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Jim G’s 1st Official SSR Fanatic Road Test: The Bad Boy Santa Fe Loaner 4.2 L Trailbl

1636 Views 21 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  JimGnitecki
Intro to this first historic Fanatic Road Test

Yesterday a number of the board members (“board members; doesn’t that sound “dignified”?) teased me about not having all the relevant specifications and actual performance data for the Bad Boy 4.2 liter (inline 6!) Trailblazer LS that Santa Fe Chevrolet graciously lent me while getting and installing a new cooling fan for my SSR. I think they figured there was no way on Earth that I could get THAT data, especially while vacationing in New Mexico, 825 miles from my “laboratory”!

Little did they know; It takes a LOT more than that to stop a McMaster Engineering Physicist.

When you’re a migrant (IT contracts) worker like me, you learn how to bring EVERYTHING a mad professor might conceivably need, and you learn how to pick stuff that is LIGHT and SMALL.

My mobile weapons of mass destruction include:

- My Sony X505 notebook computer that weighs 1.7 lb and measures 8” x 10” x ¾”, runs Windows XP, holds 20GB, and is my ONLY computer
- My G-Tech RR miniature (4” x 2” x 1.5”) computerized solid state accelerometer whose X505-installed software can not only make very detailed graphs and tables from raw acceleration data, but can also calculate NET horsepower and torque curves (which unfortunately do NOT add back in the power consumed to overcome air and road drag, so I have to do it manually.
- My EFILive tuning and diagnostic hardware cable, which works with EFI software on the X505 to both diagnose and reprogram my SSR
- My own computer modeling software that models vehicles and calculates their acceleration performance iteratively using different driveline and other assumptions

So, the guys’ teasing became a challenge that I just had to take on!

There were a few obstacles, including lack of good data from GM, no dragracing track anywhere NEAR Santa Fe (nobody wants to dragrace at 7000 feet elevation I guess), roads that contain certain inherent “problems” (see below), and a very dirty windshield (bear with me here. I’m not kidding).

But problems are something that a dedicated SSR Fanatic overcomes, albeit maybe using some “outside of the box” techniques.

Since this is the first official SSR Fanatic roadtest, I’m going to try to be scrupulously fair in doing this roadtest, even though the Trailblazer LS is targeted at – how do I put this delicately? – a “different demographic” than me. In truth, in driving and testing this vehicle, I felt a bit like one of the retired pillagers from the current Capital One TV ads; this vehicle and me weren’t quite a “perfect fit”.

So, I’m going to try to be very positive on this first road test, but if my less tolerant side occasionally manifests itself via the bracketed comments below, I hope you, and Buffy and Marc, will bear with me. I REALLY tried.

I also tried to write the road test report the way a commercial magazine might that is the grateful recipient of lots of car company full color advertising . . .

So, here we go . . .

Our banner magazine cover story headline:

“Bad Boy Trailblazer LS Street 6-Banger: It Brings Out The Bull in All of Us”

And then our inside story:

GM is hitting the streets for 2005 with a sex symbol SUV streetfighter that will finally give it the halo vehicle it needs to replace the so-boring C6 and the dated SSR.

General Features and Target Market:

The 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer LS is a midsized (16 foot) street racer SUV that comes standard with all the street cred performance goodies, including:

4.2 liter inline 6 engine (to attract the Honda Civic streetracer buyers) rated at a stomping 275 (diminuative) horses and 275 (really??) ft lb torque, the proven (at what?) 4-speed GM automatic transmission, massive 235x75x16 M+S (or is that S+M?) tires and wheels, 3.4 axle (unless you know enough to INSIST on something better), and a standard trailer hitch to show all the neighbors that your SUV can really haul a^^ (drag a^^?).

As you can see from the attached photo below, this intimidating vehicle provided to us came decked out in a stunningly aggressive dark gray exterior “blackout” package meant to send shivers of longing through the ladies on the bridge team, and was complemented by a highly color coordinated interior that included dark gray headliner, dark gray dash, dark gray seats, dark gray shift lever, and for that matter dark gray EVERYTHING, except the instrument panel, whose imaginative and contrasting black on white motif is meant to bring out the rebel in the suburbanite.

This performance animal is targeted at the power crazed urban stockbroker tiger or ravenous suburban housewife who wants a killer street machine that is also “stealth” so he or she can sneak up on those pesky Z06 Corvettes and annihilate them before they know what hit them (hitting them is the ONLY way you are going to annihilate them with this puppy).

This is the kind of vehicle that husbands and fathers tell their wives and daughters to avert their eyes when one is passing, lest the women be overcome with lusty emotion and make the biggest mistake of their lives (making Hubby or Dad actually BUY one, because “it’s soooo sexy”).

