We'll say one thing for the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer, it isn't boring. By channeling the spirit of the Camaro, if not its literal styling, the Blazer brings some excitement to a midsize SUV segment mostly known for anonymous kid haulers or outdoorsy road trippers. It's definitely something for the suburban-bound who are willing to sacrifice some practicality for style.
The trouble is, the new Blazer doesn't go far enough beyond its truly compelling style. Its performance-oriented RS just doesn't provide enough of an exciting driving experience, while neither the RS nor the luxury-oriented Premier provide a suitably up-market cabin to justify sky-high price tags that can crest $50,000. The value proposition of lower trims is questionable as well, as their space, interior quality and performance essentially match cheaper compact SUVs like a Mazda CX-5 or Toyota RAV4. So while the 2020 Blazer may not be boring, it needs a bit more substance.
What's new for 2020?
A new middle-ground engine option enters the mix between the 193-horsepower base four-cylinder and the burly 308-hp V6. The new 2.0-liter turbo-four produces 230 hp and becomes the standard engine on the 2LT and 3LT trim levels. The base L and LT are now base-engine-only and are also paired exclusive to front-wheel drive. The RS and Premier are V6 and AWD only.
What's the Blazer's interior and in-car technology like?
On the one hand, the Blazer interior impresses with its Camaro-inspired design elements — note the rotary air vents/climate controls in particular — that make it look as special inside as it does on the outside. Unfortunately, the quality of materials used is disappointing given the Blazer's price point. That's especially the case with the Premier and RS trims that can top $50,000, but even lower trim levels are no nicer than compact SUVs (Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4) that cost much less when similarly equipped. Quite simply, the Blazer either needs a lower price or a ritzier interior.
At least the Blazer's infotainment offerings are better and more abundant than most. Every version gets an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE in-car WiFi, OnStar and four USB ports, including a new USB-C port (the small one). That standard touchscreen is pretty easy to use with big, clear icons and a sensible menu structure.
How big is the Blazer?
The Blazer is a midsize crossover, with exterior dimensions that put it in the camp of such vehicles as the Ford Edge and Jeep Grand Cherokee (the Honda Passport also attends that camp but is far more spacious than the Blazer). Chevy's entry is notably wide, resulting in more shoulder room in the back seat relative the Edge and all compact SUVs. You're more likely to fit three across or fit people on either side of a child seat. However, rear seat legroom at 39.6 inches is only similar to larger compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, and it has less headroom. That sleek, low roof may result in your hair grazing the headliner, and with the panoramic sunroof, you might even need to slouch or utilize the seatback's ample recline.
The back seat does slide generously, making it easy to bring kids closer to those in front or free up extra cargo space. That's a good thing, since its on-paper cargo figures are unremarkable. There's 30.3 cubic feet with the seats raised and 64.2 when they are lowered completely flat thanks to a cleverly engineered seat bottom (see cargo video below). By contrast, the biggest compact models like the CR-V and Forester are in the mid 30s and 70s, respectively. Even Chevy's own Equinox has only a single cubic foot less of maximum cargo capacity than the Blazer.
What's the Blazer's performance and fuel economy?
The Chevy Blazer L and LT trim levels come standard with a 2.5-liter inline-four good for 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. That's not a lot of grunt for a vehicle that weighs 3,810 pounds, and is grossly less than the base engines of most similarly sized midsize competitors. Like every Blazer engine, it's paired to a nine-speed automatic, but it only comes with front-wheel drive. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined is just OK given its meager output.
For 2020, the 2LT and 3LT come standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 230 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is optional. Fuel economy is actually better than the base engine, as it returns an estimated 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with FWD. It lowers to 21/27/23 with AWD.
Optional on the 2LT and 3LT, and standard on the RS and Premier, is a 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 308 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. It's one of the quickest midsize crossovers as a result, hitting 60 mph in in the low 6-second range. Fuel economy is effective the same whether you get FWD (19/26/21) or AWD (18/25/21).
What's the Blazer like to drive?
Just as the Blazer features Camaro-inspired looks, its driving experience is definitely in the same spirit as Chevy's beloved muscle car. Even a basic four-cylinder Blazer riding on 18-inch wheels will whip around a cloverleaf with poise and minimal roll. The sportiest RS trim stays even flatter thanks to a sport-tuned suspension and the torque-vectoring AWD system.
Unfortunately, power steering disappoints — at least for those expecting the Blazer to be the sporting SUV its styling implies. It just doesn't engage enough or provide sufficient feedback. Ride quality is also a mixed bag. Even the Blazer on 18s has a firmer ride than we've come to expect from GM's crossovers, but damping is quite good, and it's perfectly acceptable for a vehicle with sporting intentions. On the other hand, the optional 21-inch wheels yielded a tiresome ride when driving between 25 and 50 mph on anything but perfect pavement. We couldn't see the bumps, but we could sure feel them. It was admittedly more livable at highway speeds.
In terms of engine choice, the base four-cylinder is obviously weak for a segment dominated by V6 engines. That said, we actually found it to be perfectly serviceable and not as doggedly slow in practice as we were expecting. It's pretty much in keeping with the four cylinders found in compact SUVs (of course, the Blazer's price is not).
We have yet to sample the new turbo four engine, but the upgrade V6 provides strong performance that compares favorably to other V6-powered competitors. For the sport-tuned RS model, however, it just doesn't provide the sort of soundtrack or amped up exhaust note that's expected. The transmission is also lazy to react and doesn't have paddle shifters to override those reactions. These may seem like nitpicks, but the Blazer RS is meant to be a sporty, performance-oriented SUV. Yet, for the same money, the Ford Edge ST goes a lot further toward that goal while boasting a whopping 30 more horsepower and 111 more pound-feet of torque.
What more can I read about the Chevy Blazer?
Our first drive of the Blazer, including more in-depth information about its design and engineering. We drove both the V6 and base four-cylinder engines.
Our specific review of the RS trim level came to the same conclusion as our first experience with the new Blazer: the RS is too expensive for what you get.
What features are available and what's the Blazer's price?
Pricing starts at $31,190 for the base Blazer LS, including the $1,195 destination charge. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, proximity entry and push-button start, a rearview camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar, 4G LTE WiFi, an 8-inch touchscreen, four USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a six-speaker sound system. This is generous, but note this trim is only available with the base four-cylinder, front-wheel drive and a color choice of white, black and silver.
The 1LT, meanwhile, goes for $34,690 and only adds rear privacy glass, a compact spare tire, an eight-way power driver seat, and satellite radio (for an extra $500 you get the 2LT and its only added feature, the turbo engine). At least you get access to extra options and paint choices, but the value is extremely questionable. You'll find that's a running theme when discussing the Blazer's pricing and feature content, especially the RS and Premier that can crest $50,000 when loaded with options. Competitors give you more feature content and/or space for the same (or much less) money.
What are Blazer's safety equipment and crash ratings?
While many other SUVs come standard with accident avoidance technologies, the Blazer keeps them exclusive to the top trim levels, and even then, only as options. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning are included starting with the 3LT trim, but forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and GM's Safety Alert Seat can only be had as part of the Driver Confidence II package.
The government gave the Blazer perfect five-star crash ratings in all categories. At the time of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had only subjected the Blazer to the moderate overlap front and side crash tests where it got the best-possible "Good" rating.