Mountain Wheels: Blazer is reborn as Chevy’s more menacing mid-sized SUV
Depending on your personal vintage, Chevrolet’s storied Blazer name may bring up a lot of memories. For me, it’s the 1970s-era K5 Blazer, the full-sized proto-SUV competitor to the old Ford Bronco or the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, one of the most rugged-looking domestic machines around. You may also think of the smaller Chevy S-10-based Blazer, or, perhaps less romantically, about the TrailBlazer, a weird and ungainly step in the SUV evolutionary change.
Well, forget about all of that, really: Blazer is back and it has absolutely nothing to do with any of those, though its 2019 rendition manages to fill another potentially profitable Chevrolet SUV micro-niche, a mid-sized model that is situated somewhere between the Equinox and Traverse.
Here, style is the big selling point, with cues that echo Camaro’s menace (thin headlamps and a flattened hood) and a grille that fights with Audi or Lexus for pure terror-in-your-rear-view-mirror appeal. The fact that Blazer overall looks like a slightly flatter and more sinister version of the Ford Explorer police vehicle caused many people to slow down and get out of my way, an effect which I of course loved.
Yes, from the rear, it looks absolutely identical to every larger crossover on the market. It’s practically a carbon copy of the new Hyundai Santa Fe, so much so that I forgot which one I was driving while looking for it in a parking lot. The homogenization of the larger crossover/SUV school of design is going to look pretty silly about 20 years from now, but that’s beside the point.
Chevy has gambled that that slightly-out-of-place historic name will resonate, somehow, with younger buyers who want a slightly different, competitively-priced SUV that still packs power and loads of interior space, all finished off with more aggressive looks.
And space there is, especially if you drop the second-row seats, revealing a totally flat, 64.2-cubic-foot cargo area you could totally stuff with a futon or small couch.
In the $49,290 Premier AWD model I drove, that power comes from another iteration of Chevy’s 3.6-liter V-6, with 308 horsepower and a somewhat less-exciting 270 foot-pounds of torque. I didn’t quite feel the pursuit-model fury I found a few months ago in Traverse, and actually got some over-revving when I did flatten the pedal on the freeway, but the overall feel was confident bruiser-cruising, which I guess is the objective. The new Blazer’s standard engine choice is a 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder making 193 horsepower.
A five-mode drive-mode switch allows you to go fully 2WD for better fuel economy; the sport mode includes the extra grip of AWD, which will likely make it a fun winter driver.
Blazer is certainly long and packs a very high beltline — the side glass is so tall that you’ll have trouble lining it up with the curb while parallel parking, because you can’t actually see the curb — and sporting a stocky stance that is indeed kind of cool. The A and B pillars are very large and limit visibility a touch, as does the foreshortened rear glass.
That solid grille, the big boxes of fog lamps and absolutely oversized 21-inch wheels also toughen things up, and the line of glass up top, surrounded by darkened frames, cascades back on the cabin into a Jesus Fish Bumper Sticker-shaped apex at the back. That’s all topped by gleaming roof rails, a massive rear air dam and Chevy’s trademark reach-way-down-low-to-open liftgate, which I managed to accidentally automatically open while spraying it with a car wash wand.
The story inside is also a bit odd, with overly plastic, massively black and admittedly unusual design treatments. The cabin begins with a long, deep shelf of dash, right-angling into a nearly vertical face. Your navigation screen is wrapped in a chromed pentagon shape; it just gets weirder from there, with all of the AC controls darkly hidden underneath the rim of the dash, requiring you to memorize their functions pretty quickly.
Temperature control is built into the rim of the oversized, jet-engine-in-your-face air vents, but I gather you’ll cool off or warm up pretty quickly as a result, and two regular/mini USB vents are oddly plunked in between.
Seating is comfortable and broad, and in the rear, your passengers will enjoy tall, elevated theater-style seating and plenty of legroom, though headroom may be an issue for taller adults, given the short-wide-stocky theme going on throughout. A full-cabin sunroof helped open things up, but my head still hit the ceiling when I sat back there. Access height is great, though.
Commensurate with the menace, the Bose audio system here is so bass-heavy that I had to turn it down.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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