The Chevrolet Blazer has been a name rolling around America’s streets since the late 1970s, and I’ve always thought of the name in terms of ‘Trailblazer,’ which made sense, since they’ve always been SUVs, and certainly evoked an off-road feel, especially here in the Grand Valley where many people (and their proverbial dogs) owned one, enjoying driving their older models on the many trails and hills that western Colorado affords.
It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized it had another meaning.
No, I don’t see it as the men’s jacket (which won their name due to an association withCambridge’s Lady Margaret Boat Club who wore bright red or ‘blazing’ jackets, a fact I stumbled onto in the past) — rather in terms of light and speed, burning down the road in a ‘blaze.’
This meaning is particularly apt, with the Chevy Blazer’s modern incarnations. Redesigned and released in the past year or so, the Blazer comes as a light, all-wheel drive SUV, sleek, low to the ground, and with design and driving experiences heavily influenced by the modern Camaro. In fact, the dash bears a striking resemblance to that muscle car, with aviation and jet-turbine inspired air vents with large wheel-style controls around the ports.
I was impressed on my first drive of the Blazer, when I test drove it before, I drove the lighter 2.5 liter engine and had a blast with it. With a standard nine-speed transmission, the ride was efficient and responsive, and frankly, a kick in the pants to drive. The 2020 models will feature a 2.0 liter Turbo that promises a ride as well, but balances economy.
This trip out, I was offered the 3.6 liter V6 premier. I was impressed by the interior in particular. Dark brown, almost charcoal leather with lighter stitching, perforated and comfortable (when the seat started warming up, which I believe it did automatically, along with the steering wheel, I was downright grateful — it’s cold out there!), wrapped around the seats while the dash featured leather appointments and that Camaro performance-styling, topped with a stretched-hexagon 8” Chevrolet Infotainment system.
The gauge panel used a screen to emulate traditional gauges, which made for an elegant look, but it’s ultimately adaptable to include less analog information. Taking note that there was a low tire warning, it informed me that the PSI in the rear passenger-side tire was 28, rather than the 31 of the other three. It wasn’t critically off, so I decided to just keep driving. I love that it gave exact PSI numbers. If my mom’s vehicle had this
Interestingly enough, I believe I missed out on a few fun things because of that. I could be wrong, but likely some of the ‘automatic’ things that the Blazer could have done, like adaptive cruise control (maintaining a speed or slowing to match a specified distance from the car in front of you) and automatic lane keeping assist, were flagged ‘unavailable’ while I tried to activate them.
It could also have been a dirty sensor, but the Blazer was fairly clean, and certainly not muddy. It’s a nice reminder that sometimes, these days, cars are smarter than their drivers.
Case in point, I decided to head out on the roughest, but least muddy, path I could think of on my drive: I-70 near Palisade. Flying down the rolling asphault, the Blazer (despite it’s lame paw) handled itself admirably, keeping the tires to the ground and providing plenty of punch and acceleration that was only enhanced when I switched to sport mode.
While many of its contemporaries use an ‘auto-AWD’ method, keeping it active at all times, but only using it when it detects slippage, the Blazer has a way to disable the AWD and roll 2WD down the road. I didn’t experiment too much, since it was muddy and therefore inadvisable to really get those wheels spinning, but for some that kind of control is a selling point.
When pulled over on the detached lane near Mount Garfield for photos, I got a taste of the blind spot warning, as it beeped when I opened the door, to warn me about oncoming cars. Thankfully, I was farther away than it thought I was.
One last feature I enjoyed: the rear view mirror camera. This camera is mounted to the rear of the car, somewhere near the license plate. It lets you have an unobstructed view behind the Blazer. This is useful since the view through the cabin is tight. It takes a little getting used to. Your eyes focus on the screen not through the mirror like they normally do, so it takes longer to adjust between the windshield and rear view. It’s also not stereoscopic, so depth perception is of little use. Useful as it is (it has a brightness control and a wide view, after all), it can be awkward to learn to use.
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