new, middle-weight 2002 Trailblazer. But is this new Chevy going to play pioneer or follow the leader?

Well, the 2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer certainly has the muscular look of a pioneer. Indeed, for their beefy new mid-size SUV, Chevrolet had to start almost from scratch.

TrailBlazer styling is smooth, aggressive, if a bit bulbous, even more so than its larger kin Tahoe. That kinship is apparent in the smooth, front end with its sculptured headlamps, split bow-tie grille, integrated tow hooks, and on our LTZ, deep set fog lamps. Down the sides, flat topped wheel flairs, 16 and 17-inch tires, and large window glass give the TrailBlazer additional visual heft. While at the rear, a fresh look with large, multi-lens taillights flowing smoothly into the fenders, and a form fitting rear bumper.

For foundation is a ladder-type frame with the industry’s first hydroformed side rails. With 8 welded cross members, torsional rigidity is up a whopping 260%. The new frame extends the wheelbase by a full 6-inches. Overall length increases 8.3- inches, while width is up 6.9-inches.

But the big changes don’t stop there. Under the hood, is GM’s all-new 4.2-liter, twin- cam, 24-valve, inline-six. This latest all-aluminum addition to the Vortec engine line, and the first with variable valve timing, pumps out 270 horsepower, and 275 pound-feet of torque, and runs through a Hydra-Matic 4-speed automatic transmission. It’s one smooth drivetrain.

And strong too! 0 to 60 runs take only 7.7-seconds. And the 1/4-mile ends in 15.8- seconds, at a speed of 89 miles-per-hour. Power builds quickly, with a healthy kick at about 5,000 rpm. And the transmission’s gear ratios are perfectly tailored to make maximum use of that power. As proof, towing capacity is 6,400 pounds.

To keep TrailBlazer earthbound is a new front short-long-arm independent suspension with coil springs instead of torsion bars. While a new 5-link solid axle rear with coils replaces the Blazer’s leaf springs. Our Chevy’s softer than expected coils made it a handful on the test track. There’s plenty of body roll. Yet, the wide chassis kept us stable, and the understeer is so pronounced as to slow you down before you get into trouble. Slow ratio and heavy feel rack-and-pion steering replaces the former Blazer’s ball unit. But, on more normal highways and byways the TrailBlazer redeems itself with a superb ride, and very low interior noise levels.

We have no caveats about braking though. 4-wheel discs, all vented, with standard ABS, brought TrailBlazer down from 60 in a very short 109 feet. The soft springs allowed lots of nose dive, but directional stability was very good. For additional security, all-but-base 2-wheel-drive TrailBlazers are equipped with electronic traction control. 4-wheel-drive models use GM’s full-time AutoTrac, high-low four- wheel-drive system. Off road stability is very good. For a better center of gravity, the engine sits low in the chassis. So low the 4X4’s front axle passes through the engine oil pan. With 8-inches of ground clearance, and long wheel travel, the new TrailBlazer should easily handle all outside driving environments.

But what about the TrailBlazer’s inside environment? Well, for starters, it offers all the comfort and amenities that today’s SUV buyers expect. From our LTZ’s plush, two-tone, powered leather seats with standard memory and optional heat, to every TrailBlazer’s standard side-impact airbags, from standard manual or automatic dual-zone climate controls, to great sound systems including this Bose unit with in- dash CD-changer. While the split rear seats provide true three-across room. The lightweight rear hatch, with separate opening glass, allows access to 39.8 cubic-feet of cargo space. Which expands to a generous 80.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

Everywhere that you look in the Chevy TrailBlazer, you find huge advances over the previous Blazer. So much so that our friends at AMI Auto World weekly stated that the new TrailBlazer now “..sets a very high standard for other SUVs to follow.” If it meets your standards, expect to pay at least $25,755 for an LS 4X2. LT-grade starts at $29,115. While premium LTZ trim is based at $32,105. That’s an across-the-board increase of roughly $2,000 over the still available Blazer. But as you’ve seen, the TrailBlazer is also a big leap in size, style, performance, and comfort. With the arrival of the 2002 TrailBlazer, Chevrolet has indeed found its way back to the popular SUV path. While it blazes few virgin trails, its design does possess a pioneering spirit, and will no doubt leave impressions that competitors will follow.


  • Engine: 4.2-Liter, Twin- Cam, 24-valve, Inline-six
  • Horsepower: 270
  • Torque: 275 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.7 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 89 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 109 Feet
  • EPA Mileage: 15 MPG City 21 MPG Highway