Super Sport. It's Chevy's vaunted designation for its sportiest, most powerful models. Over the years, it's been applied to vehicles rightly deserving and some not quite as deserving. But, through it all, it has still has emerged as a coveted and desirable nameplate by enthusiasts. In the early '90s, the idea of a genuinely high-performance SUV seemed strange. Indeed, when GMC came out with the Typhoon in the early '90s, it was considered an oddball vehicle by many enthusiasts. Here was an SUV with zero towing capacity and very little payload. So, the utility portion of the sport-utility equation was essentially AWOL. Today's SUV buyers and enthusiasts are far less forgiving of one-trick ponies. They want room, comfort, performance, and of course, all the capability of mainstream SUVs.
The bellowing LS2 is hidden beneath a generic-looking plastic cover.
So, when the General got ready for round two of the performance SUV battle, it came fully prepared. The result is the TrailBlazer SS. Yes, it has all the requisite go-fast goodies: the hairy-chested 395hp LS2 6.0L V-8 plucked from the C6 Corvette, performance-valved Bilstein shocks, 20-inch alloy wheels, and high-performance rubber. But, it can also tow 6,800 pounds. It's not class-leading but certainly more than enough for most suburban dads to tow a few watercraft to the river for the weekend or a couple of quads to the dunes. Utility? Present and accounted for.
As the name implies, the TrailBlazer SS got a double helping of sport. But, unless you're a discerning enthusiast, you'd probably just think it was a slick trim package. Other than a few SS badges sprinkled inside and out, and the shiny dubs, there's not a lot on this hauler that screams "arrest me." This makes it the perfect vehicle for the guy that has an incurable lead foot but a wife who insists on something practical, safe, and relatively affordable. And at $31,205 as tested, including XM radio, our 2WD SS counts as a genuine bargain in our book. Granted, we got the lower-level LS trim package with the cloth seats. But, with that much power under the hood, who cares? Interestingly, the SS trim is a stand-alone $4,895 package that you can get on the LS or LT, 2WD or 4WD.
Driven prudently, the SS is as mild-mannered and civilized as any other midsize SUV. If you never use more than 1/3 throttle, it's simply a smooth, peppy midsize family SUV. The ride is a little firmer than usual but nowhere close to punishing. However, put the hammer down, and the Mr. Hyde transformation is unmistakable. The LS2 barks out a furious growl, and you're catapulted forward at a giddy pace. Scenery passes by like someone just hit the "Fast Forward" button on your VCR. Drivers who were about to move over into your lane are suddenly startled and humbly weave back into their lane. No doubt about it, this family hauler is packin' some serious heat. Of course, having fun has its price, and we paid it at the pump. Under our heavy feet, the SS returned a 12.4 mpg average. The somewhat optimistic EPA estimates are 15 city, 19 highway.