First drive: 2019 Chevrolet Blazer [Video review]

Chevy revives its Blazer name for a new mid-size SUV.

The Chevrolet Blazer is back, but not in the form you remember. For 2019 Chevy is reviving the Blazer as a front-wheel drive-based mid-size crossover.

While there's a certain set of the population that will never forgive Chevy for that grave sin, reasonable people should welcome that change. And today, we're going to explain why.

What is it?

The 2019 Blazer is a brand new SUV that will compete in the increasingly popular mid-size segment. Unlike Blazers of old, this new model is now a front-wheel drive design on a unibody chassis (the Blazer rides on the same platform as the GMC Acadia). Although the V8 and removable roof are long gone, you can still get the Blazer with all-wheel drive.

What's it up against?

The 2019 Blazer will go head-to-head with established nameplates like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Murano and Ford Edge. The Blazer will also have to take on the other new kid on the block, the Honda Passport.

What does it look like?

The easiest way to describe the Blazer is as a crossover version of the Chevrolet Camaro. The front end is angular and aggressive, with an oversized grille, a pair of thin LED lights that remind us of Mr. Potato Head's angry eyes, and another bank of lights just below the vehicle's cheek bones. The front end design of the Blazer may not be pretty, but it is at least unique. That is until you realize how much it resembles the new Hyundai Santa Fe.

In profile the Blazer has a gradually tapering roof and an up-swept belt line that adds to its sporty look. There's even a subtle ducktail spoiler built into the Blazer's tailgate.

And the Inside?

Step inside the Blazer and you'll find even more Camaro influences. Not only does the Blazer have the same general interior design as the Camaro -- with a couple of circular climate vents front and center and an angular infotainment screen just above -- but it also has the same cocooning cockpit. Few other SUVs feel as sporty as the Blazer from behind the wheel.

Our test vehicle was a top-spec Premier model, so it had the nicest things Chevy could throw at a Blazer. In general, materials are quality, and there's nice detailing. But there are a few areas that aren't so nice. For example, the top of the Blazer's doors are made out of hard plastic.

Overall, interior space is good, especially considering the Blazer's relatively compact dimensions. Front seat passengers have ample head and leg room, and there's enough room for a couple of adults in the Blazer's second row. Cargo space isn't class leading, but the Blazer's trunk still offers plenty of room for a week-long getaway.

The Blazer is available with a comprehensive list of safety and convenience features. Opt for a high end trim and you'll get heated and cooled seats, a power adjustable and heated steering wheel and adaptive cruise control. However, those features will cost you, and quite dearly. In order to get leather, all-wheel drive and adaptive cruise control, you'll have to shell out around $48,000.

But does it go?

The base engine in the Blazer is a 2.5L four-cylinder that we didn't get to try out. However, given its meager 193 horsepower rating, we doubt performance is blistering.

The Blazer's 3.6L V6, however, is a different story. It produces 305 horsepower and makes the Blazer a seriously quick SUV. There's plenty of power down low, and the V6 keeps churning out power throughout the rev range.

A nine speed automatic is the only transmission available in the Blazer, and it's kind of a mixed bag. During normal driving the nine-speed works well, shifting quickly and smoothly in the background. However, when you summon more power with the stab of the gas, the nine speed is reluctant to downshift with any immediacy. It should be noted that this issue seems to plague all nine speed autos, not just the one fitted to the Blazer.

Ride quality is a Blazer strong suit -- the overall ride is comfortable but still somewhat athletic. The Blazer doesn't beg you to push it through turns, but the suspension does a good job of keep everything flat and in control.

The Blazer's steering was better than we were expecting. There's some vagueness on center, but the overall feel and weight is very good. You can tell that Chevy designed the Blazer to be somewhat of a driver's mid-size SUV.

Fuel economy is about average for the segment. Our V6-powered all-wheel drive tester was rated at 18mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway.

The Blazer's cabin is quiet, with some background noise provided by the V6 engine. That might be a turn off in other mid-size SUV, but that engine note only enhances the Blazer's sporty demeanor.

Leftlane's bottom line

It may not be the Blazer we were expecting, but the 2019 model is actually a solid entrant into the mid-size SUV category. The Blazer is sportier than almost everything else in the segment, and you can get it with a lot of high-end features.

However, pricing is the Blazer's downfall. Vehicles like the Honda Passport offer autonomous tech as standard, but you'll have to shell out close to 50-grand to get that equipment in the Blazer. That's just ludicrous, and hopefully something Chevy will address in the very near future.

2019 Chevrolet Blazer Premier AWD base price, $45,600. As tested, $51,805.

Sun and wheels package, $2,495; Driver confidence II package, $2,165; Car essentials package, $185; Cargo flex divider, $165; Destination, $51,805.

Special thanks to Columbia Chevrolet in Cincinnati, Ohio for providing a 2019 Blazer for our evaluation.

Photos by Drew Johnson.

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