EXPERT REVIEW

chicagotribune.com's view

Blazer revisited

When last we sat behind the wheel of the 1995 Chevrolet Blazer (Cartalk, July 17) after a preview in Wisconsin using pre-production models, we noted the automaker deserved kudos.

Now we’ve had an opportunity to spend some time with production model Blazers in Illinois and the feeling is the same, just about every trouble spot in previous models has been eliminated with the newly designed ’95.

The square body has been rounded so Blazer looks less truck-like.

The high-output 195-h.p. version of the 4.3-liter, V-6 that had been optional in the old model is standard in the new and makes for a quick start from the light or into the passing lane.

A driver-side air bag rests in the steering-wheel hub where you found only a horn before.

The center console sports dual cupholders, and we know how important that is.

You can activate 4WD simply by pushing a button in the dash, but if you opt for a transfer case with lever on the floor, there is a button you push to move the lever so you don’t have to fight the stick.

Seats are wider, less stiff and make for far more pleasant long-distance driving. The sideview mirrors are huge so you can easily see any vehicle approaching.

There’s now a choice of three suspensions-base, premium or touring. We recommend the premium for the best isolation from road noise and the most desirable cushioning over uneven pavement. The touring suspension reduces body lean and sway more than with the softer spring and shock settings on the premium system, but you’ll have to endure more bruising over the tar marks.

But most, not all, trouble spots have been taken care of. The gearshift lever is a roadblock to radio controls (lever redesign or radio controls in the steering wheel hub would help); the rounded body means that in or after a rain shower, the water rolls down the roof and onto your arm, shirt, pants when you open the window (a drip rail is needed); the high-output V-6 has a thirst for fuel (some weight needs to be shed-on the Blazer, that is); and the one air bag is still one shy of dual protection (which might not be offered until 1998). At least none of the ailments is insurmountable.

For those wondering, Chevy is preparing to offer a 5-speed Blazer by year’s end with the focus on off-roading and with wiring for those who want to add a phone. Chevy also is completing plans to offer a pass-key theft deterrent in the Blazer (a transistor imbedded in the key and another in the ignition must be mated for the vehicle to start), but not until after 1996.

>> 1995 Chevy Blazer LS 4-door 4WD. Wheelbase: 107 inches. Length: 181.2 inches. Engine: 4.3 liter, 195 h.p. V-6. Transmission: 4-speed automatic. Fuel economy: 16 m.p.g. city/21 m.p.g. highway. Base price: $25,714, which includes $485 freight charge. Price as tested: $27,068. Add $240 for power seats, which requires you also buy remote keyless entry for $135. Power door locks/mirrors/windows a $650 package. Add a CD player for $329. Pluses: Sportier styling, driver’s air bag and ABS standard as are such convenience features as air conditioning and automatic transmission, car like ride and handling, excellent power from high output V-6, convenience of pushbutton four wheel drive activation, full time four wheel drive coming soon. Minuses: That’s not world class fuel economy. No passenger-side air bag until perhaps 1998. >>

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