2019 Chevrolet Blazer Driven
The Camaro of midsize crossovers...kind ofby Brady Holt, on
Think about what makes a Chevy Camaro different from other cars. Its engines are powerful and its suspension is beautifully composed. Its headlights and windows are sinister little slits. You spin its big dashboard vents to adjust the climate control.
The new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer transfers some of that Camaro magic into the midsize crossover class. The exterior design certainly evokes that sporty coupe rather than the Blazer’s heritage as a hardy off-road machine. And inside, sure enough, you spin the big dashboard vents to adjust the climate control. Even the driving experience is a little bit special, with nimbler handling than the midsize crossover norm and a powerful 308-horsepower V6 engine. With the Blazer, though, fun is relative. This is basically a shortened Chevrolet Traverse, not a tall Camaro. On the other hand, the Blazer’s styling sacrifices less functionality than the Camaro’s. Even if it’s less roomy and has worse visibility than most midsize crossovers, it’s still a midsize crossover — and not even one of those dubious “coupe” models that the Germans keep cranking out.
We’ve probably all heard critics grouse and grouse about the Blazer being reborn as a crossover, rather than returning to its roots as a traditional SUV. (Chevrolet discontinued the old pickup-truck-based Blazer in 2005.) But whatever it’s called, the new Blazer fills an obvious hole in the Chevy crossover lineup - between the compact Equinox and the full-size Traverse. It’s priced from $29,995 to $50k-plus and faces competitors that include the Ford Edge, Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Nissan Murano. While the Blazer’s relatively tight cargo space and fast-rising prices make it a tough sell on paper, it’s not without merit once you get to know it. Join us as we share more of what we’ve learned from spending a week in a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.
2019 Chevy Blazer - DESIGN
As we mentioned, the 2019 Blazer is clearly designed to look like an on-road performance vehicle, in obvious contrast to its boxier GMC Acadia platform-mate. It’s curvy where the GMC is chunky. Its high beltline and hunched-forward profile make it look planted to the pavement, rather eager to lumber off and explore the wilderness.
The Blazer is hardly the only midsize crossover with such a focus, but it still stands out from the crowd. From some angles, and really looks like a concept car that’s escaped into ordinary traffic.
These headlight-to-grille and metal-to-glass ratios usually get toned down before a car shows up in dealerships, but the production Blazer remains a head-turner. Our test vehicle’s “Red Hot” paint job and 20-inch “Dark Android” alloy wheels make it even harder to miss — and help make up for the comparatively generic rear-end design.
Of course, not all attention is positive, and the Blazer will certainly earn its share of detractors. And if you hate how the Blazer looks, you’re missing out on one of the biggest ways it stands out in the market. In other words, this isn’t such an amazing machine that we’ll beg you to overlook its aesthetics.
Inside, the Blazer is less divisive, but also less interesting. It has plus-size round dashboard vents like the Camaro, and as we noted, you can spin the two center ones to adjust the temperature of the dual-zone automatic climate control system.
Otherwise, the dash is pretty typical for the segment, with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen at the center and other buttons and knobs below it. Though there’s no tuning knob, most controls are pretty simple. Chevy’s infotainment system is responsive, and it supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Overall, the interior’s styling, cabin materials, and infotainment graphics are more austere than those on the luxury-focused Hyundai Santa Fe or Nissan Murano, which some folks argue makes the Blazer more sporty and others will just find drab. For a small touch of extra spice, the tested RS model adds some red accents to the dashboard and upholstery. One annoying cheap-out: The power windows offer an auto-up feature only on the driver’s door. It could not have cost much to share the wealth.
2019 Chevy Blazer - UTILITY
Let’s start with the good news: The Blazer has generous interior space for five passengers, with comfortable seats and ample legroom even in the back. A nearly flat floor means that even the center passenger can be comfortable. The rear seat adjusts fore-aft to maximize either passenger or cargo space, and it folds easily to lie perfectly flat. And the cargo area is available with a useful hands-free power liftgate and an adjustable metal frame that helps keep your luggage from sliding around.
The bad news: The midsize Blazer has only as much cargo space as the compact Chevrolet Equinox, which itself isn’t even a cargo-volume standout in the compact crossover class. By the numbers, the Blazer has 30.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 64.2 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. That’s just a little bit less than a Nissan Murano, another style-focused midsize crossover, but the midsize Ford Edge and Honda Passport (plus the compact Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue) average roughly 40 and 75 cubic feet, respectively. To be clear, any crossover the Blazer’s size is a useful vehicle, but if you’re not picky about cargo capacity, you might be able to save thousands by sticking with the compact class. Unlike the compact models, though, the Blazer can tow up to 4,500 pounds.
The Blazer’s sports-car styling also cuts into its outward visibility, leaving thick roof pillars and small windows.
As with every new car, a backup camera comes standard, and a blind-spot monitoring system is available on all but the base model. A rear camera mirror is optional on mid- and upper-trim Blazers, which lets you turn the traditional rearview mirror into a camera display on demand. This eliminates blind spots (either from the shape of the vehicle or from something inside the cabin) but it takes some time to get used to the camera’s perspective. Alternatively, you could buy a Honda Passport, whose giant windows mean you don’t need as many workarounds.
2019 Chevy Blazer - HOW IT DRIVES
The most notable part of the Blazer’s driving experience is its V6 engine, which is standard on most models (including every Blazer with all-wheel-drive). This 3.6-liter V6 makes 308 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, and it’s mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. That’s a lot of power for this class, considering that this engine is available on most Blazers rather than limited to pricey top-of-the-line models like the Ford Edge’s heartiest powerplant.
Better still, the throttle is nicely calibrated for the Blazer to feel perfectly natural whether you’re driving it gently or digging in for more oomph.
