Blazing a new path
Plucked out of GM’s lineup over a decade ago, the brand has reinstated the Blazer for 2019. But don’t expect a body-on-frame offering built upon a truck platform — the new version is a unibody two-row mid-size crossover slotting in-between siblings Equinox and Traverse.
Unlike the original, which was popular among the younger set due to its rugged off-road-worthiness, market segment manager Ryan O’Neill says this one is aimed squarely at empty nesters who value aesthetics and practicality. “There are three unique styling executions we refer to as ‘personalities’. We start off with the aggressive Blazer. Then going up to the RS that keeps the aggressive exterior but is sportier featuring a black on black colour scheme and a grille design pulled from the Camaro ZL1. The Premier moves towards a classier look possessing upscale accents like chrome,” says O’Neill.
“At the back of the vehicle you’ll see dual exhausts. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, while the RS and Premier get 20-inch wheels and 21-inch is optional. When you go inside the three personalities continue, as well as the Camaro inspiration seen in the rounded HVAC vents. The RS also has red stitching on the perforated leather seats and subtle badging throughout the interior.”
Of the trio of trims the aforementioned RS is my personal favourite, some of the examples brought out to the event sprayed in a striking “Red Hot” paint colour. Not simply an appearance package, it receives specially tuned suspension boasting significantly firmer damping than the other two variants that my driving partner and I could definitely discern as soon as the road surface turned curvy or uneven.
Giving all the Blazers a distinct look is the separated LED driving lights, mounted high above, and HID headlamps integrated below into the corner air intakes, a similar setup shared with the Jeep Cherokee and recently the Hyundai Kona. Opening the hands-free tailgate — via a kick of the area underneath the rear bumper marked by a bowtie logo projected onto the ground (select models) — reveals the available Chevy-first Cargo Management System.
Comprised of a pair of rails, running the length of the floor behind the second row, and a sliding fence, the latter is adjustable to different positions to prevent whatever’s loaded from sliding around. For any cargo that is too big to fit in the luggage compartment, hauling is made easy via a maximum 4,500-pound towing capacity and Active Tow Trailer Hitch Guidance.
Shift the vehicle into reverse and the backup camera displays a dynamic centre line on the high-definition eight-inch infotainment screen to help connect a trailer. Just prior to doing so, switching to a hitch view shows a zoomed in image of the ball and tongue to ensure the hardware matches up properly. This function may be activated even when the SUV is in motion to check on the area.
Customers can select one of two different powertrains: on the base model only, an EcoTec 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 193 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque with a fuel consumption rating of 9.9 l/100 km in combined city and highway driving conditions. The motor I tested was the torque-y and higher-revving 308-horse 3.6-litre V6 found in the RS. Although utilizing a higher displacement, cylinder deactivation and start/stop technology keeps things efficient.
Both mills are mated to a quick-shifting nine-speed transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, or upgrade to the sophisticated all-wheel drive (AWD) system capable of monitoring traction at each corner 100 times per second to provide optimal grip no matter the environment. As the weather was mostly dry and the route taking place on pavement, AWD wasn’t really needed during the trip. What’s nice is the ability to disconnect the rear axle by twisting the centre console knob to conserve gas.
The 2019 Chevrolet Blazer is sold at a total of six price points, starting at MSRP $35,200 for the base front-wheel drive. Adding the 3.6-litre and AWD costs an extra $5,200. The sporty RS is $46,000, and finally the grade-topping $48,800 Premier includes all the bells and whistles such as Bose Premium Audio eight-speaker stereo, ventilated seating, silver roof rails and more.
Highlights (as tested):
Motor: 3.6-litre V6
Horsepower: 308 @ 6,700 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 270 @ 5,000 rpm
Gearbox: Nine-speed automatic
Layout: Front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 11.3 L/100 km mixed city/highway (manufacturer estimate)