A Budget Sleeper SUV That Packs Corvette Power Under The Hood

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Summary

  • The Chevrolet Trailblazer SS featured a LS2 V-8 engine, which was slightly detuned compared to the Corvette, but still powerful enough to make the SUV a performance vehicle.
  • With 395 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, the Trailblazer SS could go from 0-60 MPH in under 5.5 seconds, thanks to its LS2 engine.
  • The Trailblazer SS was developed at the Nürburgring and featured specially calibrated suspension, larger brakes, and a sportier stance, making it a capable and agile SUV.


After the turn of the century, General Motors introduced several bland SUVs underpinned by the widely rebranded GMT360 platform. Offerings like the GMC Envoy, Isuzu Ascender, Oldsmobile Bravada, Buick Rainier, and Chevrolet Trailblazer were similar cars with different interiors. The automotive world expected more from a manufacturer that had stunned everyone by releasing the GMC Syclone truck and the GMC Typhoon, widely considered by many to be the genesis of performance SUVs.

General Motors responded via its High-Performance Vehicle Operations Group (HPVO), releasing the Chevrolet Trailblazer SS from the 2006 to 2009 model years. Besides a trio of SS badges, polished 20-inch wheels, and a slightly lower ride height, it didn’t look much different from the other Trailblazer trims. However, under the unassuming exterior lay an engine plucked from a quintessential American supercar and a suspension tuned at the Nordschleife in Germany. Here’s everything about a budget sleeper SUV that packs Corvette power under the hood.

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In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from various manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources, including Car And Driver, LSX Magazine, classic.com, MotorTrend, and Top Gear.


2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer SS
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The Trailblazer came with a new all-aluminum 4.2-liter inline-six engine as standard or an optional small-block 5.3-liter V-8. Both engines were powerful enough for the Chevy SUV. However, to turn the Trailblazer into a performance SUV, Chevrolet needed a fiercer power unit.

The Trailblazer SS Hit 60 MPH From Zero In The Mid Five-Second Range

Chevrolet chose the Generation IV LS2 V-8, the base engine for the 2005 to 2007 C6 Corvette, as the mill for the Trailblazer Supersport. In the ‘Vette, the V-8 produced 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. In the SUV, it generated 395 horsepower and a similar amount of torque. The use of a restrictive exhaust, a belt-driven fan, and an intake manifold producing more torque at lower RPMs caused the loss of five horsepower.

Still, 395 ponies and 400 pound-feet of twist was more than enough motivation for the ute. Peak torque arrived at 4000 RPM, and peak power came at 6000 RPM. The V-8 barely made a sound as the revs ticked up to 4,000 RPM. Past that point, however, the engine unleashed a sonorous wail as it propelled the heavy SUV to 60 MPH from zero in under 5.5 seconds.

Performance Specifications

Engine

Naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V-8

Horsepower

395 horsepower

Torque

400 pound-feet

Transmission

Four-speed automatic

Driveline

RWD/AWD

0-60 MPH

5.4 seconds

Top Speed

130 MPH

(Specs: Chevrolet)

Power Routed To The Rear Wheels Or All Wheels Via A Four-Speed Automatic

The Trailblazer featured a reinforced version of the four-speed automatic in the Pontiac GTO, which was also powered by the Corvette’s LS2 V-8. The autobox transmitted power to the rear wheels or all wheels. A Torsen transfer case in AWD variants sent 67 percent of torque to the rear axle and the rest to the front. It could also send a maximum 44 percent of twist to the front wheels when required. Opting for AWD reduced the Super Sport’s towing capacity from 6,800 pounds to 6,600 pounds.

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The Trailblazer SS Was Developed At The Nürburgring

At the time, John Heinricy, the high-performance vehicles guru behind offerings like the Cadillac CTS-V and the Chevy Camaro, headed GM’s HPVO. He teamed up with Tom Wallace, the Corvette’s Chief Engineer at the time, to create the Trailblazer SS. Following tests at GM’s Milford facility, the pair flew to Germany for the next development phase.