The rumor from GM is that the “LS” moniker, short for “Lethargic Slug”, was developed to try to keep secret this killer rig’s performance as long as possible, lest the government step in with horsepower limiting legislation to stop the carnage in the streets this missile will undoubtedly cause.

With the exterior and interior colors setting the aggressive theme, it’s time to examine the technical specs that make this suburban warrior the no-holds-barred racer (boat anchor) that it is.

Technical Specifications:

The first obstacle we ran into is that GM targets this vehicle at sophisticated urban drivers (sissies) that really don’t want or need (or could understand) technical specifications, and might (would) be confused by them. So, their owner’s manual had to be supplemented by some web research. We have listed below in 2 columns, the GM specifications provided and the specs found on-line or deduced by our road test staff (“road test staff”! Sounds good doesn’t it?):

Specification / GM / On-line or Jim G

Vehicle length:/ What’s it to you? / 191.8 inches
Vehicle width: / WHY do you need to know? / 74.7 inches
Vehicle weight: / What would you like it to be? / 4594 lb
Weight dist F/R: / This is not a sports car / 54/46 (nose heavy)
Wheelbase: / Luxurious / 113 inches
No. of doors: / 4 (if we installed all of them) / 4 (2 too many)
Engine: / 4.2 Liter inline 6 / Are you sure it’s really 4.2 L?
Horsepower at rpm / 275 at 6000 / No way
Transmission choices / 4-speed auto / Yeah, but only 2 are usable
Final drive ratio(s) / Theoretically 3.4 or 3.7 or 4.1 But we like giving you 3.4 / That’s WHY only 2 are usable
EPA Fuel Economy / 15/20 / *below
(*Editors note: No better than an SSR because it is after all a performance animal)
No. of valves: / 24 / Do all of them work?
Overdrive transmission: / Yes / You bet, with THAT axle ratio!
Engine cooling fan: / Big honker / Yup
Power to weight ratio / What’s it to you? / Power? WHAT power?
2 wheel or 4 whl drive? / 4 whl / To get all that power to the ground!
Brakes: / 4 discs / Who needs em with so little power?
Shift speeds by gear: / Wherever we darn well want / Hey, 5300 in 1st gear!

Performance Testing:

Performance testing was complicated by our inability to use our normal (top secret) Texas test track. Local testing in Santa Fe proved to be challenging because:
1. These are mountains, so straight roads long enough to go ¼ mile are few and far between
2. These are mountains so LEVEL roads are few and far between
3. 7000 feet elevation doesn’t improve engine performance
4. Our road test crew counted 17 police cruisers within 4 hours of test driving
5. Our road test crew counted 9 officers actually writing tickets
6. Our road test crew, busy fumbling with the G-Tech, was “studied” by a passing patrol car
7. Our road test crew cruised past 5 police stations
8. Most roads here don’t have shoulders to stage on
9. Jaywalking caribou are a constant threat (where’s a policeman when you need one?)
10. The Bad Boy’s windshield interior surface was FILTHY

Points 6 and 10 bear some explanation. The G-Tech needs a smooth, clean surface to mount rigidly to, in order to work properly. The ONLY smooth surface in that luxurious (pebbled plastic), gloriously gray (alright already) interior is the windshield. Our persistent test crew tried unsuccessfully four times to get the G-Tech’s suction cup to stick to the windshield, but it kept falling off, 3 times before even trying to stage, and once after staging but before launch (which led to the incident in point 6 - whew! That was close!). Finally, in desperation, throwing decorum to the winds, our test crew spit on the windshield before mashing on the suction cup, and it stuck (Boy did it stick). (See what we do for you guys to bring you the hard data?)

After getting the G-Tech mounted, and finding a piece of road that was half-a^^ed straight and reasonably level, and momentarily unpatrolled, our test crew braced itself for what was sure to be a high Gs, neck snapping explosion of raw power.

It was a memorable run (yup, I’ll give it that).

The LS broke the tires loose on launch (there was some gravel on the pavement), like some giant beast breaking its bonds, and catapulted through the first 60 feet in a sizzling 2.952 seconds! It wound out all the way through 6000 rpm (per the tach, but only 5300 rpm per the G-Tech) screamed past 60 mph in 11.96 seconds, annihilated the 1/8th mile in 12.195 seconds, and shot through the ¼ mile light in 18.776 seconds at almost 75 mph!

The miraculous availability, only minutes later, of another straight, reasonably level, and unpatrolled ¼ mile section of road brought a second confirming run, but marginally slower, as these kind of recordbook performances can’t just be repeated all day.

1st gear is good to a manly 50 mph (hey, it’s almost a Ferrari!), and the top of second gear takes more courage to find than our test crew could muster (Hey, the sucker took all summer to get to 85 mph and 5600 rpm indicated, and it was a race to see whether we would get to the hairpin turn at the end of the straight, or whether the gas in the tank would go stale, before we hit the top of second. We chickened out). 3rd nd 4th gears are completely superflous in performance work when you have THIS much (this little) power.

