QUÉBEC CITY, QUÉBEC – It’s not aimed at off-road enthusiasts and it’s not a body-on-frame setup. Can we get past this now? It may be a departure from the Blazer many of us remember fondly, but the fact that this new crossover has an actual name and not some sort of generic alphanumeric combination is an impressive feat these days. General Motors invited us to Québec City to sample the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer and learn for ourselves just where it fits into the lineup.
The Blazer is a mid-sized two-row crossover that’ll be most appealing to either empty nesters or younger folks with an outdoorsy lifestyle. It competes with the likes of the Ford Edge (reviewed here), Nissan Murano, and the new Honda Passport. It’s slotted right in between the Equinox and Traverse in Chevrolet’s lineup. From a styling standpoint, the Blazer has pretty handsome proportions, with an aggressive fascia and slim daytime running lights. It’s a design language that we think will withstand the test of time.
Chevrolet is offering two powertrains on the Blazer, starting with the 2.5L inline four-cylinder that’s good for 193 horsepower and 188 lb-ft. of torque. This entry-level motor is available on the front-drive Blazer only. We’ve seen this engine in other GM applications and it’s sufficient for most, but will be lacking for those who find themselves in a hurry on a regular basis. The optional engine is GM’s buttery smooth 3.6L V6 that pushes 305 horsepower and 270 lb-ft. of torque. The V6 is available in both front-drive and all-wheel-drive applications.
Both engines are mated to a Hydra-Matic nine-speed automatic transmission that has been tuned very well. It’s impeccably smooth in operation and notably superior to the nine-speed application in the Honda Passport (reviewed here). There’s no low-speed confusion when it’s selecting gears, and it’s quick to downshift when being asked for more urgency. All Blazers get an automatic idle start/stop system that works to minimize fuel consumption, and it’s not quite as refined as Ford’s. We found the system to be a bit noisy and rough to engage on some occasions.
Out on our drive route, the Blazer performed well with minimal road noise and sharp reflexes. The V6 is definitely the one to have, with a bit more punch than most competitors and tight steering response. It has sharper handling (RS model) than every single one of its rivals and more satisfying steering feel. While the Ford Edge’s turbocharged four is decent, it can’t replicate the immediacy of a naturally aspirated V6. Nissan and Honda understand this, but neither of their entries is quite as punchy as the Blazer.
The sporty RS model is priced at $46,400 to start. This trim level adds athletic visual bits to differentiate it from the “normal” versions, the V6 engine, and an all-wheel-drive system with a twin-clutch rear differential. This system, also standard on the top-trim Premier, can vector more torque electronically to the outside rear wheel to maximize sharpness. A “Sport” mode engages this setup and allows the Blazer RS to corner sharply with minimal understeer. The RS also gets a 15.1:1 steering ratio versus the standard vehicle’s 16.1:1.
With the Blazer RS, it’s a refresher to see a sport-focused model that actually has subtle technical differences rather than just visual upgrades. A heavy-duty towing package that’s standard fare on all-wheel-drive Blazers allows the crossover to tow up to 4,500 pounds. Fuel consumption is estimated at 8.8L/100km combined for the Blazer 2.5 and 9.5L/100km combined for the Blazer 3.6 with all-wheel-drive. All models are rated to run with optimal performance and efficiency on regular 87-octane fuel. Interestingly, the V6 model comes with cylinder deactivation to further conserve fuel, allowing the engine to run on just four cylinders at steady highway speeds.
The current era of General Motors’ interiors is likely the best yet, with decent quality materials and improved fit and finish. The Blazer’s cabin is cleanly designed, and definitely has some cues borrowed from the Camaro (reviewed here). Neat touches like the trim rings around the air vents that rotate to adjust the temperature look particularly cool and set the Blazer apart. Chevrolet’s “Chevrolet Infotainment 3” system is one of the better ones in the segment, replacing “MyLink”, with a more responsive touchscreen and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Interior space on the Blazer is more than sufficient for four, with plenty of head and legroom in both rows. The lower roofline means headroom feels a bit worse than the Passport, but even at over 6’ tall, I was very comfortable and quickly found a good driving position. The cargo area can hold 864L of cargo behind the rear seats, and folding them down (60/40 split) expands this capacity to 1,818L.
Active safety tech has become commonplace in today’s connected world. Highlights on the Blazer include HD Surround Vision that provides a bird’s eye view around the vehicle to help with parking, an available rear camera mirror with a Camera Wash system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, forward automatic braking, lane keep assist, rear park assist, and much more.
Pricing for the new Blazer starts at $35,200 for the Blazer 2.5, which is interesting considering Chevrolet’s own Traverse (reviewed here) starts at $35,900 with the 3.6L V6 as standard equipment. Stepping up to the Blazer’s V6 brings the sticker to $37,400 in FWD guise. The 3.6 AWD starts at $40,400, and the lineup rounds out with the RS at $46,100 and the top-level Premier at $48,800. Standard fare on all models includes the eight-inch infotainment screen, heated seats, and intelligent key/passive entry system.
If you forget about the name and what it used to mean, the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer is a worthy entrant in a hot segment. Baby boomers aren’t getting any younger, and more buyers in every age group are quickly gravitating to crossovers. The Honda Passport is also new this year, and is the strongest competitor in the Blazer’s segment right now. They’re both exceptionally competent crossovers that offer refined powertrains and plenty of features. Those looking for a two-row hauler with a sense of style and sportiness will find a companion in the new Blazer.