Lacey Elliott: If you Google ‘Chevy Blazer”, just about every post mentions that the Blazer is back. But ‘back’ only applies if you’ve been around long enough to remember it from almost 20 years ago. The original Blazer was one of Chevy’s most popular SUVs and this was long before the moniker Sport Utility Vehicle, and its acronym, became commonplace.
The target demographic for the new 2020 Chevy Blazer is very different from the group of people who were wild fans of Chevy’s original crossover vehicle. This difference in customer plays out in all areas of the vehicle.
Dan Heyman: While it may not quite have the same pop-culture chops as does its counterpart from across the way, the Ford Bronco, the Blazer name is still one that holds a lot of equity with consumers. Not to mention that Chevy has actually managed to beat Ford to the punch in that their car made landfall before the Bronco did, even though the latter has been talked about for eons and a day. The question, of course, is was the Blazer rushed to market, or is it ready to do battle? Read on.
LE: The new Blazer fills the gap in Chevrolet’s line up between the Equinox and the Traverse. It shares the same platform as the GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT5, but the Blazer is wider.
Each trim level has a unique personality. The entry level Blazer is basic with plastic body moulding and less standard equipment. It comes with a simple, yet pleasant cloth interior versus the leather that is on the higher RS and Premier trims.
The RS is the sport model in the lineup. With darkened chrome accents, subtle red interior trim, a more menacing grille and blacked-out wheels. I think it is the best looking of the three trims. If a more upscale appearance is what you are after, then the Premier model is the one for you. This top trim adds attractive chrome accents inside and out, body-coloured trim pieces and, as I already mentioned, it has a premium leather interior with supple suede inlays.
No matter what trim you like, the overall styling of this SUV is dramatic and departs from that of the other trucks and SUVs in the Chevy family. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that the Blazer stands out in this crowded market segment. It seems as if all the other vehicles in this class have taken to a more rugged appearance, focusing on utility instead of sportiness.
Keeping with this theme, we see a lot of Camaro-inspired styling flourishes both inside and out. The rotary air vents and climate controls on the interior of this SUV look nearly identical to the sports car. Overall, it is uncluttered with simple clean lines and minimal buttons.
The comfortable second row seats can move front-to-back a full five inches. The rear seat splits 60/40, and when folded flat this little SUV has an impressive 1800L of cargo space. If you don’t need that room for stuff, you can use those five inches to recline and really get comfortable. If rear seat comfort is high on your list of priorities, choosing the Blazer is a no-brainer.
No third row is available. Making this an ideal SUV for empty nesters, singles or couples with no kids that put a priority on comfort and style.
DH: Far as I’m concerned, this is one of the strongest aspects of the Blazer package, though it actually turned out to be divisive. Many people came up to me during my time with the Blazer and were surprised to see that name on the tailgate, partly because they thought it would never come back (car nameplates are like comic book characters, though; they never seem to actually die, instead taking hiatuses for an issue or two), and partly because it looks unlike any Blazer ever did, and unlike most every other Chevrolet currently available.
Every other Chevy available, that is, save for the Camaro. As Lacey mentions: there are all sorts of edges, flares and bulges that really do make these look like two in a pod, as if they formed some kind of crazy sub-brand at Chevy. That’s not the case, but it’s clear that Chevrolet really wanted to make a statement with the Blazer on the exterior styling front and they definitely have done that. The styling touches look a little better in the more athletic RS trim seen here, though, as the tamer True North and Premier trims look a little more pedestrian. They all get those wicked narrow foglights, though (the headlights are actually mounted below these, in the bumper) and the cool upswept lower window frame. They don’t get those super-cool and sinister wheels, though (20s are standard; my tester had optional 21s), which are about as Camaro-like as you can get.
While I agree with Lacey that the interior is full of great materials and finishes, I actually wish they’d done a little more to continue the exterior theme here. The digital gauge cluster is nice, but wouldn’t it have been cool to see a pair of deeply-recessed gauges, like you see in a Camaro? That would have been a statement. The red contrasting stitching does its part to sharpen the styling spear, a little, but I think this was a chance for Chevy to maybe take a few more risks and they haven’t really done that. They already have a couple of similarly-sized SUVs that look like this inside.
ON THE ROAD
LE: The original Chevy Blazer had off-road prowess at its core. Unfortunately for fans of the OG Blazer, the new Chevy Blazer does not share that DNA. Within minutes of being behind the wheel, you can tell that the intention of this model is to have better on-road manners for everyday driving.
Chevrolet broke from tradition, dropping the body-on-frame design and instead used a more car-like platform. This is another reason why some tried-and-true Blazer fans have been upset. The result is, dare I say, similar to driving a jacked-up Camaro.
Dropping the body-on-frame design is a logical choice, as most manufactures no longer use this methodology. The new platform creates a lighter vehicle and therefore better fuel economy, as well as a more comfortable ride feel.
Honestly, I enjoyed the ride in this SUV so much I stopped comparing it to its previous namesake.
The base engine is a 2.5L inline 4-cylinder that delivers 193hp and is more than sufficient for most buyers. During the Canadian launch of this SUV, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the 4-cylinder vehicle. Unfortunately, not only does this Blazer lack a bit of power for my personal tastes, but FWD is the only drivetrain available with this engine.
Upgrading to the more powerful 3.6L V6 with 308hp gives you more oomph and AWD as an option. This persuasive V6 engine is standard on the RS and Premier trim. Both engine options are matched to a smooth 9-speed automatic transmission.
The twin-clutch AWD on the higher trim delivers a ride that blows the competition out of the water on the road. It truly does perform like a slightly taller sportscar. At highway speeds or in playground zones in the suburbs, this little crossover is satisfying beyond words.
