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2019 Chevrolet Blazer Test Drive Review
Chevrolet revives a legendary nameplate with the new 2019 Blazer. But this vehicle is hardly the rugged off-roader we remember from yesteryear. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Chevy Blazers have historically been capable machines built upon pickup-truck skeletons. The all-new 2019 Blazer is anything but an off-roader. With 21-inch tires and standard front-wheel drive, this crossover feels at home on the road, not off it. Maybe that's why the more I drove the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer on the highways and byways of Southern California, the more I liked it. Think of this new midsize 5-passenger crossover as the Camaro of SUVs, and you’ll understand its purpose and position among its competition.
Look and Feel
After pulling into a parking space outside a coffee shop, I went inside to place an order. The young barista welcomed me as I stepped through the doorway, and then immediately followed up with: “I really like your car! That looks great!”
Spoken and unspoken, this was a common reaction wherever I drove the new 2019 Chevy Blazer. Whether winding my way through the Silicon Beach region of Los Angeles or literally pounding down the crumbling but busy streets of ultra-hot Koreatown, people (and mostly guys) took notice of the new Blazer. Stares, double-takes, thumbs-up, comments; I got them all.
Indeed, the new Blazer does look great, especially in sporty RS or upscale Premier trim with the big, fancy wheels and nice interior. You can also get a Blazer in base L and mid-grade LT trim, where a 4-cylinder engine comes standard instead of a V6. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional for LT, RS, and Premier trims, but only with the V6.
Prices range from $29,995 to nearly $55,000 for a Blazer with all the trimmings (including the $1,195 destination charge). My test vehicle included Premier trim, AWD, and the Sun and Wheels Package, bringing the sticker price to $49,290.
Inside, my test Blazer had Maple Sugar-colored leather, and it looked sensational set against the otherwise Jet Black interior. The low-slung dashboard features details copied from Chevy’s own Camaro sport coupe. Aside from inexpensive plastic panels on the lower parts of the cabin, the Blazer Premier provides an appropriately upscale and sporty vibe.
Lots of car companies try to create both distinctive and attractive vehicles, with varying levels of success. In my view, Chevy has hit a home run with the Blazer’s design, inside and out.
Based on my experience in the Blazer's platform-mate, the GMC Acadia, the standard 193-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and 9-speed automatic transmission is an adequate drivetrain for people living in flat areas who don’t carry or tow lots of weight.
I prefer, though, the robust 305-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine. Swap the standard front-wheel drive (FWD) for AWD, stomp on the accelerator pedal, and the Blazer behaves like an urban slingshot, zipping away from intersections and ripping around corners, thanks to the AWD system’s ability to deliver up to 85% of engine power to a single rear wheel under low-traction conditions.
Sample the Blazer’s performance too often, though, and you’ll suffer a fuel-economy penalty, despite the car's automatic stop/start technology. The EPA says my test vehicle should have returned 21 mpg in combined driving, but I got 19.3 mpg on my testing loop and 19.8 after nearly 500 miles behind the wheel. I ran the SUV in Auto AWD and Sport mode for part of the loop and used front-drive Normal mode for the rest of my driving.
Speaking of my test loop (which includes some of the best mountain roads near Los Angeles), the Blazer Premier, with its massive 21-inch wheels and 265/45 tires, demonstrated serious handling talent. On city streets and L.A.’s sectioned concrete freeways, the wheel and tire combination added unwanted impact harshness and made the ride busy, but on the twists and turns of the Santa Monica Mountains, it was quite fun to fling around.
The oversized rims and rubber generate lots of road noise on the highway. Oh, and each tire costs about $350 to replace, too. You’d really better like the way the Blazer looks and handles with the 21-inch wheel option, because you'll pay a price in terms of ride, noise, and maintenance.
Minimum ground clearance is 7.4 inches, which means the Blazer is best for battling blizzards and not trekking down trails. On a trip to California’s Antelope Valley to witness a poppy super-bloom firsthand, my family and I did venture down a few dirt 2-tracks, ever mindful of the Blazer’s shallow approach angle and vulnerable tire sidewalls.
Form and Function
Perfectly sized for a family of four, the Blazer blends comfort and utility in an appealing package.
Up front, my Premier test vehicle had leather, power-adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats. The driver’s seat faced a heated steering wheel, and a power panoramic glass sunroof with an oversize opening bathed the cabin in natural light.
Although the Blazer’s armrests are padded and the steering-wheel rim is pleasing to grip, the upper door-panel sills are rendered in hard plastic. That choice in materials is impossible to square with our test car's price tag of nearly $50,000. The door panel itself, however, has a bin and a shelf, expanding upon the Blazer's already generous storage for front-seat occupants.
Chevrolet takes an unconventional approach with the Blazer’s controls, making the SUV look and feel special. The round air vents add a sporty vibe, and the middle ones incorporate the temperature controls just like in the Camaro. Above them, a strip of climate buttons is somewhat difficult to make out, victims of style over simplicity. And above that, Chevy’s simple infotainment controls and inviting Chevrolet Infotainment System 3 technology await your commands.