Post run analysis of the G-Tech data shows that the LS was averaging almost 0.22 Gs in 1st gear, and 0.10 Gs in 2nd gear! This is awesome acceleration! (Yeah, just don’t race the college girl in the Miata – she’ll smoke you).

Now the G-Tech, not having provisions for onboard storage of the Coefficient of Drag for a given vehicle, can only calculate NET horsepower available to accelerate the vehicle. So, it understates the TOTAL horsepower going to the rear wheels (which would be the sum of power available to accelerate the vehicle plus power used to overcome air and road drag). This undoubtedly (yeah, sure) explains why the peak horsepower reported by the G-Tech is only 133 hp, and the peak torque reported is only 155 ft lb. (And I have this bridge located in Brooklyn, NY that I KNOW is just what you need . . .). We showed these figures to a GM rep who confirmed that “aerodynamic friction for a vehicle as large and heavy as the Trailblazer LS is much higher than most people would imagine”, and stated that GM stands by its 275 hp “conservative” rating.

The G-Tech graphs are reproduced below, at resolution high enough to enable blowing up and framing for those benchracing bragging sessions where you can cut those strutting C6 guys down to size with the hard facts!

So there you have it. Has GM built another market crushing power rush sex symbol? Well, judging by the attention we get when we cruise this tall, dark, and incredibly handsome bad boy down Main Street USA, we think so. Check it out. It might make you trade in that lackluster SSR on something that will REALLY attract the ladies (yeah, wives and daughters love it).

Jim G


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What can I say. That dose of sarcasm is a bit hard to swallow in one reading.

Thanks for the entertainment value. I'll be trading in my 05 tomorrow for GM's new powerhouse SUV.
Ok Jim

Do you ever have any free time ? :glol
I have a high energy level . . .

Jim G
fanantic road test

Colorado: Yes, we have the same weak transmission. It is weak enough that when GM installed the LS2 Corvette engine in the SSR for 05, they upgraded to a stronger transmission.

Not only is the transmission a weak point in terms of power handling capacity, but it also runs HOT in the SSR, well beyond the temperatures required for reasonable fluid life. That's why I plan to get a transmission cooler installed as soon as I can find both the right cooler and a new job!

Jim G

Jim - go outside - look at the mountains - chase some women, drink a beer.. Get on the computer if you have some cool pics to send us. :lol :lol
Houtex: We all play differently! :)

I like a LOT of things happening simultaneously :)

Jim G

You have the best toys! I am so impressed with the stuff that you can come up with while on vacation! I guess that the entire back of your SSR is full of equipment and your poor bride was only allowed to pack once change of clothes and a tooth brush :lol I thoroughly enjoyed reading your road test article :lol

I will call you this evening! I have some news!

My Best,

Rob: We mad scientists have unsual packing habits. :)

My wife had to stay home as she is currently in a management training program that runs through end of July. But yes, normally she is very accommodating and tolerant. I am blessed.

She also tells me that I am "expensive to maintain". :)

Jim G
very informative!

but it did get a little deep (the bull that is) so out comes the spreader :flag


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mikepowell: Dang! You have a toy that the rest of us don't !

What are the performance specs? (lb/hr I assume?)

Jim G
mikepowell said:
but it did get a little deep (the bull that is) so out comes the spreader :flag
You know that is the only piece of equipment that John Deere will not stand behind!
JimGnitecki said:
Houtex: We all play differently! :)

I like a LOT of things happening simultaneously :)

Jim G
BTW - I spent some time in traffic today - lots of stop and not very much go. Heat index was 106. Temp was about 98. Truck never got up to 210, so whatever they fixed........... is fixed.
Jim, great job... after that article, I'll bet there will be a waiting list to take delivery on those beasts... thanks for the entertainment
Houtex, did you have the AC Cranked? I find that keeps the engine running considerably cooler than when in traffic on a cool day... What did you have replaced? Did you get the fan temps reset?
Daven: I don't think that a GM dealer would reset the fan on/off temperatures for Houtex. That would be tampering with GM's perfection. :)

Jim G
Daven said:
Houtex, did you have the AC Cranked? I find that keeps the engine running considerably cooler than when in traffic on a cool day... What did you have replaced? Did you get the fan temps reset?
Not sure what they did - but I told them (mistakenly) to check the "second" fan. I believe the work order said they replaced the fan - maybe I can find it. Anyway - it's been running at or below 210 ever since - from ~12,000 miles to now at 25,500 miles. This is the first time in a traffic jam at really high outside temps and I did have the A/C on.
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