2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer
Trailblazing Off Of Highway 395
We take the Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD ACTIV Where Few Tread, and visit historic sites along the 395, just north of Los Angeles. Is the 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer the Swiss-army knife of subcompact crossover SUVs?
By Roy Nakano
Thu, Nov 25, 2021 06:53 PM PST
Images by Roy Nakano, except where stated otherwise.
Featured image: Taking the 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD ACTIV on the way to Manzanar, CA.
While electric cars—or more specifically—electric crossover SUVs are all the rage these days, there are times when one needs to travel long distances. Tesla touts its excellent charging network, and it’s certainly the best of the electric charging networks in terms of abundance and ease of use. But there’s one vehicle that’ll beat any Tesla when it comes to long distance traveling: a gas-powered, internal combustion engine vehicle.
During this time of prolonged, perpetual cabin fever (thanks to the ongoing pandemic), the urge to get out of town on a road trip envelopes many of us. We made plans to travel the Eastern Sierra, through U.S. Route 395, crossing Lone Pine, Independence, reaching Erick Schat’s Bakkery in Bishop, and finally circling back to see the Manzanar National Historic Site.
Checking All the Boxes - The Trailblazer
To avoid having to wait around at electric charging stations, we wanted a gas-powered car. To be able to look down the road without any sense of claustrophobia, we wanted a tallish crossover SUV. Because petroleum prices are through the roof at the moment, we wanted good gas mileage. And because the microchip shortage means purchasing prices are at a premium these days, we wanted to focus our attention on vehicles that might be good buys.
General Motors delivered a vehicle they thought checked all of our boxes: The Chevrolet Trailblazer. It’s Chevrolet’s entry in the subcompact crossover SUV arena, with a starting price of $21,600. That’s significantly less than the average price of a used car in these pandemic times. Our model was fully loaded at $31,900, and came fitted with the upgraded Ecotec 1.3 liter turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, heated steering wheel and seats, and the Technology package (includes an HD rear vision camera, Bose Premium sound system, wireless charging for cell phones). Our Trailblazer AWD ACTIV is EPA rated at 30 miles per gallon on the highway and 26 in the city.
First Impressions Of The 2022 Chevy Trailblazer
The Trailblazers are popularly finished in a handsome, two-tone combination with a white top reminiscent of the old Toyota CJ40. Ours came so fitted, sporting a Vivid Orange Metallic paint job. With its high gloss black machined aluminum wheels and dark chrome accents, it’s one of the better-looking sub-compact crossover SUVs in the field.
Inside, Chevrolet has done a remarkable job of making plastic look expensive. The seats are finished in leatherette. Lower portions of the door panels and dashboard are a matte-finished plastic that look soft to the touch until you touch it. Upper portions of the dash appear to be neatly stitched, and, really, the appearance is all that matters. This AWD ACTIV model came with Arizona Accents inside, which complemented the Vivid Orange exterior. There is none of that cheap ghetto blaster look that accompanies many cars in the compact class. In summary, it’s a tasteful-looking interior.
What Is The Three-Cylinder Engine Like?
There once was a time when anything less than the sound of a V8 just didn’t seem normal. Then we got used to the sound of six cylinders, and then four. Well, get ready for the sound of three. They are becoming more prevalent, as carmakers find it’s a way to make the manufacturing process cheaper while yielding better gas mileage. The best ones are turbocharged, and both Trailblazer engines are.
You won’t win any drag races with the Ecotec 1.3 engine, but it moves the 3,000 (curb weight) pounds of steel, plastic and rubber in a decent fashion. On the long stretch of U.S. Route Highway 395, the power plant did a fine job of keeping the Trailblazer smooth and steady, and we appreciated the gas-sipping frugality of the Ecotec. Moreover, the nine-speed automatic transmission behaved admirably - much preferred over CVTs (continuously variable transmissions) that so often exhibit an annoying drone during acceleration.
The Trailblazer Road Trip
Highway 395 - A Short History Lesson
The roots of U.S. Route 395 go back to the California gold rush days. Before being designated a United States numbered highway, the corridor went by several names, including El Camino Sierra. At one time, it reached into San Diego County. Today, it extends from Hesperia, California on its southern tip and the Canadian border on the northern end. It’s the major passageway through California’s Eastern Sierra.
