The Blazer is GM's best crossover yet, but there's still room for progress.
Did Chevrolet really need to jam the two-row Blazer between the three-row Traverse and the smaller Equinox ? Probably not. Did Chevrolet really need to wedge a third engine option between the base I4 and the upmarket V6? Probably not. But buyers shopping for a two-row crossover with ample space and power will probably be happy the automaker did, since this new-for-2020 combo feels like a winner. Mostly.
I wasn't originally sold on the idea of adding some sportiness to GM's crossover portfolio, but both on paper and in person, the Blazer works. The sharp angles up front play very well and the rear end even manages to snag a bit of the Camaro's character without overemphasizing it. Throw in a dash of ruggedness by way of the dark-gray trim around the bottom of the body and boom -- you've got one seriously good-looking SUV.
The interior, on the other hand, has a few more downs to counteract the ups. From five feet, the cabin looks great -- the angles on the dashboard are interesting and the bit of leather on the 3LT trim's dashboard adds a premium touch. The Camaro-like climate controls are always interesting, with the ring around the front vents used to set the temperature. There's a good amount of storage in the center console and while I appreciate the unique dual-level layout of the door panel cubbies, the higher trays aren't large enough to hold anything appreciable.
Move a little closer, though, and GM's familiar interior issues arise. The aluminum trim looks OK, but it feels chintzy and accumulates smudges easily. Hard plastics abound, whether it's on the lower part of the dashboard or in that satin-silver finish stuff flanking the cup holders and gear lever. It's generally forgivable at lower price points, but as the Blazer's higher trims push closer to $50,000, it's a little less welcoming.
Since the Blazer slots above the Equinox but below the three-row Traverse, there's an ample amount of space inside. Front occupants have no problem getting comfortable, with enough width for two elbows to share the center armrest, while second-row passengers are privy to headroom and legroom in spades. Behind the second row, there's about 31 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than enough for a weekend trip or a massive grocery-store haul, but it lags behind just about every competitor, including the Honda Passport (41), Hyundai Santa Fe (36) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (36).
The biggest Blazer update for 2020 lives under the hood of my tester. It's a new 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 -- producing 230 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque -- and it lives between the 193-hp, naturally aspirated 2.5-liter base I4 and the 308-hp V6 at the top of the range. In all honesty, I don't know what you'd want the V6 for, because the turbo I4 is surprisingly eager. With just the front rollers clawing for traction (part-time AWD is engaged through a center console dial), too much right pedal will definitely result in copious tire squeal.
Combine that with a throttle that's probably way too touchy from the factory (and a lack of vehicle modes makes this impossible to adjust) and the Blazer might be too willing to pick up its nose and hustle to the horizon. You'll never be left wanting for power here, that's for sure. The brake pedal is strange, in that it's very firm, but it's not as touchy as the throttle, so you may have to push a little harder than expected to shed speed.
The nine-speed automatic transmission is just OK, with smooth (albeit frequent) upshifts and slow, who's-in-a-hurry-here downshifts. If you want paddle shifters, tough tomatoes, because they aren't available; you'll have to make do with the awful buttons on the side of the gear lever.
Every trip in the Blazer ends with me remarking about how comfortable the ride is. Truly, GM outdid itself here, as the Blazer is quite the cushy commuter. My 3LT tester's standard 18-inch wheels come wrapped in meaty Continental Cross-Contact LX Sport all-season tires, which do a great job soaking up bad roads in conjunction with the Blazer's fixed dampers. Throw in some well-sealed windows and doors and wind noise barely exists in here -- and there isn't much road noise to listen to, either. It's not Lexus quiet, but for the price, I'm impressed.
The only reason to go with the Blazer's base engine is to save money, because it sure won't save you anything on your gas bill. A base 2.5-liter Blazer with front-wheel drive earns just 21 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg highway, while the 2.0-liter FWD model adds 1 mpg to the highway rating. My 2.0-liter AWD tester earns 21 city and 27 highway, numbers that I find pretty easy to meet and beat.
If there's one part of the car that Chevy has pretty much nailed for the last couple years, it's the infotainment. The Blazer comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen running Chevrolet Infotainment 3, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. It's a great system, with a sensible layout, fast boot and response times and a design that is sharp without being overdone. It's probably my favorite mass-market telematics getup. The Blazer gets high marks for charging, too, with two USB ports (one Type-A, one Type-C) on the dashboard and another two in the second row, standard.
A high-definition backup camera is available as part of a $1,400 technology package that also adds embedded navigation, an 8-speaker Bose audio system, a color display in the gauge cluster, a rear camera mirror and two extra USB ports in the center armrest. Considering the basic backup camera's resolution is appalling, the HD option should really be standard, but that's GM for you.
Safety-related nickel-and-diming is the name of GM's game and that story continues on the Blazer. If you're a fan of standard suites of active and passive driver-assistance features, you're not going to like the Blazer very much. Base trims miss nearly every newfangled piece of tech, while middle tiers get access to blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and cross-traffic alert. If you want the good stuff -- adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking -- you'll have to shell out more than $40,000 for the RS or Premier trims, both of which mandate the V6 engine. I'm sorry, but in 2020, that's dumb as hell.
My tester's 3LT AWD specification starts at $39,000, rising to $41,595 including destination and the single package on offer for that trim. To be honest, that's how I'd spec my ideal Blazer, too; not only do I get access to the mid-tier safety systems here, I also get leather seats that befit the Blazer's slightly fancier nature and the AWD is nice peace of mind for when the weather turns south. If I want a bit more style, the $1,895 Redline package gussies up the exterior with bigger wheels and red accents. It's the right mix of creature comforts and price, in my mind.
Large two-row crossovers are pretty common these days. The Honda Passport offers a bit more space and comes with far more safety systems as standard equipment, while those looking for some off-road ruggedness might want to check out the Jeep Grand Cherokee and its many variants, although a new generation is just over the horizon. The Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Edge offer other mall-crawler approaches to this segment and, once again, they offer a whole lot more in the way of driver-assistance features.
The 2020 Chevrolet Blazer offers a comfortable ride, handsome aesthetics and a proper in-car tech experience (safety notwithstanding) that should resonate with anyone who is considering a crossover but still wants to prioritize beyond the basic utilitarian stuff. It's not a star-studded standout in its segment, but it offers enough compelling material to put it high on buyers' cross-shopping spreadsheets.