Chevrolet Blazer sport-utility wagon new from top to tires
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Chevrolet's newest sport-utility wagon, packing far more horsepower than its best-selling rival in the midsize class, carries a swoopy prow and rounded sheetmetal corners in a streamlined container designed to catch the eye -- even across a crowded arena laced with slinky Corvettes.
It first captured my attention a year ago as a fiberglass mock-up model at a Las Vegas display for Chevrolet dealers. The wagon debuted before a public audience last February at the Chicago Auto Show, but my first hands-on experience came several months later when I steered pre-production editions through suburban Detroit traffic en route to GM's vast Milford Proving Grounds.
Definitive off-road tests in pre-production 4x4s -- this time traversing a raucous course through sticky mud, catching air over devilish humps and scampering up steep grades of slippery dirt and gravel -- occurred in June at the Road America race track in Wisconsin.
Through these various introductory experiences as spectator, passenger and driver, opinions were formed which can best be summarized as a warning to Chevrolet's various sport-utility competitors:
Make way for a spectacular new Blazer.
It looks great, rides and drives like a car, contains a wagonful of comfort and safety features and totes one of the biggest V6 engines in the marketplace.
But don't be confused by that name: New Blazer, the 1995 midsize wagon, is not the successor to what in 1994 was a full-size wagon also called Blazer. Let me explain.
During the 1995 model year, the Chevrolet Truck Division of General Motors will introduce radically new versions of its two sport-utility wagons which ride on platforms of Chevy's compact S10 and full-size C/K trucks.
Last year's Blazer -- the full-size wagon -- will appear in a 1995 edition bearing the new name of Tahoe.
Last year's S10 Blazer, the midsize model built on the compact S10 pickup's platform, has been recast with the Blazer name for 1995. It's the subject of this report.
That old version -- S10 Blazer -- always rose to the top of my list of favorite SUVs due to its aggressive horsepower and agile off-road attributes. A failing, also my opinion, was that it rode rough like a truck and required effort to steer and maneuver in traffic.
New Blazer eliminates that trucklike ride quality, thanks to the rigid new S10 chassis and a sophisticated suspension system which provides four optional easy-to-understand (and easy to order) qualitative settings: Base, Sport (off-road stiff), Comfort (soft) and Touring (firm).
The latter two suspension settings will be offered strictly on 4-door Blazer, the version which should account for the majority of all sales.
Blazer's interior looks and feels like that of a fine sedan, not some hulk of a truck.
You sit high, above the traffic, in comfortable front bucket seats or a 3-person rear bench, surrounded by all the comforts and conveniences found in a luxury car.
And Blazer brings so much playful horsepower.
The sole engine, Chevy's iron block 4.3-liter V6 with overhead valving and central port fuel injection, was last year's optional enhanced plant. In the retuned 1995 version, it produces 195 horsepower at 4500 rpm and 260 lbs/ft of torque at 3400 rpm, statistics good enough to elevate Blazer to high rank among all midsize SUV wagons.
This muscle shows its stuff when climbing a steep off-road grade like the ones I navigated in Wisconsin, where Blazer zipped up the slope in 4-wheel low gear like it was simply meandering down a dusty rural lane. On a highway, you have plenty of strength to pass a slower vehicle without fear of pegging the limits on forward velocity, and if you need to pull a trailer load, Blazer's powerplant can lug up to 5,000 pounds of excess baggage.
It is this trailer-toting, slope-sucking, car-passing strength that captures your immediate attention when testing new Blazer, but what ultimately wins your confidence comes from its easy handling nature and that car-like character.
Even die-hard sports and performance buffs like me will find driveability features in Blazer to sate that road lust.
Then pull out your tape measure to figure out that the new version adds generous space for heads, shoulders and hips of front and rear riders. Front passengers end up with at least half an inch of additional head room, for instance, and more than three inches more shoulder space. This ultimately translates to increased comfort in transit, particularly in the rear seat, which in these compressed wagons can sometimes seem confining.
Behind the fold-down rear seat, Blazer has a cargo bay of generous proportions. To create this space with an eye toward practical hauling chores, GM's engineers used the dimensions of a washing machine carton as their template in defining the size of Blazer's rear hatch opening.
That back gate window flips up for quick placement of hand packages like groceries, but the bottom half folds down for adding larger cargo. An extra tire stows below deck so you don't sacrifice cargo space for a spare.
Blazer meets or exceeds its competitors in safety equipment, which includes a driver's-side airbag and 4-wheel anti-lock brake system for all models. The dramatic slope of the hood ends up enhancing the driver's visibility, and the vehicle's chassis includes front crumple zones to dampen collision forces.
A vivid demonstration of that crumple factor was observed at Milford through a 35 mph crash test in a version containing a computer-linked dummy that substituted for a human driver. After shards and smoke settled, it became apparent that all structural damage had occurred in front of the passenger compartment -- leaving the dummy intact following its impact with the deployed airbag.
In addition to enhanced safety features, Blazer also contains significant sound damping systems. The complicated array of devices extends to triple seals on all doors and even upgraded carpeting designed not just for comfort but to absorb sounds seeping from the engine compartment.
Blazer's model ladder begins with a base unit priced below near rivals. Both 2-door and 4-door Blazers may be equipped with the 4-wheel-drive system, and a manual 5-speed transmission can be substituted for GM's automatic 4-speed in 2-door Blazers later in the year.
By mid-year 1995 an ultimate 4-door Blazer LT rigged with leather and all sorts of conveniences will also be offered, along with a full-time all-wheel-drive system.
1995 CHEVROLET BLAZER
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 CHEVROLET BLAZER Specs
||Midsize sport-utility wagon
| Model Options:
||Midsize sport-utility wagon
||2-door: 100.5 inches
4-door: 107.0 inches
| Overall Length:
||2-door: 174.7 inches
4-door: 181.2 inches
| Engine Size:
||OHV 4.3-L V6
||2-door: Manual/5, Auto/4
| Gas Mileage:
||$ 18,000 to $ 24,000