It looks like a Trailblazer, only better. Is it just me, or does every Chevy look a hundred times better with the simple addition of an "SS" badge? Those two simple letters are like a shot of adrenaline to anyone who lived through the musclecar wars of the late 60's/early 70's. For anyone too young (or too old) to know, "SS" stands for "Super Sport." Introduced in 1961, it has been tagged on cars alone until Trailblazer SS became available as the first Super Sport SUV in 2006.
Trailblazer SS shares the ordinary Trailblazer's proportions and dimensions. It looks surprisingly fresh for a vehicle that first hit the streets in 2002, thanks to a 2006 makeover. High squared fenders ride over sharp-looking 20" polished aluminum wheels. Most of the trim is blacked-out, except for a big gold Chevy bowtie front and rear. The front grille is filled with black wire mesh for a mean, purposeful look. The headlights are complicated, maybe a bit overworked. The bumpers and door handles are body-colored, giving the whole SUV a sleeker look. There's a big white "SS" badge on each side, and one on the tailgate. I wonder if I could add more...?
Chevy says that the SS has a specially tuned suspension with lower ride height. It gives the Trailblazer an aggressive stance, visibly crouching over the wheels rather than hovering above them as the standard Trailblazer tends to do.
In the Driver's Seat
You can't miss the "SS" on the steering wheel of the SS -- there it is, staring you right in the face. That's just in case you missed the logos stitched into the seat backs. Most of the rest of the interior is blacked out, black on black on black, with a few black highlights thrown in. In context, the white lettering stands out strongly, and the anodized metal bits add a tasteful glitter.
The instrument panel is simple and powerful, with round analog gauges dominating, mostly in the same white on black theme. The exception is the tachometer, which boldly reverses the theme, sporting black numbers on a white background. It's a very cool looking cluster, giving the feel of separate individual gauges even though it's just a printed panel.
The nice thing about a sporty SUV is that it's still an SUV. The SS retains all of the utility that you expect in a regular Trailblazer. The second row of seating is comfortable and roomy, with a cushy bench that looks like two buckets connected by a bridge. Behind the second row, you'll find 43.7 cubic feet of space for luggage. The seats fold down easily, leaving a big, mostly flat load floor and 80 cubic feet of cargo space.
I would have liked a steering wheel that adjusted for reach as well as tilt, and the driver's seat could use a little more bolstering for lateral support. Overall, though, a very successful, attractive interior.
On the Road
There's more to life than speed, though, isn't there? There's also handling, which the SS also has nailed. You're never going to forget that you're in a 4500 lb SUV, but at least you're behind the wheel of a nimble 2-and-a-quarter ton SUV. The standard Trailblazer suspension has been lowered and stiffened, body roll has been tamed and the ride is genuinely sporty in the Super Sport. My test vehicle was equipped with rear-wheel drive. For a few dollars more (okay, for $2,240 more), you can get an all-wheel drive SS -- probably a good choice.
People underestimate the value of sound when it comes to SUVs. A lot of effort is put into making vehicles quieter, and into stereo systems that provide control over the interior soundscape. More engineering time and effort should be directed toward engine sound. If every SUV's engine sounded as great as the SS's, I'd never want another high end audio system. That big V8 rumble just grabs my soul, and I couldn't stay off the gas, just coaxing the notes out of that big exhaust. Oh, yeah -- and driving way too fast. That, too.
Infiniti's FX 45 sports a rip-snorting V8, a wild design and great handling. Volkswagen's Touareg can be ordered up with a V8, and its wide wheel base contributes to great road manners. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8's available 6.1 liter HEMI V8 is a potent powertrain, pumping 420 ponies and 420 lb-feet of torque to the pavement. All fun-to-drive, all elegantly designed SUVs.
But each one is pricier than a Trailblazer SS. And none of them has the Super Sport heritage.
Do I really need all that horsepower and all that torque just to drive around on city streets and congested freeways? Definitely not. Does it make driving a Trailblazer SS more fun than almost any other SUV on the road? Absolutely.
And isn't fun the best thing to have?
Case closed. Now if I can just convince my wife that we don't really need to dine out, go on vacation, or read any magazines for the next 60 months or so...