First Drive: The Blazer is Back

The Blazer name has a long history with Chevrolet, originally a full-size, two-door, short-wheelbase convertible SUV that was meant to take on Jeep and Bronco. It was sparse, simple, rugged and considered a classic today. In the 1980s the Blazer became a compact SUV offered in a two or four door version, this was Blazer that I grew up with. I spent many a summer in late 90s exploring the mountain and desert trails of Southern California racking up fond memories with good friends in a Chevy Blazer. The new Blazer Premier is nothing like any previous generation, instead of a rugged truck based platform, this Blazer is positioned to compete directly with the best compact SUVs from the likes of Acura, Lexus and Ford.

Anytime a brand revives an iconic nameplate it is met with a lot of criticism, so relaunching one of Chevy's most revered SUVs as a car based four-door SUV was viewed as a controversial move by many. Critics wanted a throwback, off-road focused Blazer to complete with Ford's soon to be released retro Bronco and the Jeep Wrangler. But I think Chevrolet made the right move here, just as the classic Blazer was the right vehicle for its time, the new Blazer is perfect for today's SUV hungry marketplace.

The styling of the Blazer picks up on the design language of the latest generation Camaro, giving it a sophisticated and sporty look that is a very nice departure from Chevrolet's often far too conservative styling when it comes to SUVs (just look at the Chevrolet Equinox). The Blazer has a polished, higher-end look, with its floating roof and chiseled lines that make it sand out in this crowded segment.  

Inside you can see more of the Camaro influence, the sporty console, dash layout, and steering wheel, at first glance, look interchangeable with the Camaro. Being a Premier the seats were heated and ventilated, the steering wheel was heated, and I liked the HVAC controls and infotainment screen. While there is still a lot of plastic inside, the subtle stripes on the dash and seats, the contrast stitching, and overall fit and finish of the 2019 Blazer are impressive. An added plus, unlike many vehicles in the class, there is no awkward console mounted track pad or roller ball control for the infotainment system, just an easy to use touchscreen and steering wheel mounted controls.

Both the front and rear seats offer plenty of leg room and for longer trips, the rear seats also recline. The adjustable cargo bar helps keep luggage or groceries from sliding around, and while it doesn't have the most cargo space in its class the space is functional with extra cubbies and under floor storage for smaller items.

I took the Blazer on a road trip from Waco to Galveston, the all-wheel-drive 300 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 was sporty, it was fun to drive both on the highway and on the dirt roads out to East Beach. This is the same drive train that comes in the Blazer RS, just in a more elegant and luxurious wrapper, so you aren't sacrificing performance for luxury. Even with my lead foot, the Blazer averaged 24 mpg combined, mostly thanks to the nine-speed automatic transmission, which puts it right in line with other vehicles in its class.

Chevrolet has built a clear winner with the Blazer, a vehicle with broad appeal, impressive build quality, and great styling. In a segment dominated by the Acura RDX and Lexus NX, the 2019 Blazer Premier comes out swinging offering more horsepower and features at a comparable price. If you are in the market for a compact SUV, you should definitely have the Blazer on your radar.

1980s Blazer Photo By IFCAR