UPDATE 10/16/18: This story has been updated to reflect the 2019 Blazer's recently announced prices, which range from $29,995 for the base L model with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine to $46,795 for an all-wheel-drive Premier model with a 3.6-liter V-6.
For those of us who have achieved a certain age (if not the maturity that generally comes with it), we know what a Chevrolet Blazer is. It’s the K5: a cut-down full-size pickup with a flimsy removable fiberglass shell covering the bed and cab. It’s kind of ratty because it’s owned by a teenager, it’s been jacked up a mile in the air, and it wears off-road tires that roar louder than a hurricane when they travel over pavement. It’s the truck that always led the conga line to the lake every summer because it was mostly filled with cheap beer and ice. It’s all Alan Jackson songs, T-shirts without sleeves, cutoff Lee jeans, a cooler held together with duct tape, and inner-tubing on the Chattahoochee.
A Blazer has live axles front and rear, four-wheel drive, a full frame, and a small-block V-8 with a lumpy idle; and when it rains, that’s when nature itself hoses out the interior.
Then there’s this. A 2019 crossover with a unibody structure and transverse mounted engine that Chevy calls “Blazer.” We knew the Blazer. We loved the Blazer. And this, GM, is no Blazer.
Get me some Doritos and a six-pack. Coors? Budweiser? Hamm’s? Who cares? I’m going to go float on the raft for a couple of hours and try to get past this.
Just Exactly What Isn’t Needed
Chevy already has five crossovers and SUVs in its lineup, ranging from the wee little Trax up through the Equinox, Traverse, and Tahoe to the stupefyingly large Suburban. General Motors will rightly brag about how the Tahoe and ’Burban dominate their markets, the Equinox and Traverse are gaining market share, and that the Trax does something or other. The new two-row “Blazer” slots into the narrow space between the Equinox and Traverse, one never before recognized by Chevy. Call it the mid-mid-size, mid-midrange crossover segment. Or call it Chevy’s version of the GMC Acadia. Your choice.
What’s obvious is that Chevrolet didn’t need the “Blazer” as much as it needed a chance to pick up some sales in a segment occupied by the Ford Edge and the Nissan Murano. In the current market, practically no one wants to buy a Malibu. The new Blazer is a perfectly rational reaction to what buyers want. And that sucks.
Now That That’s out of the Way . . .
Okay, the Blazer is what it is: a mainstream crossover. Here’s what to know about it. It is good-looking, with the nose capped by a grille that seems as if it migrated over from the Camaro ZL1, the wheels pushed out to the corners so there are barely any overhangs, and every body panel featuring some interesting sculptural element. Of the now six Chevrolet crossovers and SUVs, this one is the most daring, if such a word can even be uttered in reference to an SUV.
Of all the other crossovers out there, perhaps the one the new “Blazer” resembles most is the Lamborghini Urus. You decide which of the two is flattered by that comparison.
The basic structural bits are in fact shared with the GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT5. The new Chevy will be built at GM’s plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico (which doesn’t please the UAW). It’s a five-passenger hauler with both rows offering decent room and well-shaped seats. And in the sports-like RS trim, the interior features bursts of color in the upholstery and along the dashboard that manage the neat trick of being both startling and kind of elegant. The less flashy Premier trim is subdued enough that it may as well be an Equinox.
The standard powerplant is the familiar 193-hp 2.5-liter inline-four. More attractive is the equally familiar 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6. Both engines are direct injected, and both feed a nine-speed automatic transmission, but only the V-6 models can be had with an all-wheel-drive system. Fuel-economy estimates haven’t yet been revealed, but they should be a bit better than the Acadia’s since the GMC currently uses a six-speed automatic.
Lower-spec Blazers will come standard on 18-inch wheels. Flash a few more bucks and those wheels grow up to 21 inches in diameter, which will impress many, many neighbors. With all the LED lighting and the aggressive-ish styling, finding the right balance between visual dignity and blinding ostentation will be an options-sheet challenge for Blazer buyers.
The Blazer's base price of $29,995 for the base L model is competitive with similar machines, but the price rises quickly among the other trim levels. The 1LT with the base four-cylinder is $33,495, while the V-6–powered 2LT is $34,495 and the better-equipped 3LT is $38,695. Both the sporty-ish Blazer RS ($41,795) and the fully loaded Premier ($43,895) top $40,000, and that's before adding all-wheel drive, which is a $2700 to $2900 option on all V-6 trims.
Monster mudder tires and metal dashboards were virtues back in the full-size Blazer’s run, from 1969 to 1994, but now the world wants smartphone integration, backup cameras, and sensors that throw off enough radar waves to irradiate the nation’s almond crop. The new Blazer has six USB ports, a glovebox that snaps open electronically, and all sorts of lane-keeping equipment available. The electronic trick list stretches to include a wireless charging pad, a hands-free liftgate, and a trailer-hookup guidance system, among a few other things, but none of this is surprising in this current environment. Tech is expected. And tech is what the 2019 Blazer offers.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
Jeep can’t keep Wranglers in stock, the Toyota 4Runner has experienced an amazing sales renaissance, and Ford is about to bring back the Bronco. The Blazer name should be on a truly capable off-roader like those beloved machines. Why is Chevy letting this opportunity slide by?
Chevrolet has heretofore done a pretty good job of keeping a philosophical handle on its heritage nameplates. Corvettes are still all two-seaters with fiberglass bodies. The Camaro is, as always, a rip-snorting muscle pony even when it’s powered by a V-6. The Blazer ought to be, once again, Chevy’s true off-roader, something that looks awesome covered in mud.
Frustratingly, there’s even a product in Chevrolet’s extended family that would make a true Blazer. That’s the Brazil-market TrailBlazer, which shares much of its engineering DNA with the Colorado pickup truck. Bring that thing up, call it the Blazer, and call this one the Vue or the Lumina APV or something.
Ironically, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the first Blazer. It’s a name that inspires affection in those of us who admired the original-and even the smaller S-10 versions. And there’s a real passion among us oldsters who drove them both when they were new and when they were decades-old beaters. There are rivers and lakes and big open spaces that call for a real Chevy Blazer to go find them. This “Blazer,” no matter how good a crossover it might be, isn’t that Blazer.
Let’s go get sno-cones.
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