First Drive: The 2019 Chevrolet Blazer pulls a bait and switch, and pulls it off

February 4, 2019

The 2019 Chevrolet Blazer has pulled a sly one over on us all. The name’s meant to make us think of a macho weekend spent off the grid. The reality? Weekends of errands and chores, from Costco to installing garage door keypads to cleaning up hairballs. (Where is the Outside magazine for that?)

With the Blazer, Chevy’s rebooted a name it used to stitch on its big truck-based SUVs. At first we were appalled. But muh heritage! Ford’s upcoming baby Bronco will probably be an Escape underneath. There’s a Jeep that’s really a Fiat. The SUV-purist train left last century.

MORE: Read our 2019 Chevrolet Blazer review

This new Blazer also fills a different niche than the two-door trucks of the past. It’s an in-between crossover below the eight-seat Traverse and above the five-seat Equinox in Chevy’s pecking order. It’s front- or all-wheel drive, has five seats, and plates up inline-4 and V-6 engines.

Chevy flew us to San Diego to see how quickly we’d get used to the new reality. Longer than we thought, for sure—because the 2019 Blazer doesn’t act like any other Chevy crossover SUV when the roads go skinny and snaky.

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

More Malibu than Equinox

Recent Chevy crossovers such as the Trax and the Equinox have left us wanting in acceleration, ride quality, and steering. With the 2019 Blazer, Chevy tries to mimic the groove it digs into with its better sedans.

To a degree, the good news applies even to the base Blazer. Its 193-horsepower inline-4 reads like the greek text that would fill otherwise blank space. That’s how it drives, too: It gets the acceleration job done without much sparkle, and if we’re honest most of the credit should go to the well-sorted 9-speed automatic. Don’t blame the gearbox for the Category Three noise that drones at full throttle; that’s all engine, and fills the cabin despite active noise cancellation that’s meant to snuff it out.

The 2019 Blazer hits its stride in V-6 trim, with the 308 hp it needs to overcome a base curb weight of way more than 4,007 pounds (that’s in front-drive, 4-cylinder form). The V-6 burps out power like it’s just pushed away from the table after a great meal. It responds when the 9-speed automatic cracks its whip. It doesn’t sound like it’s being chased in the opening scenes of a slasher movie.

What saves the 4-cylinder, and adds more luster to the V-6, is the new Blazer’s sweet steering and very taut ride. Like the Ford Edge, the 2019 Blazer’s set up with an independent suspension and big wheels and tires that assert dominance over the road. Its stiff springs and firm shocks rarely compromise with bumps in the road, but shy of the worst roads on the RS’ optional 21-inch wheels, it doesn’t go chattery or nervous.

Blazer RS and Premier trims have more sleights of hand at their disposal. They add more drive modes and can add all-wheel drive. The better setup packs clutches across the rear axle to vary power from side to side; RS editions get stiffer settings front and rear and quicker steering. A Blazer Premier feels suitably taut and even a little inspired in the dry scrub east of San Diego; the Blazer RS laces up its cleats and needles its way through the same roads with fluid motions that translate into great highway tracking, farther down the road.

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

Space versus smush

The Blazer’s sketched out for excellent interior and cargo space, good for five adults and lots of gear. It needs better seats to win us over.

We’re on the way to smitten with its styling. The 2019 Blazer breaks clean from the truck past with the floating-canopy visual trickery of a Nissan Murano, maybe slightly less convincing at it, but handsome. The Toyota-like intersections across the nose get a pass, but the Blazer’s tail tries the same on the rear; in combination with Camaro-like squared-off taillights, it leaves behind wide swaths of body, and looks a bit underdone. Inside, the winglike dash has a pared-down appeal, despite thin strips of buttons for climate control that resist fat-finger accuracy.

Seat comfort trips up the Blazer on every one we’ve tried. Base cloth seats wear handsome quilted stitchwork, but they’re too firm, too narrow, and the seat bottoms don’t extend far enough. In leather, they’re marginally better. The second-row seat slides for excellent leg room, but again, the bottom cushion’s not long enough—though reclining the fold-down seatback boosts comfort and generates a little lumbar support for the nap you rightly deserve. If you ever get to sit back there, that is. For more frequent back-seat passengers, twin USB ports charge your tablet, and yes, the Netflix is on parental controls, and you know very well why.

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer

The price of entry

We don’t think the base 2019 Blazer L competes well. It’s not the everyday touches it’s missing, it’s the critical new ones. To get automatic emergency braking, which can mitigate damage and injury at lower speeds, Chevy asks you to first buy a Blazer RS or Premier, then pay another fee for the right option package. The upcharges feel wrong when a $20,000 Toyota C-HR gives them away for free.

Otherwise the Blazer’s suited up for its driving chores well, with power features, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and automatic climate control. The Blazer RS has all the things we like best, but it’s almost $42,000 before the optional safety tech we consider critical. Go all-in with the 2019 Blazer and you’ll spend even more, though you’ll get a surround-view camera system, a handsfree tailgate, leather cooled front seats, and wireless smartphone charging.

The Car Connection’s bottom line? It reboots a great name from the past, but the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer ditches those old truck bona fides and hot-swaps in crossover-SUV comfort.

It’s an okay compromise–so long as you know beforehand that you’ll spend a fair amount of time answering the time-old parking lot question: “So that’s the new one?”

 

Chevrolet flew us to San Diego to drive the Blazer, and put us up in a hotel with very, very good coffee.

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