The year is 1978. In the heat of the Midwest summer, you’re heading down a country road to the lake with a few friends, small fishing boat in tow, ice chest packed with sandwiches and cold drinks and Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting through the radio. The dirt road is unmaintained, littered with potholes, rain washes, fallen logs and deep mud, but none of that even begins to have you worried, because you’re sitting behind the wheel of a brand new Chevy K5 Blazer. 350 cubic inches of raw American V8 power rumbles under your foot as the wind rushes past your hair through the removed fiberglass hardtop. A Dana 44 solid axle sits under the front end, locked in 4WD, keeping you moving through the rough terrain. All is well in the world.

Fast-forward 40 years to yesterday’s unveiling of the 2020 Chevy Blazer. This is the first new rendition of the iconic 4×4 in 27 years, and with Ford only teasing the reveal of the 2020 Bronco, surely GM has the higher ground by unveiling the Blazer first. The reveal cover slides off, and there’s a moment’s hesitation. Something is horribly wrong. If you found yourself saying, “Wait, what?”, you’re definitely not alone.

Not Like the Classic
The robust and capable image of the once revered Blazer (and even its successor, the S10) is nowhere to be found in the 2020 Blazer. In fact, it’s much more akin to Chevrolet’s other crossover SUVs, the Traverse and Equinox. The sleek body lines resemble a mix of the new Jeep Cherokee, a Mazda CX-5 and a Lexus RX, capped with a Camaro front end. GM calls it “the boldest, most progressive expression of the Chevrolet crossover design theme,” and they’re not wrong. Except it wasn’t supposed to be a crossover.

For a New Era
Now obviously, the automotive world has been moving towards crossovers for years, with some companies like Ford reducing their sedan and compact lineups to only two models, while focusing heavily on SUVs and trucks. Consumer demand is moving car manufacturers toward fuel-efficient, spacious and luxurious vehicles, and the crossover design can deliver on all points. However, with three existing CUV models, the Trax, Equinox and Traverse, we hoped Chevy’s Blazer comeback would be in the form of an off-road capable SUV, with retro looks, ready to compete with whatever Ford has up their sleeve for the 2020 Bronco.

Respectable Specs
As far as the specs go, the 2020 Blazer seems like a good bet for anyone looking for a hot new crossover. Standard 2.5L inline-4 and available 3.6L V6 engines with 193hp and 305hp, respectively, paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission give it some appeal, especially if you opt for the available all-wheel drive system. GM gives it 4,500 pounds of towing capacity, and a “Hitch View feature that helps the driver align the hitch with the trailer.” The interior reciprocates the bold lines of the body, with driver-oriented controls and an extensive list of available creature comforts you’d find on most top-of-the-line crossovers.

A Good Crossover
If you look at the 2020 Blazer from the perspective of GM coming out with an edgy new crossover to add to their SUV-heavy lineup, then it looks pretty appealing. It’s more appealing than their other three models, with performance and luxury to boot. It’s also a perfect car for many out there who don’t need off-road capability, but simply need a comfortable, sporty-looking daily driver that can carry five passengers and still have usable cargo space.

Abandoning 4×4 Roots
If you’re off-road fan, or enjoy classic Chevy trucks, you have to scratch your head and wonder why GM put the Blazer badge on it. Would the name incite nostalgia within consumers and drive them to the showroom for a test drive? Or is this ushering in a new standard for all SUVs that once held real chops for the outdoors, forever changing the dynamic how we use our vehicles? Whatever your take may be on the 2020 Blazer, one thing is clear: Chevy has no interest in locking horns with Ford on the off-road SUV stage.

At the end of the day, you can still drive the 2020 Blazer down a dirt road with your friends, playing “Free Bird” off your smartphone’s Bluetooth, towing a small fishing boat, with an ice chest in the trunk, wind blowing through your hair from the panoramic sunroofs. But it just isn’t the same…

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