The primary agenda for car makers these days is seemingly to cram their vehicle line-ups with models that fill every possible niche within the SUV genre.
Chevrolet already has six crossovers/SUVs in its portfolio, but a seventh – the Blazer – will be added to the fold in June to attract buyers who might otherwise opt for a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Ford Edge. Chevrolet's SUV onslaught is hardly surprising, given that a significant chunk of new cars sold today are these lofty chariots.
The interesting thing is that the vast majority of SUVs are bought not with the intention of going off-road so much as for their elevated seating position, spacious cabins and perceived safety benefits (size usually wins in a two-car collision). Witness the number of spotless Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols that have never been taken off the beaten track by their owners.
The Blazer reprises a nameplate that dates all the way back to 1969, but that was mothballed in 2005 as Chevrolet didn’t see a place for it in its line-up at the time. The badge now returns on a vehicle that’s vastly different from the last model. Unlike its predecessor, which was underpinned by a rugged, truck-like ladder-frame chassis, the 2019 iteration is built around a significantly lighter monocoque platform that means it’s far more refined and agile on the bitumen, although it loses the bulletproof go-anywhere capability of its ancestor.
To lure in buyers, Chevy is counting on the Blazer’s eye-catching styling, which piggybacks off the halo effect of the Camaro as it incorporates many of the design cues that distinguish the low-slung coupe. For maximum wow factor, you’ll want the sporty Blazer RS, which has a blacked-out grille and jet-black rims that give it real road presence. Even lesser Blazers stand apart from the rest of the SUV horde as there’s far more visual dynamism about its core design than is the case with most rivals.
The Blazer fares well in terms of practicality, too, as there’s generous knee and headroom in the rear seats, while the luggage bay can accommodate 864 litres of cargo with all the seats in. Folding the rear bench down expands the quota to a cavernous 1,818 litres.
The Blazer will be offered locally with a choice of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and a 3.6-litre V6, with prices ranging from Dh116,900 to Dh172,900, depending on which engine and trim level (there are five) you opt for.
We sampled only the V6 at the regional launch in Beirut, and our feeling is that this is the better bet as the four-cylinder motor would be overworked when coping with the mass of the Blazer, which weighs almost 1.8 tonnes in even its most basic form. The V6 serves up 305bhp and 368Nm, relayed to either the front wheels or all four wheels (depending on trim level) via a nine-speed automatic.
This combo works well in the real world, delivering smooth, effortless performance whether pootling around town or tackling the ascent of Mount Lebanon, as was the case for our maiden drive.
Chevrolet quotes a 0-100kph split of 6.7 seconds for the front-wheel-drive Blazer RS (the all-wheel-drive version takes 1.1 seconds longer as it’s over 100kg heavier), which is decently quick for a medium-large crossover.
The Blazer also impresses with its nimble handling and crisp, well-weighted steering, but the big let-down is the vast expanses of hard plastic trim that makes up the dashboard, centre console and inner door panels. It’s a shame Chevrolet didn’t go the extra mile in giving the Blazer a cabin ambience that’s at least on par with the opposition, as the rest of the vehicle is well executed.
Equipment levels are decent as the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system is standard across the range. There’s also plenty of safety kit on offer, including Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, rear Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Park Assist. RS and Premier trims also offer following-distance indicator, forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control and front pedestrian braking.
All in all, there’s plenty to like about the Blazer, especially its sharp looks, lively performance and agile handling.
If only they’d nailed the interior.
Price, base: From Dh156,900
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Transmission: Nine-speed auto
Power: 305bhp at 6,700rpm
Torque: 368Nm at 5,000rpm
Fuel economy, combined: 11.6L/100km