Why I Don’t Think Chevy’s Blazer EV Is Really A Blazer

On Monday, Chevrolet unveiled the 2023 Blazer EV. While it’s going to be a decent EV with good EV specs, and probably a good street vehicle, it’s not really a Blazer, and as a person who grew up riding and driving in Blazers, I will die on that hill.

Before I smash these sour grapes, I do want to be fair and explain what’s great about the vehicle (even if it shouldn’t have the Blazer nameplate).

Specifications Make For A Decent Street Vehicle, & Maybe Gravel, Light Off-Roading

Let’s start with the specifications everybody cares about: range and charging. A vehicle could be the coolest thing in the world, but if it isn’t practical and easy to use, people won’t want it.

The SS version of the Blazer EV can go up to 290 miles with its Ultium battery pack (the same kind of modular, adjustable pack that’s going to underpin all future GM EVs). If you don’t buy the performance model, you’ll get up to 320 miles of range.

Want to recharge on the road? GM included 190 kW (max) DC fast charging. The company claims you can add “78 miles of range in just 10 minutes,” which is pretty cool if you understand that adding that kind of range will only happen if you’re starting with a low state of charge and don’t charge it until it tapers (battery packs taper fast-charging speed down to protect the battery pack at higher percentages).

So, don’t expect 236 miles in 30 minutes. To go from 10-80% charge will probably require more like 40-45 minutes. Also, home charging supports up to 11.5 kW, giving you a good overnight charging time at home while you sleep, even with the large pack, if you came home on a low battery.

Another really cool thing about the Blazer EV is that it will come with three different drivetrain layouts. Want all-wheel drive? You can get power to all four wheels. Want a more traditional rear-drive experience? That’s going to be available (and cool). Want to be an idiot nerd and buy a front-wheel-drive SUV when you had other options? Well, let’s just say that GM won’t discriminate against your disability if you’re afflicted with a love of power only going to the front wheels. All three options will be available, even if you’re stupid and want the last one.

Infographic by General Motors

What about performance? That’s going to differ based on what package you get. An all-wheel-drive SS package will have 557 ponies and 648 pound-feet available in its “WOW Mode,” which stands for “Wide Open Watts.” The all-important zero-to-sixty time is “under four seconds,” which isn’t Plaid territory, but it’s respectable and more than most cars can do. The SS will also have large Brembo brakes (on top of strong regenerative braking) to bring all of that power to a safe stop.

Of course, the lower option packages won’t be that fast, but not everyone wants, needs, or can afford all that. Expect less power and a longer 0-60 in the rear-drive models, and expect even less power and downright awful times in the front-drive version (because front-drive struggles to get traction in a hard launch — weight shifts to the rear wheels). But, expect the best efficiency at low prices in that econo-box 1LT front-drive version (even if that gives you Bolt EV range).

Here are the full details from GM on the different Blazer EV options packages:

Blazer EV infographic with a chart of the features on the 1LT, 2LT, RS and SS trims. Preproduction model shown. Actual production model may vary. 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV available Spring 2023.

There’s a lot more to tell about the Blazer (especially gadgets and gizmos, and a police version of the vehicle coming out), but one of the other writers here will be covering the official unveiling, and I’ll leave it to their article to give deeper details. I only wanted to be fair here and show that it’s going to be a decent vehicle in most respects.

So, don’t get me wrong. The Blazer EV isn’t a bad vehicle. It’s just not a Blazer.

Why I Don’t Think The Blazer Nameplate Belongs On This Vehicle, & GM Missed A Big Opportunity

As I said in the beginning of the article, I rode in Blazers as a kid. My dad had a K5 Blazer (based on the half-ton truck platform, and did some fun off-roading in it. My grandparents had a 1988 S-10 Blazer (a smaller one, also built on a truck platform) that we went on some fun adventures with. Later, as an adult, I had a 2006 rear-drive Trailblazer that I bought used that a utility company had put a small lift on. I took that vehicle all kinds of places that 2WD vehicles aren’t supposed to go (and got it good and stuck a few times).

So, as you can probably guess, I associate the Blazer nameplate (and its derivatives) with off-roading and outdoor fun, not high-performance city driving. Some people don’t, as Blazers (especially the S-10 platform versions) were often turned into lowriders, and GM made crazy street-oriented versions like the GMC Typhoon. For the last generation of rear-drive Trailblazers, there was a street-oriented version with a 6.0L V8. So, there’s a history of street performance-oriented models, but it doesn’t run as deep.

Originally, the Blazer was a competitor to Ford’s Bronco, another off-road icon, going back as far as the late 1960s. But, Ford didn’t ever take the Bronco in a more street-oriented direction the way GM did in the early 90s and now with the newest versions of the Blazer and Trailblazer.

Image by Jennifer Sensiba.

Instead, Ford decided to do the opposite, and build some nice off-road oriented vehicles. I once had an opportunity to even test some near Austin, Texas at the Bronco Off-Roadeo. I keep asking Ford about electric versions, and while they haven’t given a definite “Yes,” they also haven’t given me a solid “No,” so I suspect we’re going to see a serious electric off-road vehicle from Ford with the Bronco nameplate (and hopefully a lot in common with the Bronco like the F-150 Lightning).

GM had the opportunity to do that, and even flirted with the idea a couple years ago.

While obviously not meant for production, GM had a 1977 K5 Blazer (like the one I rode in as a kid) converted to electric power using Chevy Bolt parts (the e-Crate) that it displayed at an auto show.

If GM had gone more this direction with the Blazer nameplate and kept the street-oriented EVs under a related nameplate, like the TrailBlazer, it would have made a lot more sense. All I’m seeing here is a lost opportunity to create an enthusiast vehicle the way Ford did and is likely to eventually electrify with serious off-road capability. GM will eventually regret this decision when the Blazer nameplate becomes a lame street-and-gravel crossover in the public eye instead of the off-road beast it used to be.

Featured image and other Blazer images/infographics provided by GM.


 

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