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The Chevrolet Blazer was one of the most popular SUVs for five consecutive decades, though its name was shared by two completely unrelated model lines. Chevrolet first started affixing the "K5 Blazer" designation to two-door convertible SUV versions of its big trucks starting in 1969.
Today, most of the old-school K5 Blazers have long since rusted away or have otherwise been reclaimed by off-roading enthusiasts. Chevy continued to produce full-size, two-door Blazers through 1994, after which it rechristened these vehicles with the now-current Tahoe name.
In the early 1980s, however, Chevrolet started to call another one of its products the Blazer. And in actuality, the other Chevy Blazer -- the "S-10 Blazer" -- is the one consumers are most likely to come across in the used-car market due to its greater popularity and more recent place in history.
Born as a variant of Chevrolet's S-10 compact pickup in 1983, this S-10 Blazer was a pioneer of the modern small-SUV segment. Though initially limited in terms of body styles and often underpowered, it did eventually receive four doors and better engines. A redesigned second-generation model (without the S-10 moniker) arrived in 1995 with improvements in performance, styling and interior room.
As an inexpensive choice for a small or midsize SUV, a second-generation Chevy Blazer might be worth a look. However, compared to other vehicles of the time, this Blazer was let down by average driving dynamics, middling comfort and poor crash test scores.
Most Recent Chevrolet Blazer
The second-generation Chevrolet Blazer was produced from 1995 to 2005. In terms of size, it was bigger than its predecessor but smaller than competing midsize SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The two-door version was sold throughout the model run, but the four-door was discontinued after 2004, with fleet sales continuing through '05. If you encounter an '05 four-door Blazer on the used market, chances are it used to be a rental car. (Consumers should note that four-door Blazers from this era are unrelated to the superseding TrailBlazer that arrived for '02.)
The second-gen Chevy Blazer's mechanicals were largely consistent throughout its lifetime. Under the hood was a 4.3-liter V6 producing 190 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. It was typically connected to a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic, though a five-speed manual transmission was available on two-door models. Rear-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive were offered.
The Blazer initially came in three trim lines: base, LS and LT. The base model started with little more than a radio, air-conditioning and antilock brakes, but the LS added the features most consumers expected: power windows and locks, a tilt steering wheel, a folding rear seat and cruise control. The luxurious four-door-only LT upgraded to leather upholstery, a power driver seat, a more deluxe stereo and an overhead console. A "TrailBlazer" trim line with two-tone leather and unique styling became the new range-topper in 1999. Chevrolet realigned the trim levels in 2000, dropping the base model and de-contenting the LT (leather seats became optional). In model year 2001 the Blazer Xtreme arrived. This 2WD, two-door model had a low-riding sport suspension, deep-dish wheels, a monochromatic exterior and tinted windows.
In our initial reviews of the Chevrolet Blazer, we found it quick (thanks to its robust V6), fun to drive around town, comfortable to ride in and decently capable off-road. However, as better competitors emerged, the Blazer's handling seemed sloppy and vague and its turning circle wide. We also found that rear-seat comfort was lacking due to a low bench and inadequate foot room. Other faults included spotty build quality and low-grade interior plastics.
Of the few changes to affect the Chevy Blazer during its long life, the most crucial came in 1998 when it gained revised inner and outer styling, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a passenger-side front airbag. The addition of a second airbag is especially important in light of the Blazer's very poor NHTSA one-star frontal crash test score for the passenger in prior years. After the revision, the score jumped to four. Another major change came for the 1999 model year when Chevrolet introduced a new AutoTrac four-wheel-drive system that could automatically sense wheel slippage and send power to the axle with the most traction.
Past Chevrolet Blazer models
The original Chevrolet S-10 Blazer was produced from 1983 to 1994. Through much of the 1980s, it relied on a variety of four-cylinder and V6 engines, all with meager outputs. The S-10 Blazer's first big improvement came in 1988 when it gained an optional 4.3-liter V6 with 160 hp. That V6 finally became standard in 1990.
The Chevrolet S-10 Blazer's second major improvement came in 1991 when Chevy introduced a four-door version based on a slightly longer body. This certainly helped improve the vehicle's appeal, as did an optional "Enhanced" version of the V6 engine that brought horsepower to 200.
Though popular, the S-10 Blazer was increasingly outclassed as the 1990s came about. In particular, the Blazer's sloppy handling, harsh ride, cramped backseat and poorly designed controls made it look crude compared to newer designs like the the Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Nissan Pathfinder of the time.
As for the full-size Chevrolet Blazer, the best models from the early '90s to look at would be those built from 1992 to 1994. These redesigned models were built using GM's then-new full-size truck platform. A 200-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 powered nearly all Blazers of this generation, though a 6.5-liter turbodiesel V8 with 180 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque was optional for '94. Four-wheel drive was standard across the board. In 1995, Chevy changed this model's name to Tahoe and introduced a four-door body, which in short time proved to be far more popular than the two-door.
For more on past Chevrolet Blazer models, view our Chevrolet Blazer history page.