What's New for 1999
Blazer gets automatic transmission improvements, new exterior colors and larger outside mirrors, while four-wheel-drive versions can be equipped with GM's AutoTrac active transfer case. Inside, there are new power-seating features, upgraded sound system options and available redundant radio controls in the steering wheel. On the safety side, the '99 Blazer now offers a vehicle content theft alarm, flash-to-pass headlamp feature and a liftgate ajar warning lamp. What's more, a new TrailBlazer trim package is available on four-door versions, featuring monochrome paint with gold accents, unique aluminum wheels, touring suspension and leather-lined interior.
Back in 1982, Chevrolet rolled out the S-10 Blazer, the first modern compact sport-utility vehicle. Seventeen years later, the Blazer remains a strong seller in one of the hottest automotive markets. Take only one good look and it's easy to see why the Blazer has such lasting appeal.
Powered by a stout 4.3-liter, 190-horsepower V6 and available with several suspension choices, the Blazer can be tailored to specific needs, as either two-wheel or four-wheel drive, with two doors or four. The four-door is the most popular by far, easily the model of choice with families on the go. There are accommodations for as many as six passengers in the bigger Blazer, if they don't mind squeezing. There's lots of cargo space too, with the spare tire mounted underneath the cargo floor on four-door models. Chevy claims that with the rear seat folded, a washing machine box will fit into the cargo bay. We actually tried it with a test vehicle, and they aren't fibbing. Sadly, the Blazer's interior is marred by acres of chintzy plastic and precious little rear foot room in front of a rather low and mushy seat. Adult rear-seat riders are likely to complain loudly.
Off road is not where the Blazer shines brightest, despite the availability of a ZR2 super-duty suspension package. Offered only on two-door 4WD models, the ZR2 Blazer has a special chassis with a four-inch wider track, huge 31-inch tires, specially tuned Bilstein 46mm shocks, drivetrain refinements, an underbody shield package and LS trim. Regular Blazers are capable enough for two-track dirt, but serious off-road adventures would be better handled by something with a little more wheel travel. It's not a major shortcoming, being that most families don't spend much time off road (if any) in their sport-utes.
On the other hand, as a road-going hauler the Blazer is quite capable. All 4x4 models come standard with GM's Insta-Trac shift-on-the-fly 4WD system, or can be equipped with the new for '99 AutoTrac pushbutton electronic transfer case. AutoTrac automatically senses wheel slippage and sends power to the axle with the most traction, which makes those old full-time all-wheel-drive systems obsolete. This setup takes the guesswork out of sure-footed travel over wet or snowy pavement.
GM's PassLock anti-theft system, automatic headlight control and four-wheel disc brakes are all standard. Heated exterior mirrors and an electrochromic rearview mirror are standard on LT models, and optional on the LS. Three new colors debut: Victory Red, Sunset Gold and Meadow Green Metallic.
For 1999, Chevrolet has added power-seat enhancements, sound system upgrades with optional steering wheel radio controls and CD changer. There's also a new headlamp flash-to-pass feature, a liftgate ajar warning lamp and a vehicle content theft deterrent system on Blazers equipped with remote keyless entry. An all-new model, the TrailBlazer, is based on a four-door LT and then adds a monochrome exterior theme with gold accents, special alloy wheels, the Z85 Touring Suspension and two-tone leather-trimmed interior.
When the current Blazer debuted for the 1995 model year, it won the North American Truck of the Year award. Smart styling, a powerful drivetrain and reasonable pricing made it an instant hit. Lately, however, the competition has again raised the bar on the Blazer. The segment-leading Ford Explorer finally got a new V6 in 1997 that is more refined and powerful than the Blazer's V6, and it's sister, the Mercury Mountaineer, has an available V8. That same year, Jeep updated the Cherokee, offering nearly as much interior space as the Blazer and 4WD for around $20,000. For 1998, the Dodge Durango came to market as an instant success, and Jeep has now gone back and redesigned its Grand Cherokee for '99. Simply put, with all the new product in the compact-SUV world, this Chevy isn't the value it used to be.