Otherwise, the Blazer’s interior locates familiar controls in places you expect to find them. I was somewhat dismayed, however, to find that the control stalks for the turn signals and wipers lack a degree of refinement and fluidity.
The back seat slides on a track and reclines. It offers plenty of room for two adults or three children, and air vents on the back of the center console help to cool rear passengers. In my test vehicle, the outboard seat cushions came with heaters, and the Blazer Premier also provided USB charging ports and a 120-volt electrical outlet.
Cargo space measures 30.5 cubic feet behind the back seat and 64.2 with the rear seat folded down. These numbers are unimpressive compared to other midsize SUVs, and even some compact crossovers. However, the Blazer's space is usefully shaped, and Chevrolet offers a variety of utility upgrades as options.
My test vehicle included a Cargo Management System, which is a sturdy rail you can adjust along tracks to split the space however you’d like. For maximum floor space with the rear seat folded down, it must be removed. Personally, I don’t have a good use for such a thing, but when a friend saw it he immediately wanted something similar for his own SUV. So there you go.
Chevrolet’s latest infotainment system was aboard the Blazer, and while the technology itself impresses from the standpoints of user experience, graphic appeal, and responsiveness to inputs, it has some faults.
First, the system in my test vehicle was having some SD card problems. Often, it would not load the navigation map. No doubt, this would be an easy fix.
Second, when using the voice-recognition technology to find a favorite restaurant, the system misunderstood me on the first two attempts. On the third attempt, speaking as clearly and deliberately as I could, it worked.
Third, Chevrolet has apparently stopped offering its free trial subscription to OnStar services. My test car had OnStar activated, including its 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, but Chevy’s official materials for the Blazer indicate only that the infotainment system is OnStar capable.
Given that most people have smartphones, use Bluetooth, and connect using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, maybe none of this matters. For me, Google Maps is always ready to rock, Siri has no trouble understanding my evidently troublesome Michigan accent, and my iPhone offers an emergency SOS calling function.
Nevertheless, I needed to ding Chevrolet Infotainment System 3 for these glitches and lack of value. Furthermore, I’m not a big fan of Bose sound systems, though the one in the Blazer sounds better than ones I’ve experienced in many other Chevy models.
Along with the OnStar trial period, automatic crash response, SOS emergency calling, and other safety-related functions are dropped from the new Blazer. You want ‘em? You’ll pay extra for ‘em.
Teen Driver and Rear Seat Reminder systems, however, remain standard. The former gives parents of teenage drivers a report card each time they use the vehicle, while the latter is designed to prevent parents from accidentally leaving a child in the Blazer’s back seat.
Unlike other car companies, Chevrolet does not democratize its driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies. You can get a blind-spot-monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert on every Blazer except for the standard L trim level. If you want features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, or lane-keeping assist, it’s necessary to upgrade to RS or Premier trim as a starting point. And then you must pay thousands extra for them.
On the one hand, given how effective these technologies are at preventing accidents, injuries, and deaths, this is frustrating. On the other hand, some people just don’t want to pay for things they have no intention of using, and repairing vehicles with this technology can be quite expensive. If nothing else, they ought to be optional for the LT trim, making them accessible at a lower price point.
Note that as this review was published, crash-test ratings were not available for the new Blazer.
Although the 2019 Blazer's starting price comes in at less than $30,000, you’ll spend at least $35,000 to get one with basic safety upgrades such as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A V6 engine and AWD will add $3,700 to the price, and a nice set of 20-inch wheels runs another $1,995. Now you’re spending about $41,000 and you still don’t have leather seats, a premium sound system, navigation, OnStar, or additional important safety systems.
Meanwhile, over at the Hyundai dealership, a loaded Santa Fe Ultimate with a turbocharged engine, AWD, three free years of Blue Link connected services, one of the industry’s best warranty programs, and every single option box checked is stickering for $40,675. Granted, the Santa Fe doesn’t look as good as the Blazer. And it doesn’t drive like the Camaro of SUVs. But it definitely sets the bar in this segment when it comes to value.
While I don’t find the Blazer to be a good value in its segment, it certainly is a compelling option for a person shopping for a smaller entry-luxury crossover, like a Lexus NX. That’s my opinion, anyway.
My sister-in-law, a longtime Lexus owner, saw the Blazer in profile and at a distance. She was instantly smitten with the design, and as we got closer she asked with more than a hint of hope in her voice: “Is that a new Lexus SUV?”
When I told her it was a Chevy Blazer, based on the look on her face you’d think I’d just waved a dirty diaper under her nose. No matter how much I extolled the Blazer’s many virtues and explained how the underlying engineering is shared with the Cadillac XT5 and emphasized its impressive driving dynamics, she had already lost all interest in the SUV.
That was the only negative reaction I got to the Blazer all week.
Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience reviewing cars and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, Autobytel, and Vehix. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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