Aftermarket performance modifications are big business in the auto industry. Enthusiasts love to find, buy, and outfit their favorite brands, models, and trims with all sorts of aftermarket upgrades and performance enhancements. Some unlikely candidates over the years have staked a name for themselves within the aftermarket tuning scene, such as the Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, Toyota AE86, Honda Civic, and the Mazda Miata, but could something like the Chevy Trailblazer be included in that list? Compact or subcompact SUVs aren’t particularly known for being top picks in the aftermarket scene unless it’s for off-roading purposes, but could more be done with this segment? Could the 2023 Chevy Trailblazer blaze a trail for that to happen? Let’s take a closer look.
Revisiting a Legacy
The Trailblazer existed as a nameplate within the GM ecosystem as a midsize SUV during the early to mid-aughts. It was a branch off of the Blazer, which had predated it as another crossover SUV from the 1980s through the 1990s. GM revived the Trailblazer more recently in 2019 with a 2020 model year outing, still under the Chevy brand; however, the revitalized Trailblazer, for the more modern driver, is a completely different beast from the previous incarnations.
First and foremost, the new Trailblazer is no longer a midsize or even a compact SUV but rather a subcompact model. It’s done away with the more personality-free design from previous generations and now has a sporty, aggressive look borrowed from its larger midsize sibling, the Blazer. Aggressive, angular lines and a bold stance make the new Trailblazer look quite different from its old form and, in many ways, lends itself well to sparking interest from younger drivers.
The sleek silhouette, large wheels, and performance-designed fascias lend the subcompact crossover to a different kind of approach for an SUV. It looks more like a modern-day sports car strapped to an SUV chassis, yet squished down to appeal to those who prefer the diminutive nature of a compact vehicle. In the past, as a sedan, this would be an instant shoo-in for aftermarket tuners, but in the present, as a subcompact SUV, is there hope for aftermarket appeal?
Setting the Pace With the Blazer’s Aftermarket Community
Before modding can truly get underway for the Trailblazer, there has to be a precedent set; a standard in place, and a model for the community to use as a starting point for tuning, modding, and customizing the Trailblazer. That standard actually starts with its larger midsize sibling, the Blazer. Just a year before the Trailblazer made its return to the market, the midsize crossover Blazer debuted in the 2019 model year and quickly found a place among those who appreciated its aggressive design language.
It wasn’t long after the Blazer’s debut that we saw custom MagnaFlow exhaust systems and performance intake kits from companies like Injen and Airaid. Bespoke wheels and performance tires were also on the table, along with various muffler solutions, air filters, and tuner chips. It’s been a steady and progressive flow toward the Blazer becoming a go-to SUV for those who want something stylized and customizable. The aggressive aerodynamics and sports-themed language of the exterior lends itself well to those who want to push the aesthetic and performance boundaries further. But how does this affect the Chevy Trailblazer?
Well, the Blazer sets the tone. It’s on a different wheelbase than the Trailblazer and is obviously larger, but there’s a visual symmetry between the two vehicles that gives the obvious impression that if you want a Blazer but smaller, you go with the Trailblazer, as there are a lot of similarities in who the vehicles appeal to when it comes to market demographics. The same people inclined to tune the Blazer might be inclined to tune the Trailblazer. In some ways, that’s already becoming true as aftermarket providers are already starting to stock parts and upgrades for the Trailblazer. The problem, however, is that there’s a discrepancy in power between the two siblings.
Alternative Solutions for Powertrain Limitations
While the Blazer is powered by turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 powertrains, the Trailblazer is relegated to three-cylinder powertrains with a stark ceiling of limitations on just how much power you can draw out of them. This raises a pertinent question regarding the future-proofing of the Trailblazer’s modding capabilities. You have to ask: will it ever be able to gain ground due to these limitations? It also brings up the question of whether the Trailblazer will be able to push past the perceptions on the powertrain to court enthusiast modders who are more interested in achieving power gains in other avenues.
Alternative to all of this, however, is the fact that modding isn’t always just about raw power; it’s also about aesthetics, form factor, and the personalization of the vehicle. We’ve already seen how the Blazer, even without a Hemi-powered V8 or a Power Stroke turbo-diesel, can still garner quite the attention from enthusiasts who want to personalize the vehicle in their own unique way. Wheels, intake, exhaust, tires, interior mods, and exterior extensions are all on the table for those looking to take advantage of aftermarket options.
Just because the powertrain has a specific limitation on performance doesn’t mean that modding has to be centered chiefly around power. There are other ways to personalize and improve the Trailblazer’s experience without touching the engine. Another interesting possibility is how well the livery (custom paint job) scene will take to the Trailblazer. The 2023 model, in particular, only received exotic premium color updates for the model year, which may or may not inspire liveries themed around the new paint selections. It does leave one to question what sort of modding has been undertaken for the Trailblazer presently and whether it will grow.
The Current Trailblazer Modding Scene
As mentioned, the Trailblazer hasn’t been on the market for very long. Within the few short years since it’s been made available, some minor alterations have already been made for it, such as muffler replacements, interior light mods, and wheels. The older model Trailblazer from the early aughts was popular enough with the off-road crowd to get lifts, bigger wheel mods, and tuned for rugged trails and dirt roads. However, that particular subset of modding hasn’t quite caught on with the new Trailblazer models… yet.
What we have seen, however, is a very slow, methodical uptick of aftermarket modifications that are very close in line with the Blazer’s mod scene: wheels, tires, intake, exhaust, and body modifications. The options are still very limited because the nameplate is still very new. With just a few years under its belt, and a wildly unpredictable economy, it’s hard to say what the uptick of the Trailblazer will be in the coming years, but all it would take is a strong adoption rate from a creative market demographic. If those drivers enjoy taking their vehicles and turning them into something uniquely their own, the Trailblazer could be in for good times with the aftermarket crowd.
The Potential Is There. We’ll Just Have to Wait and See
The 2023 Chevy Trailblazer is a promising look at what the future of the subcompact SUV could be in the right hands. Could this model be the big kick-start it needs? Maybe. It depends on whether it speaks to those who want to take the alterations and modifications to the next level. Could the new paints inspire new aesthetic changes from body shop paints to vinyl enthusiasts? In the right hands, absolutely. Is there a future for the Trailblazer to become an aftermarket SUV darling like few that have come before it? Well, that remains to be seen, but there’s at least a glimmer of hope based on the slow swell of aftermarket availability for the vehicle at the moment, which means there’s a potentially promising future laid out for Chevy’s subcompact SUV in the aftermarket circles.