DEEP GAP , North Carolina — Our sturdy four-wheel-drive edition of Chevrolet's enhanced Blazer sport-utility vehicle, on a rutted trail layered in fallen leaves and slick from the morning dew, threaded slowly down a hillside deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Rocks and roots and nature's debris on the trace failed to impede our progress, though, because this wagon crawled across all obstacles, using its nubby tires to grip with assurance. It worked its big gas-charged Bilstein shock absorbers and its off-road suspension package to cushion our ride, and also delivered sure-footed control when stair-stepping in bump-and-grind fashion down the mountain.
So we proceeded into the wilderness, with the Blazer instilling confidence with every movement, thanks to its steady stance and good grip, plus the healthy power flowing from a muscular engine. You quickly realize there's perhaps no vehicular task in the off-road world that Chevy's wagon cannot tackle, as you ride comfortably on cushy seats of a revamped edition.
Sharp sport-ute styling
The Blazer looks sleek and aggressive, thanks to a streamlined face designed to catch the eye with new headlamp clusters and integrated body-colored bumpers. The current model follows the form of a 1995 redesign, which emerged shortly after the debut of a new version of Chevrolet's S-10 compact pickup. Not coincidentally, the Blazer rides on the S-10 truck's platform and also displays a similar front-end treatment.
In addition, both S-10 and Blazer contain updated interiors with ergonomically correct instrument panels with analog instruments and second-generation airbags. For 1999, new equipment ranges from four-wheel disc brakes at all trim levels to a passenger-side airbag, GM’s PassLock theft-deterrent system and improvements to front and rear seats.
Both two- and four-door variations are available, along with choices for rear- or four-wheel drive.
The Blazer's interior looks and feels less and less like that of a hulk of a truck. You sit high, above the traffic, in form-fitting front bucket seats or a three-person rear bench, and you're surrounded by the perks and conveniences of luxury. It manages to sidestep a trucklike ride quality thanks to the rigid S-10 chassis and a refined suspension that provides four settings: Base, Sport, Comfort and Touring. (The latter two suspension settings are available strictly on a four-door Blazer, which accounts for the majority of all sales.