As a professional automotive journalist, a lot of people ask me for advice about cars. They’ll ask about particular brands or features, or how a new car drives or whether you can fit a set of skis in the back. I’ve driven hundreds of cars in my career, and, on the back of that experience, I do my best to steer them in the right direction.
And after all this well-considered advice, they inevitably ignore it and buy something that catches their eye at the dealer. These days, I actually say to advice seekers, “I’ll tell you what I think, but I also know you’ll ignore it.”
They’ll deny it, but it always happens and I’ve grown to accept it. I’m not sure why it happens, but I think it’s because of the nature of the car buying process. Hyundai captured this well in a Super Bowl ad this past weekend: according to Jason Bateman, buying a car is worse than a root canal, the middle seat on a plane, or a vegan dinner party.
But more than that, buying a car is an emotional decision. Yes, you have to have something you can afford and that will fit your needs, but there’s a reason carmakers spend so much money on design and television spots with cars driving through twisty, leaf-strewn back roads or through rivers and off-road trails. Your car is a declaration about yourself, or at least what you want yourself to be.
That’s why, when I told a friend of mine, after hours of discussion, to go buy a Chevy Colorado pickup because it would be perfect for him, he went out and got himself a Jeep Wrangler. The emotional decision outweighed the logical one. He wanted the Wrangler.
Which brings us to the new Chevy Blazer, which is not, sadly, a hulking off-road monster. Instead, it’s a more mundane two-row, mid-size SUV slotting between the Traverse and the Equinox in the Chevy lineup. It goes up against other two-row SUVs like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Edge and the new Honda Passport.
Chevrolet says the most important feature of three-row SUVs like its Traverse is seating capacity. That’s the reason people pick that car. But for two-row SUVs like the Blazer — which is not much smaller — it is design and styling.
The Blazer looks cool. It’s Camaro-esque. Chevy says it has a “toned, athletic appearance,” which goes a little far but isn’t that far off. It is a bit of a looker, inside and out. It has perhaps the nicest interior of any of the modern Chevy SUVs and trucks.
The sporty RS model is particularly good looking, with blacked out badging for the Chevrolet bow tie and the Blazer lettering, as well as fantastic red trim inside the car.
There are a pair of engines available, starting with a slightly-wimpy four-cylinder or a 3.6L V6 with a lot more oomph. AWD is optional, and the Blazer can tow a max of 4,500 pounds if you opt for the V6.
It drives well too. During some spirited driving on twisty backroads around San Diego, the Blazer was planted and surefooted, one of the better Chevy SUVs in that department.
And then we come to the price. See, the Blazer is a bit… expensive. A Chevy dealership friend of mine agreed, telling me that it’s $5,000 too much. “I lost my mind when my first vehicle got invoiced and I saw the price. They’re shooting for the stars.”
It starts at $30,000 for the four-cylinder, but that engine is probably too weak for the price. By the time you get into the V6, especially with all the nice tech that Blazer buyers will want, you’re well into the high $30s, and then into the $40s for the RS and Premier models.
You’re getting into Volvo XC60 territory for that money. Yeah, the RS and Premier are well-equipped, but the competition in this segment is fierce and Chevy definitely won’t be the best value proposition here. But perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Because here’s where we come back to the emotional decision of buying a car. There are going to be a lot of folks who walk into their Chevy dealer planning to buy a Traverse or Equinox and then absolutely fall in love with the look of the Blazer.
It won’t be the car I recommend, but at the end of the day, folks will still be happy with it. And I’m ok with that too.