The engine sounds great, too, nothing like the sighing, moaning Nissan Murano or the characterless hum of the typical four-cylinder turbo.
|Engine||3.6 liters, V-6|
The two cheapest Blazer trims come with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, with front-wheel-drive only. It makes 193 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque and also uses a nine-speed automatic. That’s a little better than the base engine on the Hyundai Santa Fe, but most competitors have smoother, stronger starting points. What’s more, the Blazer achieves only 2 mpg more than the V6 in EPA fuel economy testing — 24 mpg in mixed driving versus 22 mpg for the V6 front-drive Blazer (or 21 mpg for the all-wheel-drive model). You’d have to really love the Blazer and be on a firm budget to choose this sporty-looking vehicle with so little spice under the hood.
|Engine||2.5 liters, inline-four|
That’s not to say the Blazer is only impressive for its V6 engine. Its steering isn’t super-quick or precise, but the Blazer inspires confidence and lets you hustle it like a smaller vehicle. Some reviewers have preferred the Honda Passport, but it feels two sizes bigger than the Blazer — it’s an agile bus, but it’s still a bus. Even the tested sporty RS model also manages a respectably smooth and quiet ride, aided by a built-in active noise cancellation feature.
2019 Chevy Blazer PRICE
The Blazer has a competitive base price of $29,995 including its mandatory destination charge. That price buys you the L trim with the four-cylinder engine, which you’ll also find on the next up “Blazer Cloth” for $33,495. Your $3,500 buys you a spare tire, a power driver’s seat, and lights on the sun visors, plus the privilege of paying extra for a lot more optional equipment.
That’s a clue to how the Blazer’s price starts at a tempting level but quickly soars. You’ll also pay up if you want all-wheel-drive; first you need to pay a $1,000 premium to add the V6 engine to the Blazer Cloth trim, then spend another $2,700 for the AWD system itself.
That means the cheapest all-wheel-drive Blazer is $37,195, thousands more than any competitor. True, the Blazer remains a comparatively affordable way to get 300-plus horsepower in a crossover, but if that’s not your priority, you can find a better bargain.
The same applies if you’re interested in all the latest driver-assistance technology. Nor the base Blazers nor the midlevel Blazer Leather ($38,495 and up, sold only with the V6) offer adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, or a lane-departure warning. It’s not even standard equipment on the RS ($41,795) or Premier ($43,895). So the cheapest Blazer with those features is a front-wheel-drive Blazer RS with the Enhanced Convenience and Driver Confidence II package ($3,575), for a total price of $45,370. For comparison, these features come standard on every Toyota Corolla.
In total, the Blazer’s prices can surpass $50,000, which is steep for a mainstream-brand five-passenger crossover — particularly given that the Blazer doesn’t overflow with either luxury or interior space. Chevy is offering a $2,000 rebate as of this writing, but that’s not enough to turn it into a bargain, especially if you wanted a low-end model with all-wheel-drive or advanced safety gear.
2019 Chevy Blazer KEY COMPETITORS
The 2019 Honda Passport has a similar provenance to the Blazer. Both the Blazer and Passport names were used on truck-based SUVs that died roughly 15 years ago, and are reborn for 2019 as car-based five-passenger V6-powered midsize crossovers. And both, mechanically speaking, are truncated versions of their brands’ three-row models: the Chevrolet Traverse and Honda Pilot. The difference is that Chevy turned the Blazer into something wildly different from the staid, family-friendly Traverse. The Passport, in contrast, is little more than a Pilot with some of its tail lopped off. That’s great if you want maximum roominess, visibility, and refinement — the Passport has that in spades. It even handles well, though as we noted, it can’t shake off feeling like a big car. The Passport’s boxy shape will be endearing to the right buyers, but in most ways, it’s the polar opposite of the Blazer: all business and no flash.
The 2019 Nissan Murano is a more style-focused Blazer rival, though it’s more about graceful curves than Camaro-style sportiness. And although the Murano was relatively fun to drive when its first generation appeared back in 2003, the latest model has none of the Blazer’s eager acceleration or handling, despite its standard V6 engine. It’s comfortable and it’s quiet, and you can dress up the cabin with extra-posh upholstery. And its looks are classy enough to rival a Lexus RX. But there’s no eagerness in its soul.
Newly updated for 2019, the Ford Edge combines some of the Passport’s serenity, agility, and spaciousness with some of the Murano’s dressier styling — along with the some of the Passport’s dated interior decor, as both models’ dashboards are now several years old. Ford also throws in a heap of standard safety equipment and offers an available turbocharged 335-horsepower V6 — so equipped, the Edge is the only Blazer competitor with more power than the Chevy. You can’t get the V6-powered Edge ST for less than $43,000, but if you are interested in spending that much, it’s competitively priced with similarly equipped Blazers. Other Edges use a capable but mild-mannered four-cylinder turbo.
Hyundai Santa Fe
The newly redesigned 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is a well-priced, solid all-around midsize crossover. It’s a class leader for its value for the money, and it’s competitive at everything else. Well-designed, affordable, and studiously inoffensive, the Santa Fe is the perfect place to start searching for a five-passenger midsize crossover. This four-cylinder-only model doesn’t have the Blazer’s power or the Passport’s roominess, and it’s forgettable to look at (though appropriately modern). But even if the Santa Fe never jumps out to capture your heart, it’s also hard to fault it.
2019 Chevy Blazer IN A NUTSHELL
Fast, flashy, and kind of fun to drive, the Blazer carves out a niche in the crossover segment. It’s easy to question its value proposition, given the high price and skimpy cargo capacity. And despite its looks, it doesn’t really drive like a Camaro. But by taking risks with the Blazer’s design and its performance focus, Chevrolet ensures that its new midsize crossover won’t just fade away into the background.
Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse.
Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox.
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