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New Car/Review

1997 Chevrolet Blazer

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:  4.3-liter Vortec V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 190 hp @ 4,400 rpm/250 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:  17 mpg city,  22 mpg highway,  16.8 mpg test
WHEELBASE:  100.5 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:  181.2 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:  67.8 in.
CURB WEIGHT:  3,685 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:  18.0  gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  37.3/74.1 cu. ft. (rear seat up/down)
TIRES:   P205/75R15
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature,
             oil pressure, battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control,
           air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with CD, anti-lock braking,
           dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE: $24,500 (est.)

Chevrolet Blazer has been around for so long that it has become the standard by which all sport utilities are measured.

The Blazer is what you might call a mid-sized SUV. It's not too big or too small. Goldilocks would like the Blazer. In the GM spectrum it lies between the Suzuki-based Geo (soon-to-be-Chevrolet) , the larger Tahoe, and the largest Suburban. GM has an enviable line of sport utes, one that any other manufacturer would love to emulate.

Blazer is powered by a 4.3-liter Vortec V-6 engine that drives the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic gearbox. Our tester was so equipped, which is the first time I've had the experience of driving a two-wheel-drive Blazer. Obviously, four-wheel drive is also available as is a five-speed manual gearbox.

The engine is rated at 190 horsepower, but there's a whopping 250 ft. lbs. of torque available for towing and trailering. This is enough power for the Blazer, even though it weighs nearly two tons. It's a heavy truck and is solidly built, and yet it's still fairly nimble.

Our tester had a unique black-over-bronze paint job (I'm certain that's not the names of the paints) that was very attractive. Inside, we had the standard tan interior. Instrumentation was complete as were most of the accessories. We had an AM/FM stereo sound system with a CD and not a cassette, as well as full power accessories.

As I said, the Blazer was a comfortable vehicle to ride and drive in. It offered us a good amount of carrying capacity in the back. As built, it is designed for up to five passengers, but you can fold down the split rear seat. It is split 2/3-1/3, so you can carry two passengers and skis, for example, or one passenger and a snow board, or no passengers and a lot of stuff. Chevrolet claims 37 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seat up and 74 cubic feet with the seat down. That's impressive.

Blazer can be used as a people hauler as well as a family hauler, replacing the old station wagon. It can also be used as a cargo hauler, if you need a truck. But this one was far too pretty to be considered a covered pickup.

The seats did not offer a lot of side support, and with the slippery seats, we were grateful for the shoulder belt that kept us in one place. I would have liked a little more side support, especially around the kidney area when I tried hard cornering. And we could corner fairly aggressively with the Blazer, which is unique for this class of vehicle. Even though it's on a truck chassis, it has decent car-like handling.

Our fuel economy wasn't great, but again we were driving a heavy vehicle and I tend to drive it in a more spirited manner than the average driver. I guess that's worth a mile a gallon or more. But the Blazer was willing to take that kind of driving in all kinds of weather. It was fun as well as utilitarian.

The SUV market has exploded considerably, as you've undoubtedly noticed over the past few years. Blazer has been a good constant. It has gone through a redesign and shrank from its original size, which is now called the Tahoe, to its more compact size. As a more compact vehicle it has proven to be popular. We can understand why and we'll probably continue to use the Blazer as our standard when we test sport utilities.