Different drive modes, including Normal, Sport or Tow/Haul, are easily selected with a dial in the centre console. Sport mode tightens the ride in all the right places.
The new Blazer is not inept in the off-road department. Choosing the Off-Road mode for less than ideal surfaces allows you to enjoy adventures outside the city. However, since it is lacking ground clearance or underbody protection, be sure to choose your adventures wisely.
After getting up-close and personal with all of the available trims, the RS wins my vote. Not only do I prefer the styling queues on this model, but the V6 really drives more like a sportscar than an SUV. It even delivers a bit of a growl when you are aggressive on the throttle. The suspension keeps the SUV feeling planted in turns and the steering is super responsive.
The pleasing engine note can be heard inside the cabin, but only slightly. Overall, the interior is very quiet, and no wind, road or tire noise manages to sneak inside. I found that the smaller engine had a bit of a whine in the cabin when I put my foot down to accelerate on the highway. But in comparison to the other vehicles in this class, I think Chevy has released a sporty, fun-to-drive, sportscar in SUV clothing.
DH: Unlike Lacey, I haven’t had the pleasure of sampling the four-cylinder truck, so I can only speak to the V6.
It’s a good motor, this, to be sure; 308 hp is no joke and it means the Blazer makes more power than most of the competitors in the segment, with the exception of the Ford Edge ST or a Hemi V8-powered Jeep Gran Cherokee. The Blazer goes about its business in such smooth fashion, too; it’s a naturally-aspirated ‘plant, meaning power is delivered pretty much immediately upon throttle tip-in and you don’t get the peakiness associated with a turbocharged motor. Just a nice, smooth wave of power and torque as you move through the rev band, though you do have to send it to 5,000 rpm and 6,600, respectively, to get to peak torque and horsepower levels. So there will be a bit of noise to go with your grunt, but with looks like this, I wonder if that would be what many Blazer RS buyers are looking for anyway.
Even with the big 21s on my tester, the ride was comfortable and easy on the back and core. The suspension does well to follow-up on the promise provided by those big, cushy seats and it’s nice when a vehicle gets the most important aspects of passenger comfort pretty much right.
What I’m less enamoured with, however, is the fact that while the ride delivers on the promise given by the cushy interior, the chassis doesn’t necessarily deliver on the promise given by those rowdy exterior looks and shouty engine. While it may look like a Camaro, I wouldn’t say it would have the handling chops to be considered the “Camaro of crossovers”, while the Edge ST was touted as the “Mustang od crossovers” when it was launched, and does enough in the performance-sense to earn that title. Of course, Chevrolet has never said “Camaro of crossovers” in so many words, but with looks like that and all that power, I’d make the argument that this is a case of the “a picture is worth 1,000 words” idiom and, the picture painted with styling like that is one of performance. As it stands right now, body roll is clearly felt and the nose can be a little slow to respond to steering inputs. If you’re looking for a crossover that looks like a sports car but rides more like a family sedan, then the Blazer could be your ticket. If you want a crossover that handles with more purpose, then you may want to look elsewhere, to the Edge or even the Honda Passport.
SAFETY AND TECHNOLOGY
LE: Prices start at just over $35,000 and the top-of-the-line Premier trim is just under $49,000. When equipped with the towing package, which is standard on all AWD models with the V6 engine, you can pull up to 4,500lbs. Add on the hitch-view camera and you can hook up a small trailer without a spotter.
Standard features include heated front seats, remote start, an 8-inch high definition infotainment system, dual-zone climate control, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
Other options available are ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging, hands-free power lift gate and Chevy’s new cargo management system.
Available safety technologies include rear park assist, advanced adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, HD rear vision camera and lane keep assist with lane departure warning.
DH: All that safety tech is nice to have to be sure, but in the case of my 50-grand-or-so RS tester, the lack of an adaptive cruise control system is somewhat mystifying, to be perfectly honest. That’s the kind of thing one would expect to see at this price, and the lack of it makes it a little tougher to appreciate all that other tech that you’re spending on. You can pay extra to get it, but you shouldn’t have to.
What I am a huge fan of, though, and bears mentioning here is the foot-activated tailgate.
This isn’t new or unique to the Blazer, but the way it’s implemented is an interesting take. I’ve sampled systems like this on vehicles from pretty much every manufacturer that offers them and I end up in the same situation: standing behind my car, waving my foot underneath it as if I were a Russian dancer, trying to find the sensor. Not here, though. That little Chevrolet logo you see glowing under the left of the bumper as you approach? Yeah. Swing your foot there. Works every time. It’s not quite on the same level as Hyundai/Kia’s system that will open the tailgate if you just stand near it with keyfob in pocket, but it’s a fine alternative and a step up on most of the competition.
The Chevy Blazer has a competitive starting price, a ride that is less truck-like than the competition and very unique styling. I am confident that the re-ignition of the Chevy Blazer is going to do quite well; setting a new standard for this class. It won’t be long before the NEW Blazer becomes the only Blazer that people think of when they hear the name.
DH: I’m a fan of the Blazer nameplate, to be sure. I’m also a fan of its looks and the presence they provide – that blacked-out grille and matching wheels are a real treat to behold. It’s nice, roomy and comfortable inside, too, and the tech on-hand is mostly good stuff. It’s a vehicle I’d like to see in my driveway to be sure, but I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around whether or not all of that adds up to convince me that the Blazer – in RS spec, because that’s what I tested – offers enough over the very good (and quite hot selling) Edge ST. That is a true performance take on an everyday crossover, and if I was going for a fun-to-drive factor, I think that’s the way I’d go. There’s lots to like about the Blazer; just make sure you spec wisely.