Which one is better: Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8 LTZ or the Toyota Fortuner 3.0 V? This is a question most commonly asked, but never answered; at least not directly. But, no matter how you look at it, this comparison is inevitable. On one corner, you have the Toyota Fortuner—the one who pioneered the entire “sleek-looking, truck-based 7-seater SUV” craze (sorry, the Ford Everest doesn’t count because it looks just too agricultural). Recently re-styled and upgraded, the Fortuner soldiers on with more or less the same innards that made it successful. On the other is the Chevrolet Trailblazer, the newest addition to the ever-growing slew of alternatives, and single-handedly the vehicle that has catapulted the bowtie brand into to the mainstream. It maybe new from the top-down, but it keeps very close to the Toyota Fortuner formula. And with a price spread just a hair above P 45,000 (P 45,112 to be exact), these two were destined to slug it out.
The Toyota Fortuner’s basic shape is a carryover from when it first launched in 2006. Surprisingly, it has remained sleek and modern, considering this is a 7-year old design. Perhaps Toyota’s decision to style it much more conservatively helped, but whatever the case, it’s aging quite gracefully. Though the body itself has remained the same, the Fortuner has received its fair share of nip-tucks, from new combination lamps, bumpers, alloy wheels, and the like. The overall execution of the facelift is great and has added features such as HID headlamps and headlamp washers as standard equipment. The only exception is the clear-type tail lamps which look odd and dated compared to the rest of the design.
Meanwhile, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is clearly the product of additional years of design consideration. Simply put, nothing seems out of place in its design, and everything feels cohesive. Despite being about the same height as the Toyota, the Trailblazer looks more hunkered down, much more stable thanks to a wider body and stamped-in wheel arches. It likes to play a visual game with a flow crease on the side and a more curvaceous D-pillar. Other detailing such as the square-cut headlamps, clamshell hood, 18-inch alloys, and LED tail lamps all scream “macho” from a mile away as well. An interesting reversal of trend though is how the Trailblazer is piling on the bling (chrome) compared to the relative absence of the shiny stuff in the Fortuner. Nonetheless, it manages to look right on the Trailblazer, especially in dark colors like black.
Winner: Chevrolet Trailblazer
Interior and Space
If there’s one thing that’s betraying the Fortuner’s age, it’s the interior. Though the fit and finish are generally solid, the Fortuner’s interior still comes from a time when Toyota didn’t know how to properly pimp up a cabin. At a glance, the beige-and-gray two-tone cabin and imitation black wood trim is fairly interesting, but upon closer inspection, the simplistic surface treatment (there’s no graining on some surfaces, for example) make it look and feel cheap. This is the polar opposite of the Trailblazer which features a more upscale interior treatment. Though the cabin plastics are still hard, at least they look nice. Plus, the Trailblazer’s cabin feels much younger with a cockpit-like feel from the gauges to the center stack to the gearshift. Of course, the intimate control layout of the Trailblazer does rob some interior room, particularly in the front passenger knee/legroom. In terms of seats, the Trailblazer’s are much more supportive than the Fortuner’s, but the Fortuner uses higher quality leather.
For most buyers cross-shopping between the Fortuner and the Trailblazer, the most important question is one of interior space: which one has more? The answer: they’re not too far apart. Aside from the Trailblazer’s thick center console resulting in banged knees, it measures toe-to-toe against the Fortuner when it comes to second-row accommodations. In fact, the Trailblazer offers much more supportive seats and headrests for each occupant regardless of position (the Fortuner only has outboard passenger headrests). When it comes to the third row though, the Fortuner has the clear advantage. With a second-row that slides fore or aft in a 60/40 split, space can be divided between second- and third-row occupants. Plus, the Fortuner’s third-row seats are actually thicker, offering better support compared to the Trailblazer’s. Those occupying the Trailblazer’s third-row will have to settle for a “knees up” position which can get quite uncomfortable during long drives. Oddly enough, neither SUV offers a full flat-folding third row. The Fortuner is much more old school with a side-folding mechanism which is both archaic and difficult to use, while the Trailblazer’s simply fold down. Without a measuring tape though, the Trailblazer feels to have the slight edge when it comes to luggage carrying capacity.
