Possibly the most interesting thing about the new Chevy Blazer is the marketing campaign. GM has perceived an unexploited niche in the just-divorced or empty nesters of Canada – well-off 50-somethings with no kids – and the Blazer is its two-row, upscale SUV designed to meet that need. More about that later.
This is not to say the vehicle is boring or in any way lacking – it's very competent on the road, ticks all the boxes – it's just not lighting the world on fire. And its not meant to.
The new Blazer is a good-looking SUV, with a planted, low stance and sporty design cues. Coming at you on the road it could be mistaken for any number of its competitors, although it does have some refinements that GM is quite proud of. The headlighting system for example, has shifted the projector beam light down the front fascia to where fog lights would ordinarily be found. Markers remain up high, but the lower positioning lets them project farther and well as helping to prevent blinding oncoming drivers.
There are three trim levels – GM calls them "personalities"– with a base model, the sportier RS and the premium Premiere. The base engine is a 2.5-litre inline Ecotech four cylinder that makes 193 HP. The base model starts at $35,200. But GM expects that the 3.6-litre V6 will be the volume seller. It makes 308 Hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. The base Blazer with 2.5-L engine will not be available with all-wheel drive, but all of the 3.6-litre models will be AWD equipped, with only the base having a front drive option. All are controlled through the GM 9-speed hydra-matic transmission.
The V6 has a towing capacity of 4,500 pounds, with a tow package that's available on all the AWD models, making it quite capable of handling smaller trailers and the type of recreational equipment that the segment might need to move around, but also making it a bit more versatile for a potential fleet user. The AWD models also have a hitch guidance camera that is extremely effective in allowing the driver to position the tow ball under the trailer tongue without needing an outside helper for guidance.
The interior is spacious and practical, with sliding rear seats, and fully flat cargo space, and a cargo control system that stows under the rear deck when not needed. The rear seats offer plenty of legroom for even tall passengers, as well as easy entry and exit. Maximum cargo capacity (with seats folded) is 1,818 cubic litres or 864 in the cargo area.
Fuel economy is average, with the front drive version clocking 12 L/100km city, 9 highway and 10.6 combined and the AWD versions getting 12.6, 9.5 and 11.3. The Ecotech engine is rated at 10.8 L/100 km city, 8.8 highway and 9.9 combined.
For a vehicle that's targeted to a generation of non-digital natives, the Blazer is bristling with tech. As with many new models, from just about every manufacturer, it seems what's being sold is a WiFi hotspot that just happens to move you and your gear from place to place. It's not surprising then that the tech features and options are too numerous to detail here, but highlights include the 7-devices connectivity, the ability to connect and use two phones at once, and the personalized infotainment setting that travels with your key fob, even to other GM vehicles with the same system.
A very practical highlight is the rear camera mirror. This second generation technology provides a very wide-angle rear view while driving. It can be customized to driver preferences with brightness, zoom and tilt, and offers a crystal-clear hi-def picture of what's going on behind you.
Real-time navigation is available with live traffic, fuel prices and nearby parking options, complete with rates. This option also has predictive navigation and active routing, as well as smart voice recognition.
On the road, the Blazer delivers a comfortable ride in well-appointed surroundings. "Driving it is the easiest part of the day," said Ryan O'Neill, market segment manager for Chevrolet crossovers at the media briefing. And that was certainly true for the introductory drive we took in Premiere and RS models through the hills and back roads of Quebec's Charlevoix region, just west of Quebec City.
The Blazer handled rough pavement, gravel, wet and dry, and big hills with surefooted ease. The traction control system provides very direct and quick correction when needed and the engine is smooth and quiet. The 9-speed transmission is smooth, shifting accurately when power is required, but it is noisy, growling through shifts.
That the Blazer nameplate is 50 years old itself, and thus the same general age as the demographic the new 2019 model is meant to serve, was not mentioned by the GM team introducing the SUV. If GM is trying to play the nostalgia card with the 50-somethings who would remember the original, quirky convertible, they are playing that card close to their chest. And that's a shame because the within a year of its launch the original Blazer outsold the competition it was introduced to take on. Whether this resurrection will fire buyers' imaginations once again remains to be seen.
Blazer By the Numbers
MSRP: $35,200 to $48,800
Power: 2.5-L4-cylinder or 3.6-L V6
Max cargo capacity: 1818 L
Towing capacity: 4,500 lb