Actions speak louder than words, and the 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS is the automotive equivalent of a big, fat apology for all those front-wheel drive Impalas and Monte Carlos running around with Super Sport badges on them. This is a basic ‘ute equipped with 395 horses courtesy of the Corvette’s LS2 V8 motor, able to grip the pavement with the rear or all four 20-inch wheels. This move by Chevrolet effectively mutes anyone who complains that an SS isn’t what it used to be. Yet, despite the hefty horsepower, a minimalist approach to design changes, pitiful gas mileage, and those big tires, there are a few points that still separate the TrailBlazer SS from its heralded ancestors. The most obvious is the fact that it’s an SUV, but more important, this truck handles remarkably well for a 4,400-lb. vehicle, and could likely out-maneuver any SS-badged Chevy from decades past. Learning that it starts at about $31,000 sounds almost as good as the deep exhaust note, and this fact nearly overshadows the low-budget interior materials and worst-of-GM build quality.
Key to an enjoyable experience with the five-passenger 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS is accepting that everything except the engine, the wheels and tires, and possibly the suspension, is rental grade. Once drivers get past that hurdle, they can focus on what makes loud noises and makes the truck move so briskly – a 16-valve V8 engine pushing 395 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 400 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm. Power is transferred to the rear or all four 255/50 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires via a heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission that lacks any type of sport or manually-interactive mode. A limited-slip rear differential and StabiliTrak stability control serve to maintain grip. Pressing a button once on the shift knob deactivates the traction control; holding the button for several seconds turns off the traction control and stability control systems; push the button again and all systems are go. A rack-and-pinion steering system keeps the rubber pointed in the right direction while a sport-tuned suspension with shocks and coil springs up front and an automatic load-leveling, multi-link setup in the rear controls the ride. Stabilizer bars are standard, along with beefy vented antilock disc brakes. TrailBlazer SS models with four driven wheels add a push-button 4WD system with automatic locking hubs.
To have or not to have four-wheel-drive capability, that is the only real question. Rear-wheel-drive SS models, starting at $30,410 including a $710 destination charge, come well equipped with OnStar, SS badges and unique air dams, fog lights, power mirrors, a tilt steering wheel, an exterior temperature gauge, a tire pressure monitor, dual-zone climate control, and a single-disc CD player. Buyers also get a leather steering wheel, a power driver’s seat, and a tow hitch receiver. Options include various preferred equipment groups, power adjustable foot pedals, heated seats, a full-size spare, and more. The four-wheel-drive model offers the same equipment with its base price of $32,660.
The truck used for this evaluation was a rear-wheel-drive 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS with a sticker that read $31,505. That price included the $710 destination charge, $325 for XM satellite radio service, and $995 for an LS Preferred Equipment Group that added oversized power mirrors, floor mats, a rear window defroster, rear privacy glass, keyless entry, and a vehicle alarm.