On the way up, we pass by Owens Lake, a massive, dry bed off of the 395. Owens Valley was once a lush area, but that changed in 1913, when water from the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. That caused Owens Lake to dry up, which also impacted the entire Owens Valley.
Lone Pine, California
We arranged to meet a long-time friend, Loretta Howard, at the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine. It’s been a long time since we last saw Loretta - approximately 40 years ago at a pilgrimage to nearby Manzanar. A member of the Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Board of Trustees and the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Loretta knows the area well. And this time, she will be guiding us to a couple of other treasured locations in the Owens Valley.
Mount Whitney Portal
Loretta drives up in her V8 HEMI-powered, all-wheel drive RAM. Our first destination: straight up Mount Whitney Portal Road for 13 miles to the top of the portal. The HEMI would be the natural vehicle to take, but we want to see how the Trailblazer will handle it.
The climb is a piece of cake for the Trailblazer. The switchbacks going up to the Mount Whitney Portal look daunting, but the 1.3-liter, three-cylinder Trailblazer exhibits no strain. As we climb, the surroundings become more lush and the temperatures cooler, bearing little resemblance to the warm, arid valley below. Once we reach the top, there’s a waterfall to greet us. All in all, a very worthy diversion for anyone passing through Lone Pine on the 395.
The Alabama Hills (in California)
Heading back down Mount Whitney Portal Road, there’s a side street called Tuttle Creek Road which will take you to the Alabama Hills—a dramatic series of rock formations that rival some larger and more well-known parks and recreation sites. It’s a popular venue for Hollywood movies of the western variety (How the West Was Won, Bad Day at Black Rock, Django Unchained) as well as un-western variety (Iron Man, Tremors).
Oddly, the Hills were named after a Confederate warship by prospectors sympathetic to the South. After the warship was sunk by the Union’s USS Kearsarge in 1864, prospectors sympathetic to the North named a nearby mining district, mountain pass, mountain peak and town after the Kearsarge.
For leisurely tourists, the Alabama Hills has one great attribute—you can pretty much see the entire site without getting out of your car. Tuttle Creek Road winds every which way through Alabama Hills. And if you want to read up on its history, there’s the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine just down the road.
Erick Schat’s Bakkery in Bishop, California
We bid farewell to Loretta and continue our journey in the Trailblazer. On the way up to Bishop, we notice the abruptly lower speed limit signs as we pass the towns of Independence and Big Pine. Here’s a tip: obey the signs. The townspeople will appreciate it, and in the end so will you.
We’ve heard lots of good things about a bakery up in Bishop that goes by the name of Erick Schat’s Bakkery. We learn that its owner, Erick Schat, has just passed away in October of 2021.
It turns out, the Schat family tradition goes back to 1893, with a line of bakeries that originated from Utrecht, Holland. Jacob Schat immigrated to the United States in the 1950s, and sponsored the rest of his family to the USA in 1958.
Here’s where it gets a little complicated. According to Deb Murphy of Sierra Wave Media, the original Bishop bakery was actually started by the Schoch family (not to be confused with the Schat family). The Schochs built a stone oven to bake sheepherders bread, which Jacob Schat, and then brother Erick Schat carried on the tradition.
As to why it’s named Bakkery instead of Bakery? We suspect it has to do with the Schat family’s Dutch lineage, where bakery is spelled bakkerij. As to our take on the food at Erick Schat’s Bakkery, the food is good but the baked goods are better.
Manzanar National Historic Site
The next day, we head back down the 395 and stop at the Manzanar National Historic Site, near Independence. Approximately 11,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in Manzanar for the duration of World War II. The residents in Manzanar where uprooted from their homes and placed in the concentration camp without any trial. The U.S. government at the time said it was for the protection of the inmates, but the guards in the towers at Manzanar had their rifles pointed inward, ready to shoot anyone trying to escape. 10 camps were established in the early 1940s to hold the Japanese Americans. Aside from the camp at Northern California’s Tule Lake, the population at the Manzanar site was the largest. To this day, it eclipses the population of any city in the Owens Valley.