The Nurburgring’s combination of long straights, vast array of twists, turns, and elevation changes, and bumpy track surface provide the perfect setting for vehicle development. Cars that excel in the Nurburgring often excel on the street. Heinricy and Wallace crafted the SUV’s suspension, brakes, steering, and chassis at the Nordschleife.

Following extensive development and research, the Trailblazer ended up with specially-valved Bilstein monotube shocks, load-leveling coils in the rear, a 36 mm front sway bar and 24 mm rear sway bar, and stiffer bushings. It also got a quicker steering ratio, which provided a sharper steering response. Heinricy and Wallace also fitted larger brakes with increased friction pads in the rear and Corvette Z51 pads upfront to slow and stop the 4,800-pound Trailblazer SS.

The SS Rode One Inch Lower Than The Standard Trailblazer

The suspension changes reduced the Trailblazer’s ground clearance by one inch, giving the SS a sportier stance. Chevrolet also fitted polished 20-inch six-spoke wheels wrapped in Goodyear rubber that augmented the SS’s stealthy demeanor. The SS also featured a unique front fascia with a mesh-covered slot between the passenger-side headlight that funneled cold air into the LS2’s airbox. A similar non-functional slot occupied the space between the Super Sport’s unique headlights.

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The Trailblazer SS Is Extremely Tuner Friendly

Black 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer SS
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Like the C6 Corvette, with which it shares a power unit, the Chevy Trailblazer SS is extremely mod-friendly. Some Trailblazer SS mods are cheap, and others are pretty costly.

Add A Turbocharger And Rebuild The Transmission For More Power

Installing a turbocharger is one of the easiest ways to source more power from the LS2. A 72-76 mm turbo is ideal for the LS2 engine. To keep your engine safe, purchase fuel system upgrades and a quality wastegate alongside the turbo kit. Also, rebuild the transmission to ensure it can handle the extra power. The sky’s the limit regarding the amount of horsepower you can get from the LS2 V-8; Tuner Thomas Thatcher got 1000 horsepower from his Trailblazer LS2 V-8, partly thanks to turbocharging.

Lower The Trailblazer SS To Give It A Sportier Stance

Chevy lowered the Trailblazer by an inch, giving the Trailblazer SS a sporty look. You can bring your Trailblazer SS closer to the deck by adjusting the rear airbags, changing the rear shocks, and installing front lowering springs. You can also install coilovers on all corners or ditch the air suspension for rear springs.

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You Can Get One For As Low As $7,500

Black 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer SS
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At the time of its release, the Trailblazer SS presented one of the cheapest ways to acquire an LS2 V-8 engine. Today, it is still one of the most affordable ways to purchase a vehicle motivated by the iconic LS2: you can get a high-mileage example for as low as $7,500.

Chevrolet Sold Several TrailBlazer Super Sports

Chevy sold around 25,600 Trailblazer Super Sports, most with AWD setups. If you are lucky, you may find one with luxury features like leather seats, a power sliding sunroof, a premium entertainment system, navigation, and heated power seats. The level of luxury depends on the option packages selected by the original buyer. With that said, every Trailblazer SS you come across should have the following features.

Chevrolet Trailblazer SS Standard Features

  • SS embroidered seatbacks
  • Power adjustable pedals
  • Leather-wrapped SS steering wheel with audio system controls
  • Automatic dual-zone climate control
  • Silver-trimmed gauge cluster
  • Silver-faced tachometer

Replace The Oil Pump Pick-Up Tube To Avoid Oil Starvation Issues

A notorious issue affecting the Trailblazer SS is oil starvation, which sometimes causes rod bearing failure. The problem stems from the positioning of the oil pick-up tube at the front of the oil pan. If you smash on the acceleration pedal, all the oil races to the rear of the pan, causing oil starvation.

The solution is replacing the pick-up tube with one that is positioned at the deepest part of the pan, the middle. Add Marvel Mystery Oil additive during scheduled oil changes to combat corrosion and prevent oil thickening in low temperatures. You should also consider replacing the stock transmission cooler with an aftermarket unit.

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