The 2019 Chevrolet Blazer Is the Optimist’s Camaro
Chevy’s new Blazer isn’t for hardcore fans, but it’s more of what the larger market demands.
Chevrolet fanboys will have to get over the fact the Blazer sport utility is now a car-based, transverse-engine soft-roader and instead think of it as a Camaro crossover. Psychographically, to use a modern marketing term, the 2019 Blazer, like the Camaro, is an empty nester's car, the sort of vehicle you buy if you're bored with your fifth overly reliable Toyota or Honda sedan or if you're tired of lugging around a three-row SUV or minivan after the kids have left home.
To be clear, the new Blazer is no alternative to the enthusiast's Camaro, and for now there's no Blazer SS in the pipeline. Rather, the Blazer could be considered an alternative to the automatic-transmission-equipped, non-SS versions of Chevy's pony car—especially in the Blazer's top-tier V-6-powered trim levels. Both models are fashion accessories, antidotes to automotive appliances, and they share similar design cues. Note the Camaro-style round HVAC vents highlighting the Blazer's dashboard.
Although it only comes with two rows of seats, the midsize Blazer is bigger than it needs to be, occupying a space between the smaller Equinox and the larger, three-row Traverse in Chevy's crossover lineup. The Blazer joins the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, and new Honda Passport as models designed less for packing in people and more for packing up your carbon-fiber bicycle with the second row folded flat (64.2 cubic feet in the Blazer in case you were wondering). They're also more likely to be higher-spec models powered by V-6s as opposed to four-cylinder engines. Sticker prices for the top-of-the-line Blazer RS and Premier we sampled encroached on Cadillac XT5 territory, to name one of its platform siblings. (The three-row Cadillac XT6 and the GMC Acadia also share its architecture.)
As engines get ever smaller, making enough power to push around heavier crossovers hasn't been a real issue.
The Blazer's vaguely Coke-bottle silhouette and pointy grille convey the same sort of stylish distinction that made the early '10s Camaro a best-seller in its segment for a time. The Blazer RS gets a sportier-looking black grille, bow tie, and window trim, while the luxe-leaning Premier sports more of a chrome motif. The interiors of the Blazers we sampled were nicely finished with materials approaching those of Cadillac's XT models.
Both the Blazer RS and Premier come standard with a version of Chevy's high-feature, naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 making 308 horsepower. That's 27 horses shy of the 2.7-liter turbo EcoBoost V-6 powering the Ford Edge ST, and at 270 lb-ft of torque, it's a full 110 lb-ft short of its Ford rival. Despite that considerable power deficit, the new Blazer still feels plenty powerful overall, with a smooth, steady launch—though without the Edge ST's kick in the backside.
The Blazer V-6's spirited nature is due in part to its 11.5:1 compression ratio, yet it runs on regular unleaded gasoline, and a non-defeatable stop/start system (better than it sounds) adds about 1 mpg in city driving. Chevy estimates a 0-60 time of about 6.5 seconds for a front-drive Blazer V-6 and figures the all-wheel-drive version will be a couple of ticks slower, which probably won't matter much to those in the market for a mainstream crossover. But maximum towing capacity might. Equipped with the V-6, the Blazer can haul as much as 4,500 pounds.
A naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I-4 powers the standard model. Although we didn't get a chance to sample it, the four-banger is rated at 193 hp and 188 lb-ft and is available only for the two lowest of six trim levels, the Blazer L ($31,190 base) and Blazer 2.5L ($34,690). Both seem likely to be relegated to rental lots. The midlevel Blazer V-6 with cloth seats starts at $35,690; with leather, the V-6 starts at $39,890.
Even as engines get ever smaller, making enough power to push around heavier crossovers hasn't been a real issue for most automakers. A much bigger challenge has been trying to figure out how to overcome the laws of physics in an effort to make taller, heavier midsize vehicles with 20- or 21-inch wheels ride and handle more like cars. Larry Mihalko, the Blazer's performance manager, was a key member of the team tasked with doing just that.
A gregarious, enthusiastic boffin who tends to geek out about engineering solutions he helps discover, Mihalko says the Blazer's wide front and rear tracks, high-rate springs, and large-diameter anti-roll bars help deliver that elusive carlike ride. In addition, the vehicle's cross-axis ball joints are four times stiffer than rubber bushings. The Blazer RS has a sport-tuned suspension featuring stiffer front struts (40 percent) and rear shocks (15 percent), optional 21-inch wheels, and direct-acting anti-roll bars designed to improve roll stiffness. Mihalko also tells us the Blazer's five-link rear suspension is fully isolated from the body, and the rear shocks are Chevy Traverse-sized for greater tuning flexibility.
We began our day behind the wheel of a loaded 2019 Chevrolet Blazer Premier AWD. While the Southern California traffic prevented us from pushing it too much, we experienced enough body roll at turn-in to determine that the suspension is compliant without being too wallowy. With the center console dial turned to FWD-only Normal mode, we felt a smidge of torque steer in the mid-rev range, though we suspect it's something the average SUV driver would never notice. The AWD system never engages automatically—instead you'll also need to spin the dial to switch it to 4x4 full-time AWD or Sport mode, which opens up the yaw control on dual-clutch rear-differential RS models. Non-RS AWD Blazers come with a single-clutch rear differential. There's also an optional tow-haul feature that utilizes AWD.
The Blazer's electrically assisted power steering is a rack-mounted belt drive system that offered up precise feel and very good feedback. The RS gets a quicker, 15.1:1 steering ratio, an improvement over the 16.1:1 number other Blazers boast.
As a result, the Blazer RS feels more neutral around fast turns and slightly stiffer than the Premier, though the dynamic improvements are incremental and not monumental given that the base suspension is already very good. There's no head toss in either model, and the RS is not the least bit harsh (on the unnaturally smooth SoCal roads we traversed, at least), with noticeable compliance at turn-in. In Sport mode, the RS holds the lower gears of the nine-speed automatic more naturally through canyon corners.
Is the Blazer really the new Camaro? Mainstream consumers who have purchased such cars to break out of midsize sedan/compact SUV monotony will discover enough of the Camaro's design aesthetic in the Blazer and will find it more fun to drive than most utilities and some sedans. Although it's late to its super-hot segment (like the '67 Camaro was), the new Blazer should easily vault toward the front of the segment's pack, even with the baggage of its somewhat hallowed name and the politically sensitive Mexican assembly plant where it's built. These issues too shall pass, as will the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer, either on the road or the sales charts.
2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS/Premier Specifications
|PRICE||$41,795/$45,865, $46,795/$51,455 (RS, Premier, base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.6L 24-valve DOHC V-6/308 hp @ 6,700 rpm, 270 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front engine FWD/AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||18-20/25-26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||191.4 x 76.7 x 67.0 in|
|WEIGHT||4,017/4,246 lb (FWD/AWD)|
|0-60 MPH||6.5/6.8 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|