Attention, off-road enthusiasts: Don’t expect Chevrolet’s resurrected Blazer to resemble anything like the truckish, rugged SUV of years past.
The nameplate has bounced around General Motors’ truck lineup since the late 1970s, and it’s making another comeback.
But for 2019, the Chevrolet Blazer is a contemporary and more athletic jellybean crossover that is smaller than the three-row Traverse and bigger than the Equinox compact crossover. Its two-row midsize segment includes other SUVs like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Murano and Ford Edge.
WILL IT SUCCEED?
The Blazer went on sale earlier this year, but it’s still too early to tell whether buyers will accept its new persona as an on-road, performance-based vehicle geared toward professionals and empty nesters.
The new Blazer comes in three trims: the bare-bones Blazer, the sport-tuned RS and the more luxe Premier. The self-titled base model is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. A gutsier, 3.6-liter V6 is available and comes standard on the RS and Premier models. Both engines are paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and have start-stop technology. All three trims are available in front- or all-wheel-drive.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the 3.6-liter engine with AWD gets 18 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. Front-wheel-drive improves miles per gallon by 2 in city driving and 1 on the highway. The smaller, 2.5-liter engine attains 22 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway.
Estimates for combined mileage were not provided.
On a drive through the hills east of San Diego, the new Blazer RS proved to be fond of open roads and twisty turns – especially configured with the bigger engine and AWD. There is a slight lag upon throttle, but once up to speed it feels at home. RS-specific sport-tuned dampers help it float over the road. A low, wide stance, responsive steering and lack of body roll suggest that the vehicle is unlike other grocery-hauling, car seat-toting crossovers on the market.
This is a vehicle for a buyer who likes to go fast and isn’t consumed with errands or carpool pick-ups.
Character lines run down the hood and form a widow’s peak that hangs slightly over the bold grille, resembling the front design of the Camaro. High-intensity discharge headlamps sit in horizontal slits above LED daytime running lights. The side panels are muscular but lean.
The sportier trim’s distinct styling is racy. The Blazer is striking in Red Hot paint, which pops against a trim-exclusive black oversized grille. Optional 21-inch wheels (18-inch are standard), standard roof rails and the Chevrolet bowtie are all black.
The top-shelf Premier model does not feel as sexy in a Graphite Metallic paint job. Its black grille features basic horizontal lines. A chrome bar stretching headlamp-to-headlamp crosses through the grille. It complements other chrome detailing, including the wheels.
Additionally, configured with FWD and the 3.6-liter engine, the Premier is not as exciting to drive. Without the sport tuning it feels more like a commuter car than a performance vehicle. The base-level Blazer with the 2.5-liter engine is even more underwhelming. It’s proficient on surface streets, but it feels more juvenile, especially with its cloth seats and basic amenities.
The cockpit is designed for the driver. It’s spacious enough not to feel cramped and maintains a sporty aesthetic. The wheel and shifter are leather-wrapped. The RS has all-black leather upholstery, and circular air vents that surround the driver have red accents. Black and camel leather in the Premiere gives it a more upscale feeling. It would look more sophisticated in Chevrolet’s Summit White paint.
The 8-inch touch screen infotainment display includes GM’s easy-to-use navigation systems and Bluetooth for two devices. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard as is a 4G LTE WiFi connection. There are two USB charging ports – one USB-A and one USB-C – in the instrument panel and two in the center console.
The twin-clutch AWD system in the RS and Premier helps the Blazer feel planted on curves and would prove useful in inclement weather. Traction Select, standard on all AWD models, lets the driver adjust driving modes to adapt to varying conditions. Swapping between FWD (Normal) and AWD (4×4) is seamless when driving. Other modes include Sport, Off Road and Towing (if equipped).
But a low ground clearance prevents the new Blazer from venturing too far off road. When equipped with AWD and 21-inch wheels, the crossover clears only 7.83 inches, the highest position offered. The lowest – 7.4 inches – is on a FWD model with 18-inch wheels. The minimum ground clearance needed for at least light trailblazing is 8 inches.
If Blazer owners want to tow bikes or a small trailer to accessible trails, however, a trailering upgrade is available. The larger engine has a maximum towing capacity of 4,500 pounds and available hitch guidance and view features that will help the driver see and align the vehicle without assistance.
The rear offers less than adequate cargo space for the class. Behind the back seats is 30.5 cubic feet of stowage. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has 36.3 cubic feet behind the second row, the Nissan Murano has 39.6 cubic feet, and the Ford Edge has 39.2. Space increases to 64.2 cubic feet with the power-folding rear seats completely flat (a plus).
Sliders on the rear seats adjust to comfortably accommodate two adults. An available cargo-management system prevents items from moving during travel.
The Blazer skimps on a handful of active driver-assist technologies as standard equipment for the RS and Premier, except for park assist. Standard alerts include lane change, blind spot and rear cross traffic. All are available on the base. Adaptive cruise control, forward automatic braking, front pedestrian braking and lane-keep assist are available on only the RS and Premier.
The adaptive cruise control is effective in congested highway driving. If the vehicle ahead slows to around 7 mph in traffic and then speeds back up, the system will remain in control. If it drops below, the driver must take over to resume speed.
Starting price for the base Blazer with cloth interior and the 2.5-liter engine with FWD is $32,300. The Blazer Premier with FWD and the 3.6-liter engine jumps to $42,700. The Blazer RS with AWD and the 3.6-liter engine costs $43,500, which includes $2,900 for AWD. None of these prices reflect a $1,195 delivery fee.
The Sun and Wheels package, which adds a power panoramic sunroof and the 21-inch wheels, costs an additional $2,495. The Driver Confidence package with surround vision and most of the active safety equipment costs $2,165. An Enhanced Driver Convenience and Driver Confidence package that bundles features like wireless charging, premium audio and upgraded infotainment with active safety equipment costs $3,575.