The 2019 Chevy Blazer Won’t Be an Off-Road Beast, and That’s Fine

Chevrolet recently unveiled a new crossover slotted between the Equinox, which got smaller with the newest generation, and the Traverse, which got bigger. It’s actually a pretty slick midsize crossover with some styling cues borrowed from the Camaro, making it one of the least boring-looking new SUVs on the market. I might even go so far as to say it looks cool.

However, there’s one thing about this cool new crossover that is upsetting many car enthusiasts, specifically off-road SUV enthusiasts. It’s the name. This new crossover I’m talking about marks the return of the Chevy Blazer name after being on hiatus since the S-10 Blazer was discontinued in 2005.

When the new Blazer hits the market in early 2019, it will be the first unibody, front-wheel drive Blazer since the name was introduced way back in 1969. The 2019 Chevy Blazer will be available with all-wheel drive just like every other crossover in this segment, but the only reason that option will be available is to make Midwestern commuters feel better about driving it in the winter. It won’t be intended for any serious off-roading.

And you know what? That’s fine. It’s fine that the new Blazer won’t be just like the old-school, two-door, four-wheel drive Bronco competitor that many off-road enthusiasts love. It’s fine that it’s going to be used as a family car instead of overlanding — because, I hate to break it to you, that’s exactly what the S-10 Blazer was to almost all of its drivers. The Blazer has been a family car since the 1990s, and this new Blazer shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

The evolution of the Chevy Blazer is no different than the evolution of the Ford Explorer. I don’t remember any wailing or gnashing of teeth when the Ford Explorer made the big switch to a unibody/FWD layout back in 2011. Sales of the body-on-frame Explorer were sagging, and Ford turned it into what most Americans want to drive — and it more than doubled the Explorer’s sales from 2010 to 2011. Granted, the Explorer doesn’t have the same off-road legacy as the Blazer, but the Blazer and the Explorer were direct competitors in the 1990s — and it looks like they will be again as we head into the next decade.

The Ford Bronco is also coming back, and it’s going to be a serious off-roader to go against the Jeep Wrangler — and that’s something off-road enthusiasts are very excited about, as they should be. With the previously rumored return of the Blazer, did anyone really think it was going to be just like the old K5 Blazer? Personally, I was surprised when Ford gave us our first glimpse at the boxy new Bronco and very not-surprised when Chevy confirmed that the Blazer was coming back as a family-hauling crossover.

Here’s another thing you need to ask yourself if you’re surprised by this decision: If the Chevy Blazer came back and it was the 2019 K5 of your dreams, would you actually buy it? Would you stroll into a Chevy dealer and plop down $30,000 or more for a big, boxy, 4WD monster with two doors?

My guess is that most people who are upset about the new Blazer wouldn’t. In fact, it will be interesting to see how well the new Ford Bronco actually sells — because I have a feeling it won’t be able to match the sales of the Jeep Wrangler, and I suspect it also won’t come close to the sales numbers of the new Blazer. Every SUV that tries to compete with the Wrangler ends in failure — the Nissan Xterra, the Suzuki Sidekick, the Toyota FJ Cruiser — so Ford better hope that the "Bronco" name carries half as much loyalty as "Wrangler." Chevy is betting that "Blazer" doesn’t in the off-road world — and Chevy is probably right.

So I’m sorry, off-roaders of Oversteer. You really shouldn’t be surprised about what the Chevy Blazer has become, as it’s very easy to see why Chevy is taking the Blazer in the direction that it is. When most Americans think of the Chevy Blazer, they think of the car they drove or their parents drove in the 1990s or the 2000s, or even today — and it’s remembered by most as a good SUV that has never left the pavement.

It’s a good name with a lot of recognition that Chevy has in its arsenal, and I think resurrecting the name is using it wisely from a business perspective. Also, I don’t need to tell you that this thing is going to make a ton of money. And who knows? Maybe it will do so well that it will prompt Chevy to join Ford in taking the fight to Jeep with the proper off-roader that you people crave.

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