Did you remember they even built a Saab version?
Before General Motors went bankrupt in 2008, the company experimented with some strange ideas. There was the SSR (a pickup truck that was also a convertible), the HHR (a retro work van), and then there were all of the SS models. You may recognize the SS name as a trim level on the Camaro but back in the 2000s, Chevy put it on nearly everything. There was a Cobalt SS, Malibu SS, Impala SS, and even an HHR SS. But there is one that few people seem to remember.
The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is continuing the trend of bringing back popular nameplates from the past. Only now, the Trailblazer is a sub-compact crossover available with a choice of three-cylinder engines. That's a world away from the old Trailblazer SS, which was a mid-size SUV powered by a V8 from a Corvette. While the new Trailblazer might appeal to young buyers who need a frugal vehicle for city driving, our heart yearns for the old Trailblazer SS. Oh, and they also built a Saab version that's even cooler!
The Chevy Trailblazer SS came during GM's fun period, where it stuffed big engines into practically every product. In this case, the wise engineers at Chevy threw out the Trailblazer's inline-six and smaller V8 options in favor of the LS2 V8 from the Corvette. Along with a new differential, improved styling, a louder exhaust, and stiffer suspension, the Trailblazer SS was an impressive package that still looks cool and performs well by today's standards. Plus, they are now very affordable. The used Trailblazer SS was only sold from 2006 to 2009 and it was actually pretty rare with just 26,441 built.
During the time when the Trailblazer was being produced, GM was also building the Saab 9-7X, which was essentially a rebadged Trailblazer that is much more of a unicorn. Towards the end of the Trailblazer SS production run, Saab decided it wanted to have a go at building a performance SUV with its own Corvette powered monster, the 9-7X Aero. We don't have exact production numbers for the Aero but Saab built 22,044 examples of the 9-7X in 2008 and just 1,209 in 2009, meaning the Aero likely came in small production numbers.
You might expect that a flagship performance SUV with a Corvette engine would be expensive but even when they were new, the Trailblazer SS and 9-7X were quite reasonable. The Trailblazer carried an MSRP of $32,155 in 2008 while the 9-7X was priced as a luxury vehicle at $46,530. Today, prices have actually flip-flopped with the Chevy being the more valuable of the two.
Pricing is highly dependent on mileage and condition but we found Trailblazer SS examples ranging from around $10,000 (with over 100,000 miles) to around $20,000 (with under 70,000 miles). As for the 9-7X Aero, they are much scarcer with prices ranging from around $8,000 to $18,000.
Both examples of this SUV were powered by a 6.0-liter V8 known as the LS2. It was also used in the C6 Corvette and other performance vehicles like the Pontiac GTO and Cadillac CTS-V. In the Trailblazer and 9-7X, the LS2 produced 390 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque with power sent to the rear wheels (with optional all-wheel-drive) on the Trailblazer SS or standard AWD on the 9-7X Aero. While the four-speed 4L60-E automatic transmission won't win any awards today, it did an admirable job getting these hefty SUVs up to 60 mph in under six seconds with the quarter-mile taking around 13.5 seconds. Both SUVs were pretty capable as well, with towing capacities of up to 6,600 pounds.
The song 'Barbie Girl' tells us, "life in plastic, it's fantastic." Most people think this was in reference to Mattel's Barbie dolls but we think it actually speaks to GM's mid-2000s interiors. Just because Chevy spent time improving the Trailblazer with more power and better suspension, that doesn't mean it made many changes on the interior. Even this high-performance model features cheap-looking injection-molded plastic throughout the interior, resulting in a cabin that looks highly dated today.
Saab didn't do much better with the so-called "luxurious" 9-7X interior sporting some fake wood and nicer leather. On the plus side, the 9-7X does get a few of the Saab quirks like the unique air vents, console-mounted ignition, and pop-out cupholder.
There is one downside to having a powerful Corvette engine under the hood, fuel economy. It drinks fuel at a rate of 12 mpg in the city and 16 mpg on the highway. There are mid-engined Italian supercars that are more frugal. On the plus side, there is plenty of room with 43.7 cubic feet of storage space in the trunk, which opens to a whopping 80.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
If you opt for the Saab, keep in mind that those low production models might make your life difficult when you get into a fender bender and need to replace one of those Saab body panels. Owning the Trailblazer will certainly be easier in terms of parts availability, maintenance, and recalls but there's just something cool about owning a Corvette-powered Saab.
While Chevy no longer builds the Trailblazer SS and Saab no longer exists, these two models were early pioneers in the high-performance SUV segment, which now includes a vast assortment of models. Most of these come from European luxury brands and carry six-figure price tags but the Trailblazer SS and 9-7X Aero can be had for a fraction of their original cost. These are two crazy fast SUVs you can now get for a bargain price.