Jon Wong was a reviews editor for CNET Cars. He test drove and wrote about new cars and oversaw coverage of automotive accessories and garage gear. In his spare time, he enjoys track days, caring for his fleet of old Japanese cars and searching for the next one to add to his garage.
Now that we've seen the new Chevy Blazer, it seems prudent to look back at Chevy's beloved SUV and see how we got from the rough and tumble K5 all the way to this new unibody crossover. America's appetite for
is seemingly insatiable, and this new model wearing the legendary GM nameplate is probably going to sell like crazy.
While many enthusiasts hoped that the new Blazer would also be ready to continue the old-is-new-again SUV trend that Ford kicked off when it announced plans to revitalize the Bronco at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, that ended up not being the case. Even though it's not the hardcore, body-on-frame trail-trampling Blazer that the internet wanted, we still have plenty of old Blazers to get nostalgic over. Let's take a look back at the history of the
SUV that last graced showrooms in 2005.
For all the details on the brand-new Blazer, as well as a full photo gallery, be sure to read our story here.
1969-1972 K5 Blazer: The beginning
The Blazer's story begins in 1969 when Chevrolet rolled out the first K5 Blazer to compete with the likes of the Ford Bronco, International Harvester Scout and Jeep Cherokee. With Chevy's full-size pickup truck frame underpinning the Blazer, it was larger than its competition with an interior that could be configured to hold one, two or five passengers. For an open-air experience, a fiberglass top that covered from the top of the windshield back could be removed. Options included air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, push-button radio, heavy-duty shocks and springs and an auxiliary battery.
In its first year of production customers could only get their Blazers with four-wheel drive, but chose from three different engines. A 4.1-liter inline six-cylinder with 155 horsepower served as the base powerplant, while a 5.0-liter V8 with 200 horsepower and 5.7-liter V8 with 255 horses were also offered. A three- and four-speed manual and three-speed automatic made up the transmission choices. Two-wheel drive versions were added for the 1970 model year along with a 4.8-liter inline six-cylinder engine option.
A minor facelift in 1971 saw the Chevy SUV with a new grille and lights before completing its fairly brief four-year model run in 1972.
A new Blazer with slightly more rounded off sheet metal arrived for 1973 offering carryover engines, the ability to spec out a one-, two- or five-passenger cabin and removable convertible top. However, the fully open cabin would go away in 1976 with the launch of the half-cab design that still featured a removable top, but one that began just after the first-row seats, meaning the front passengers stayed fully covered.
The 1976 model year also saw the debut of the Blazer Chalet, which was basically a Blazer with a pop-up camper that bolted into the same holes used by the factory hardtop. Base versions of the Chalet slept two adults, had a sink, a two-burner propane stove, icebox and dinette table. Midlevel versions gained a propane heater and refrigerator, while top models had overhead fold-out bunks capable of accommodating two additional people.
In the mid-1980s, Chevrolet also produced a K5 Blazer-based vehicle known as the M1009 for the US military. Compared to the regular vehicle, the military spec model got a more robust suspension, special electrical system, front brush guard, rifle rack, lacked air conditioning and specific olive green, camouflage or tan paint jobs.
Throughout its lifetime, the second-generation K5 Blazer would undergo numerous styling updates on both inside and out and a handful of engine lineup changes that included the addition of a diesel option. The second-generation K5 Blazer completed its runs in 1991.
The second-generation Chevy Blazer makes a 19-year run
With the K5 Blazer's bigger footprint, Chevrolet introduced the smaller and more maneuverable S-10 Blazer for people who didn't quite need the space offered in the K5. The S-10 pickup truck-based Blazer debuted in 1982 as a 1983 model offering an 83-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder as a base engine for all states except California, which received a 1.9-liter engine with 82 ponies. Optionally available was a 2.8-liter V6 with 110 horsepower and a 2.2-liter diesel four.
Also unlike its bigger sibling, the S-10 Blazer didn't feature a removable top. From 1983 to 1990, the S-10 Blazer was only offered in a two-door body style, but for 1991 Chevrolet released a four-door version perched on a 6.5-inch longer wheelbase.
When the first-generation S-10 Blazer wrapped up its run in 1994, it boasted a name change to S-Blazer, a standard 165-horsepower 4.3-liter V6 and standard rear antilock brakes.
The release of the third-generation K5 Blazer in 1992 marked the end of the removable roof with all models receiving a full-length steel top. At launch, the only engine option available was a 5.7-liter V8 with 210-horsepower bolted up to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Both two- and four-wheel drive versions were offered. Highlights included standard four-wheel antilock brakes, tow capabilities of up to 7,000 pounds, quieter ride and optional six-passenger seating.
A 6.5-liter turbocharged diesel V8 engine with 180 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque joined the lineup in 1994, which would be the last model year for the big Blazer. From 1995 onward the SUV would be known as the Yukon with a new four-door body style and eventually discontinuation of the two-door version.
The rise of the Tahoe in 1995 meant the Blazer name would become exclusive to the smaller SUV. Fittingly, 1995 also marked the debut of all-new generation of the Blazer, which underwent a slight growth spurt. More rounded bodylines provided a sleeker appearance, while the interior gained more storage cubbies to better cater to families. Both two- and four-door models continued to be offered.
A 4.3-liter V6 powered the Blazer at launch with 200 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Interestingly, from 1996-2002 the V6 was rated at 195 horses and 250 pound-feet, with horsepower again dropping to 190 for 2002-2005. Transmission choices included a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic with two- or four-wheel drive.
Two-door Blazers with four-wheel drive gained an off-road-focused ZR2 package in 1996 with a 3-inch lift, larger wheels, Bilstein shocks, a stronger rear axle and underbody skid plates. Mild revisions for 1998 included standard four-wheel disc brakes and new dashboard with larger controls. The two-door would again gain another trim level with the Blazer
debuting for 2001. The two-wheel-drive Xtreme was a street-focused model with a lower ride height, sport suspension, body kit and specific wheels.
Chevrolet ended Blazer production following the 2005 model year.
After disappearing from Chevy showrooms at the end of 2005, an all-new Blazer will be returning for 2019. However, unlike its predecessors it won't be a body-on-frame vehicle, but instead move onto unibody platform that also underpins the GMC Acadia. With its five-passenger cabin, the Blazer will fill the void between the Equinox and three-row Traverse in Chevrolet's crossover SUV range.
Visually, the Blazer wears a much more stylish wrapper compared to its relatively bland siblings. Designers drew inspiration from the Camaro giving the new crossover a wide stance, big grille, skinny headlights, sculpted sheetmetal, high beltline and strong rear haunches. Camaro styling cues are also present in the cabin with a center stack featuring round air vents and nearly identical climate controls.
The new Blazer will offer two engines with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque serving as the base engine. Those looking for more muscle will be able to option a 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horses and 269 pound-feet that offers an estimated tow capacity of 4,500 pounds. Both engines work with a 9-speed automatic transmission in front- or all-wheel drive configurations.