With the famed Duramax diesel engine under the hood, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is supposed to have the clear edge when it comes to the power race: 180 horsepower and 470 Nm of torque. However, when it comes to real-world situations, the circumstances are different. The Trailblazer’s 2.8-liter engine is surprisingly clattery at idle, enough to wake up small kids a room away. Then it just gets noisier, and boomier as the revs build up. There’s some good pull here, but at the terrible expense of NVH isolation. Aside from the noisy engine though, the rest of the Trailblazer package fares better. The 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly and helps keep the revs down (though sixth is rarely engaged) resulting in a relatively good 8.04 km/L city fuel economy figure. The Trailblazer also has the benefit of cruise control for highway use. In terms of the ride and handling equation, the Trailblazer feels smoother on just about every road surface compared to the Toyota, but feels much more unsettled turning into corners. The non-variable steering rack doesn’t help either, resulting in a cumbersome parking experience.
Mechanically unchanged since its launch in 2006, the Toyota Fortuner gives up some 17 horsepower (163 horsepower) and 127 Nm (343 Nm) compared to the Trailblazer, making it the weaker of the two SUVs. However, in the real world, it feels much more capable. Within the city, the Fortuner shows genuine thrust, making use of its wider, flatter power band. It may actually give up two gears against the Trailblazer, but the gearing is excellent, enabling the Fortuner to feel faster. What’s even more surprising is how the Fortuner manages to return 8.3 km/L despite using an older powertrain and having full-time four-wheel drive. In addition, the Fortuner actually feels easier to maneuver around thanks to quicker steering and better sight lines throughout. The Fortuner may have had the unfortunate reputation of having a crashy ride, but that’s all been fixed in the newest model which uses a more modern four-link set-up, though it’s still no match for the Chevrolet.
Winner: Toyota Fortuner
Value for Money
Priced at just P 45,112 apart, it’s clear that the Trailblazer has the Fortuner in its sights. Amortized over one year, this price difference is just chump change and yet, the Chevrolet offers much more metal for less money. Both of these SUVs offer the normal luxury prerequisites such as automatic headlamps, power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, and a full-featured multimedia system; but the Chevrolet trumps the Toyota in offering more safety equipment in the form of Electronic Stability Program, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control among others. Plus, the Trailblazer does offer a crisper, richer aural experience thanks to the premium 8-speaker system.
That said, Chevrolet still didn’t go overboard and load the Trailblazer with all the goodies they could muster. The Fortuner still has some equipment not found in the Trailblazer such as the aforementioned HID headlamps (with washers) and a GPS navigation system. Though these shortcomings can be fixed by some good aftermarket installation, Chevrolet should have considered putting these as standard. In the end though, what you can’t replicate with aftermarket stuff is what matters and that makes the Trailblazer the better value SUV.
Winner: Chevrolet Trailblazer
It’s funny how this tale all ends: you’ve got the newest kid of the block quite literally following the lead set by the segment’s veteran. Granted there’s only so much you can do with a pick-up based 7-seater SUV, it’s worth noting that the Trailblazer had a seven-year advantage in design and engineering to come up with the so-called “killer blow” against the Fortuner. In the end, the Chevrolet Trailblazer plays it safe and offers the same sort of experience buyers have come to expect in this segment from ride to handling to standard creature features.
Yes, the Trailblazer may have a more powerful engine, more cogs in its gearbox, and offer a more robust list of safety features, but these are detail changes which are built on top of something fairly traditional. Don’t get it wrong, the Chevrolet Trailblazer will gain its fair share of fans and deservingly so, because it’s such a sweet SUV. However, by being too safe, not only does it betray its namesake, but it barely manages to squeeze a victory this time around.
Winner: Chevrolet Trailblazer