SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
The 1998 Chevrolet Blazer is as much a product of its time as the original compact "S" Blazer was when it was introduced back in 1983. The "S" Blazer was a 2-door, 4-wheel-drive workhorse. Reflecting the growth of the sport-utility field, today's Blazer is offered in considerably more varieties than the 1983 version. Both 2-door and 4-door body styles are offered with 2- or 4-wheel drive and a wide variety of trim levels and special option packages. A Blazer may be tailored to any compact sport-utility need from serious offroad to cushy luxury. Even the most basic level offers comfort far beyond that of 1983; luxury-level leather and all modern conveniences are available as well.
There are plenty of new features for the 1998 model year. On the outside, a new grille and headlights bring appearance closer to the big Chevys. There are numerous interior enhancements as well, with a new instrument panel and new seats leading the list. The powerful 4.3- liter V6 continues in the engine compartment, and new 4-wheel antilock disc brakes ensure safe, quick stopping.
This week's test vehicle is an example of the luxury end of the Blazer lineup. The 2-wheel drive LT trim level 4-door in my driveway is every bit the modern upscale small station wagon replacement. It's small enough outside to fit into the elusive urban parking spot, and large enough inside for the average family vacation. With plenty of convenient interior features and no shortage of power, it's a very comfortable, useful vehicle.
APPEARANCE: The 4-door Blazer's basic shape hasn't changed since the second generation debuted in 1995, but its styling details have. A typical two-box sport-utility, it is given handsome character by its combination of gently curved sides, corners, and edges and creased, slightly retro-looking hood. This year's new grille and headlights add to the Chevrolet look, being much like those of the full-sized C/K pickup and Tahoe and Suburban sport-utilities. Like a wagon from the past, chrome is not forgotten. The front bumper and highlights in the new black side cladding are so trimmed, although protective cladding covers much of the bumper.
COMFORT: Welcome to the good old family wagon, modern downsized edition. The LT trim level and options in my test Blazer made it comparable to a "near luxury" sedan in comfort and convenience, with as much seating room as a midsized sedan and far more versatility. Details like water bottle holders integrated into the front door pockets and a useful overhead console add convenience. The split folding rear seat is more than convenient. When folding the seat back forward, the headrest automatically folds back, the cushion moves down and forward, and a carpeted cover swings down for an instant flat, long storage area. The redesigned instrument panel presents all necessary information well, with readable gauges and large, well-marked buttons. The center portion, containing controls for the climate control and audio systems, is angled slightly toward the driver for easier use. Automatic transmission-equipped Blazers now have the shift lever mounted on the steering column, freeing space on the floor between the front seats for a new, larger console. Great fully- reclining, leather-faced front buckets are standard on the LT trim level. The driver's seat is power-adjustable. Rear passengers are not an afterthought - there is room for three, and outboard positions have door pockets and cupholders. Access to the cargo compartment is through a two-piece tailgate, with a side-mounted cargo shade.
SAFETY: All 1998 Chevy Blazer models have 4-wheel vented antilock disc brakes, front and rear crush zones and side door beams, dual lower-powered "Next Generation" air bags, and daytime running lights.
ROADABILITY: The 2-wheel drive Blazer LT is a fine modern rendition of the compact station wagon of old. The body-on-frame construction, front engine / rear-wheel drive configuration, with double A-arm independent suspension and a solid axle in the rear will be familiar to most owners from the wagons of their youth. But, thanks to careful suspension tuning, even though the Blazer has a soft ride, with little indication that is's a truck, it is well-controlled, stable, and very comfortable. Antilock vented disc brakes on all wheels stop very well.
PERFORMANCE: The "Vortec" 4300 V6 is the only engine offered for all Blazers. No handicap there. This 4.3-liter pushrod powerhouse has 190 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque to give the Blazer plenty of acceleration and passing ability on the street, climbing power off road, and a healthy 5500 lb. towing capacity. Although two-door models have a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions, the electronically-controlled automatic is the only transmission available on four-door Blazers. It's smooth and quiet, and a good match with the engine.
CONCLUSIONS: Interior and exterior upgrades and a full range of models make the Chevrolet Blazer a strong contender in the compact sport-utility class.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 23,188 Price As Tested $ 28,609 Engine Type 12-valve cast iron pushrod OHV V6 Engine Size 4.3 liters / 262 cu. in. Horsepower 190 @ 4400 Torque (lb-ft) 250 @ 2800 Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 107.0 in. / 183.3 in. Curb Weight 3685 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.4 Fuel Capacity 18 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires P235/70 SR15 Michelin XW4 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent double A-arm with coil springs / solid axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs Ground Clearance 7.6 in. Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 16 / 21 / 18 0 to 60 mph 9.0 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 17.0 sec Towing Capacity 5500 lbs. OPTIONS AND CHARGES Preferred Equipment Group 1SD - includes: LT trim: tilt steering & cruise control, power windows, mirrors, door locks, roof-mounted luggage carrier, AM/FM/cassette stereo, electric air conditioning, bucket seats with console Premium suspension package, P235/70R15 blackwall tires,Tachometer, foglamps, Homelink transmitter $ 5,529 Heavy-duty trailering equipment $ 210 Upscale AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo (replaces above) $ 200 Custom two-tone paint $ 197 CA / NY / MA / etc emissions $ 170 Preferred Equipment Group savings -($1,400) Destination charge $ 515