It took close to 25 years after the last inmates left Manzanar before an effort was made to preserve it as a historic site. Manzanar had been abandoned and left to deteriorate until the first pilgrimage was organized in 1969. Three years later, the pilgrimage organizers, now organized as the nonprofit Manzanar Committee, succeeded in having Manzanar named as a California Historical Landmark. In 1976, it was registered as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, and in 1985, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1992, Manzanar was designated a National Historic Site.
The National Park Service usually discourages reconstructing structures or artifacts except in special circumstances and if certain stringent criteria are met. Manzanar evidently met the criteria, as the site now contains the restored high school auditorium (which also houses the visitors center), a mess hall salvaged from a closing military facility, a replica guard tower, and reconstructed housing facilities. There’s also a driving tour with 27 points of interest. In short, today's Manzanar National Historic Site is a breathtaking place to behold in the Owens Valley.
2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer - Review Summary
Why Buy A Chevrolet Trailblazer?
The Trailblazer acquitted itself well on our road trip to the Eastern Sierra, and it felt equally at home in LA Car’s backyard in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s like a Swiss army knife on wheels, providing room and comfort for its passengers, sufficient cargo area for traveling, excellent fuel economy, and a surprisingly able power plant for ascending hills, freeways, and the like. On this latter point, we have a new found respect for the power of three (cylinders, that is). It works admirably in the Trailblazer. And we can see its future is bright - at least until the electric age is fully ready to accept the propulsion baton.
What Options And Packages Are Worth It?
As for how to option the car, Chevy gives us lots of choices. Our AWD ACTIV test vehicle is fitted with a suspension designed to maximize comfort in off road use. If you have no plans to take your car off road, you may want to opt for the RS. The latter has suspension and handling characteristics more attuned for the pavement. There are two transmission choices: a CVT and a nine-speed automatic. Our preference goes to the latter, which is part of the AWD package.
Final Thoughts On The Trailblazer
We are pleasantly surprised by the Trailblazer. The subcompact crossover SUV field is a popular and growing field in the automotive market. It’s one where corners are often cut, particularly in the way of space efficiency or creature comforts. Neither is apparent in our test car. The Trailblazer is typically not on the radar screen of buyers seeking a subcompact crossover SUV - but it certainly deserves to be.
The 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer is the Swiss-army knife of subcompact crossover SUVs.
2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer Specifications (That Matter)
Name of vehicle: 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD ACTIV
LS FWD base: $21,600
AWD ACTIV base: $27,200 (AWD, Ecotec 1.3 Turbo, 9-speed auto transmission)
AWD RS base: $27,200 (AWD, Ecotec 1.3 Turbo, 9- speed auto transmission)
AWD ACTIV as tested: $31,900 (Technology Package, Convenience Package, Driver Confidence Package, Vivid Orange Metallic paint, Winter/Summer floor mats, Roof Rack Cross Rails)
Fuel Economy (EPA rated)
26 miles per gallon (city)
30 miles per gallon (highway)
28 miles per gallon (combined)
Fuel Type: Regular Gasoline
Standard Safety Equipment
Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning
Automatic Emergency Braking
Front Pedestrian Braking
Forward Collision Alert
Following Distance Indicator
Intellibeam-Auto High Beam
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Tire Full Alert
Teen Driver mode
To view the manufacturer’s site on this vehicle, click here.
About The Author
Roy Nakano gave birth to LACar in the late '90s, having previously delivered LA Audio File back in the '80s. Aside from the occasional review, Roy likes to stray off the beaten automotive path: "Six Degrees of Reparations" reflected on the regretful ethical paths taken by car companies throughout history. "Traveling Through the Past and Present of the Green Book" looked at businesses that took a stand against racism and the man that wrote the book on where to find them. "Best Cars to Drive in Rush Hour Traffic" was an LACar guide published in the pre-GPS era. "In Search of the First Datsun 510 Tuner" looked at one of the milestones in the origin of import tuners.