Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: September 28, 2020
Canada’s appetite for SUVs and crossovers might actuallybe insatiable. As an enthusiast, it gives me no joy to learn that cars like the Mustang now share a metaphorical stable with an electric crossover. And as a journalist, it pains me to have to write headlines like “Ford Shelves all Sedans in Favour of Crossovers”. Manufacturers across the pond laugh quizzically at our affinity for SUVs (except the Germans, who instead laugh their way to the bank) but the reality is that they consistently see high demand and increasing sales year over year.
Chevrolet isn’t blind to the data, and they are doing their part to meet demand, but the latest to join the GM family might be more than a cheeky excuse to wring out nostalgia from kids who grew up in the 70’s (and their wallets). Enter the new Chevrolet Blazer.
The new Blazer represents a complete re-imagination and update of the original K5 Blazer. Thus, instead of a body-on-frame truck design, it sits on a crossover variant of GM’s E2XX platform, which actually makes this Blazer a relative of the Malibu. Likewise, instead of a big burly V8 or straight-six, engine options are limited to four- and six-cylinders. No matter how you shake a stick at it, the apple has fallen quite far from the tree, and the only thing tying these two together might be its shared name. That may not be the worst thing. There is a hole in Chevrolet’s lineup for a sporty-mannered SUV, which this Blazer, especially in RS guise, aims to fill.
As far as crossovers go, the Blazer certainly looks the business. Its sheetmetal is all muscle and sinew, giving the car a wide and sporty stance despite the lifted ride height. LED headlamps anchor your eyes to the gaping front maw and draw your gaze towards their edges, where the headlamps practically sit on the flared front fenders. Additionally, the narrow design of the lights contribute to a front fascia that looks extra aggressive, as if it’s ready to pounce on its next victim. In RS models, an exclusive hexagonal patterned grille is paired with blacked-out chrome trim pieces. It would be impossible to look at the design of the Blazer RS and not draw similarities to the Camaro, and if you know even an inkling of the Camaro’s capabilities, it’s clear what emotions Chevy intends to invoke.
Inside, elements of the Camaro continue to make its way into the design language. Large round air vents dominate the centre console, its circumference mimicking a red anodized aluminum finish. But it’s more than just a design flourish. The red ring serves as a unique way to adjust the climate control temperature. Simply twist the ring to adjust the temperature up or down. The red touch continues all through the rest of the cabin too (a benefit of being part of the RS club), including red contrast stitching, red inserts visible through the perforated seats, and a red RS badge below the shift knob. Furthermore, the cabin is spacious and laden with storage bins aplenty. Still, the interior of the Blazer felt rather conventional, focusing on practicality rather than elegance.
Technology-wise, GM’s standard 8-inch infotainment display sits atop the climate controls, surrounded by a silver hexagonal frame. Its position is quite upright, and I feared it would make for an awkward viewing experience when on the move. Thankfully that’s not the case here due to the high-resolution and crisp display. It features all the niceties you’d expect in an infotainment system in this segment, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 360-degree camera. A bonus from the GM family includes the rear view camera that supplants the rear view mirror with a flick of the mirror dimming switch - it works particularly well and gives a clear video feed of what’s going on behind you at any given time. GM hasn’t left the RS out in the cold when it comes to safety either, packing it with a bevy of safety nannies that we’ve come to expect in a vehicle of this class. The Blazer will prompt you with blind spot, lane change, and rear cross traffic alerts, as well as park distance control.
Under the hood sits one of three engine choices. Lower trimmed models come equipped with a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder producing either 193 hp or 230 hp. RS models receive the largest of the three, a 3.6-litre V6 delivering 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of twist. All options are mated to a 9-speed automatic sending power to either the front wheels exclusively, or all four via a user controlled toggle. The thrust it develops won’t pin you to the back of your seat, but the V6 motivates the Blazer with surprising fluidity. The gearbox works well too. Under the majority of driving situations, it cycles through cogs unobtrusively but its rougher edges become apparent when you start pushing it. Expectations of crisp upshifts and snappy downshifts under braking fall short here.
It’s clear from the moment you get behind the wheel that the Blazer is designed to ‘blaze’ to soccer practice, as opposed to off-road trails. The handling here has been tuned to suit, with the RS receiving exclusive suspension and steering tweaks. The result is a stiffer but still compliant ride. Turning response feels accurate and quick, and the crossover maintains composure when hustled. It won’t hold a candle to the physics-defying characteristics from Germany’s best, but the RS is without a doubt the best-handling SUV wearing a bowtie.
For prospective owners looking for a do-it-all mid-size SUV, the Blazer serves up a compelling package. It has the looks and the driving dynamics to excite, and a well-rounded suite of technology and safety to match. Where the RS might find challenges rests in its asking price and name cache. At an as-tested price of $51,888, the Blazer RS sits in the middle of the pack among its competitors, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Edge, and even Chevy’s very own Equinox, all of which offer a more storied presence in the market with plenty of historical data on what you can expect when it comes time to sell. Still, the Blazer is a great choice for those who want something a little more stylish and chic, and if you couldn’t get a Camaro for whatever reason, spousal approval or limited seats, the Blazer carries enough muscle car inspiration to make it an attractive option.
Model: 2020 Chevrolet Blazer RS
Paint Type: Iridescent Pearl Tricoat
Base Price: $46,298
Price as Tested: $51,888
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,862 / 1,946 / 1,702
Curb weight (kg): 1,926
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Horsepower: 308 hp @ 6,700 rpm
Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 12.7 / 9.5
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.1