When I was told a new Chevrolet Blazer was available to review, I did not picture in my mind the two generations of full-size K5 Blazers that were Chevy’s answer to the Ford Bronco and Jeep Cherokee from 1969 through 1991 (and again from 1995-2005).
What instead popped into my head was the smaller and more maneuverable S-10 Blazer that rolled out of Chevy plants from 1983-’94. Before the term “sports utility vehicle” was in wide use, the so-called “Baby Blazer” looked in my eyes like many SUVs of today.
Where the K5s and ’95-’05 Blazers seemed more like full-size pickups with built-in camper shells, the S-10 Blazer had more of the upright station wagon appearance of the SUVs that now dominate the consumer automobile market.
The Nightfall Gray Metallic-painted 2019 Chevrolet Blazer that arrived at my front doorstep–or driveway, to be more accurate–wound up looking all together different than what I had imagined. In other words, it was unlike any Blazer I had seen before.
That makes perfect sense because Chevy is essentially applying a beloved brand name on an all-new crossover, which represents a bridge from a sedan to an SUV. The ’19 Blazer succeeds on that front, although there has been plenty of pushback online from lovers of the old Blazers that had been dancing in my head.
What impressed me most can be pinned to the time of year I climbed into the new Blazer. Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent bone-chilling cold that has managed to defeat even my home furnace. Because the Chevy arrived on such a day, this not-used-to-shivering Southern Californian (thanks, Obama!) prepared to sit on a giant ice cube, watch breath fog up the windshield and hold onto a steering wheel as cold as the pole that latched onto that kid’s tongue in A Christmas Story.
However, to my utter amazement, the climate control system had already got the cabin up to the comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit a previous occupant had set it to, and the seat and steering wheel warmers were running at high, even though I had not triggered either. They totally engaged all by themselves.
While sharing my droolings in this space, I’ve grown used to new vehicles that are intuitive when it comes to driving, especially in heavy street traffic or on interstates with cruise control activated, but intuitive when it comes to cabin comfort? That was a new one on me.
Not having to immediately push buttons and pull levers (and then wait for everything to kick in) was much appreciated—even more so considering I was new to this particular vehicle so it may have been hours (and several pages of owner’s manual) before I figured out how to turn everything on myself.
I should have mentioned earlier that my test Blazer had the RS (for Rally Sport) trim. Price-wise, the RS is the middle trim between the regular ol’ Blazer, which starts at about $8,000 less than the RS, and the Premier, which begins at about $2,000 more.
The Rally Sportiness is reinforced on a little chrome knob below the shifter. This activates what are known as Driver Mode Control settings so that, at the turn of a dial, you can adjust the vehicle’s performance based on the road surfaces. Options are: Tour, All-Wheel Drive, Sport Mode, Off-Road and Tow/Haul.
Chevrolet boasts the AWD system in the RS and Premier is the carmaker’s most sophisticated as it independently directs torque through a twin-clutch rear-axle design to the rear wheel with the best traction in poor road conditions. The goal is to give the driver more control and confidence behind the wheel.
Like the Premier, the RS features a 3.6-liter, six-cylinder, 305-horsepower engine. Variable Valve Timing adjusts cam timing for performance or efficiency, depending on what you require when.
All I know is I did not experience gutlessness or unsatisfying performance during my mostly rainy test period, but I also didn’t get to open it up as much as I would have were the roads dry. Nor did I dare tow anything in those wet conditions; Chevy says the Blazer tows up to 4,500 pounds.
The RS did deliver comfortable commutes, including the one day I was able to take it on the 405 freeway from Orange County to LAX, and the nine-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly. I just sunk into the Jet Black leather seat, which can be ventilated as well as heated, and navigated away.
The gas mileage was better than expected. The government has the 2019 Blazer RS AWD getting 25 miles to the gallon on the highway, 10 mpg in the city or 25 mpg combined. Some savings comes from intelligent stop/start technology.
Indeed, this sucker is a computer on wheels. Advanced safety technologies help detect and prevent potential hazards, with the most hilarious in my mind being the little zaps to the driver’s butt cheeks delivered by the “Safety Alert Seat” whenever possible danger lurks from behind. It even gooses you on the left cheek or right cheek depending on the direction of a coming automobile. Who needs date night?
The number of beeps and buzzes and blinking thingamajigs brings to mind an über-safe Volvo. Technological advances in the Blazer extends from cabin comfort, drive-mode dialing, driving performance, fuel saving and safety features to the entertainment system. Excuse me: Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot. These allow you to do everything from making hands-free calls and hearing tunes on your smartphone to–with the proper subscriptions–paying for drive-through orders and accessing your apps, all from an eight-inch diagonal touch-screen.
And yet, what blew me away most was the very low-tech cargo management system, which uses a sliding bar to create the perfect footprint for whatever you are carrying. There is also a horizontal cargo net to keep everything snug. No more crying over spilt milk.
The base price of my Blazer RS AWD is $43,500, but my test ride was loaded with options–including wireless charging, a rear-view camera, a power panoramic sunroof and so much more–that the total cost reached $50,765 when you also added in the $1,195 destination charge. Chevy includes a five-year/60,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited powertrain warranty and three years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper warranty. Roadside assistance, courtesy transportation at the service center and a first maintenance visit are also included, and a Chevrolet Complete Care package is available at an extra cost. Given all the tech aboard and the fact that this is a first-year crossover, that’s likely a smart investment.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.