Even Chevy would have to admit that the S-10 Blazer platform was getting a little stale. The original S-10 Blazer, based on the original S-10 pickup, was introduced for the '83 model-year. Every year since, the S-10 Blazer has had its roots in Chevy's mini pickup platform -- until now.

For model-year 2002, Chevrolet introduces the TrailBlazer, an all-new, bigger midsize vehicle that is built on its own platform and shares nothing with Chevy's line of pickup trucks. The TrailBlazer, however, is still truck-tough, with body-on-frame construction and a single frame design for two- and four-wheel-drive models.

The platform for the TrailBlazer is also shared by the Oldsmobile Bravada and the GMC Envoy, although there are very noticeable differences in exterior styling, interior design cues, suspension, and available options. Some major innovations and technologies of the TrailBlazer include an all-new inline six-cylinder engine, fully hydroformed frame side rails, an all-new chassis system, a next-generation electrical system, a factory-installed OnStar system, and more. Perhaps the most dynamic of the new technology for the TrailBlazer is the powerplant. See the sidebar story that runs with this article for information on this new engine.

The chassis design is also very impressive in the new TrailBlazer. The body-on-frame structure contributes to the vehicle's ride, handling, and stability, and the new, stiffer frame offers maximum isolation of road noise and vibration. The new frame results in a larger vehicle using a longer wheelbase (113 inches) and a wider track (62 inches). The suspension setup includes a five-link, solid-axle rear system, with a double A-arm front suspension incorporating a coilover shock design. In addition, the brakes were beefed up with large four-wheel vented disc brakes.

Compared to the current Blazer, the new four-door TrailBlazer is 8-1/2 inches longer and 6.8 inches wider. It also has 5 more cubic feet of cargo space. The result is more inside room and comfort. The interior has familiar and comfortable Chevy design cues, including the instrument panel and center console design. There are available eight-way power seats, a driver's memory feature, and on LT and LTZ models, premium leather is standard. Storage is abundant, including an open storage compartment in the front floor console and a compartment for cassettes, CDs, or other audio paraphernalia. Additional storage areas include overhead storage for sunglasses, door pockets, the backs of the front seats, a convenience net in the rear, and rear sidewall storage compartments under the rear floor.

Instrumentation is laid out in a convenient and logical manner, and there is an available three-button memory selection for personalization settings of the seats, side mirrors, radio settings, and more. Sound system choices include an AM/FM stereo with CD, CD and cassette, or an optional six-disc in-dash front-loaded CD player. A six-speaker Bose Sound System with 275 watts of power is also available. Interior options available include a leather steering wheel with steering wheel controls, automatic climate controls, a multi-language driver message center, headlamp delay at exit, perimeter lighting, and more.

Exterior styling is rugged and stylish, and more than 70 percent of the exterior panels are specific to the TrailBlazer. Traditional Chevrolet brand characteristics are very evident, including the familiar Chevy horizontal center bar with gold Bow Tie, and a chrome (LS and LT models) or body-color (LTZ) bar that bisects the large headlamps and turn signals. Stylish five-spoke wheels (16-inch on LS and LT, 17-inch on LTZ) are wrapped by either all-season or All-Terrain rubber.

We recently had two opportunities to testdrive the TrailBlazer: during a press introduction in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, and a longer one-week evaluation on our home grounds. We were fortunate enough to be one of the first automotive magazines to receive a TrailBlazer for an extended testdrive, and we used the opportunity to the fullest.

One thing became readily apparent while we testdrove this new midsize offering from Chevrolet: This is a vast improvement over the previous S-10-based Blazer. Not only is it larger, more driveable, packed with more convenience and luxury features, and has superior design cues, the new engine is a real standout, with plenty of torque and horsepower where it's needed. GM was overdue in redesigning and improving the TrailBlazer/Jimmy/Bravada package, and this all-new TrailBlazer/Envoy/Bravada is well worth the wait. Pricing for the TrailBlazer will be in the low $30,000 range, depending on which package is chosen, and the vehicle stacks up nicely against similarly priced competitors.

The TrailBlazer will be the first of the redesigns to be introduced. It will be followed closely by the Bravada and the Envoy. Stay tuned to the pages of Today's SUV; we'll be testing these models when they become available and bringing our findings to you.