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The Blazer is back, and this time it’s blazing a stylish, urban trail.

Chevy on Thursday introduced the return of the Blazer to its lineup 14 years after it disappeared from the brand’s portfolio. The Blazer has been reincarnated for 2019 – not as the rugged, truck-based box of yore, but as a fashionable two-row, car-like utility vehicle to take on the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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The mid-size Blazer slots between the compact two-row Equinox and family-sized three-row Traverse in Chevy’s full-line SUV offerings.

The new Blazer wears the family’s familiar bow-tie and split grille up front, but then explores a bold design path with fashionable touches like low headlights, a “floating roof,” sporty interior cribbed from cousin Camaro, and a cargo management system.

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“For the two-row midsize SUV segment, a top reason for purchase is exterior design,” says Blazer exterior design chief Mike Pevovar. “This gave us an opportunity to design something with a lot of form and new, sleek proportions."

The new Blazer is a long way from the pickup-based dirt-kicker that sold in the U.S. until 2005 (a truck-based SUV variant, the Trailblazer, is still sold in some international markets).

Rather than borrow the Colorado midsize pickup truck’s ladder frame, the Blazer shares its bones with the Cadillac XT5 and GMC Acadia on GM’s lightweight, unibody CY1 platform. The chassis has received solid reviews from enthusiast publications for its nimble handling, and the Blazer looks poised to take advantage.

Breaking from Chevy tradition, the Blazer will not offer the usual L, LT and LS trims,  but will debut as a base model simply named “Blazer” – then offer upscale RS and Premier trims.

The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. A brawny 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 also is available.

That’s more power than all competitors but the 315-horse Ford Edge, though the Edge and Grand Cherokee also offer higher-horsepower performance variants including Jeep’s insane 707-horsepower Trackhawk.

Both Blazer engines are paired to Chevrolet’s nine-speed automatic transmission.  The new SUVs come equipped with a “Select Track” terrain-mode selector. The sporty RS and Premiere trims get GM’s twin-clutch, torque-vectoring, all-wheel drive system for better traction.

Chevy showed off the RS trim to The Detroit News at the GM Design Center in Warren,  where it cut a striking figure in red with black trim and 21-inch black wheels.

Breaking with Chevy tradition, the Blazer separates its LED running lights and headlamps – integrating the headlights with the fog lamps down low next to the grille. That means the running lights are integrated into the upper grille where the headlights usually sit in models like the Equinox.

Unlike the polarizing 2013 Jeep Cherokee which separated running lamps, headlamps and foglights into three shelves, the Blazer’s low headlamp setup isn’t immediately apparent. There is a practical reason for the design, too.

“With more high-riding SUVs on the road, we are hearing complaints about LED headlight glare,” says Rick Spina, executive chief engineer for crossover SUVs. “So we placed the headlights lower in front without compromising design.”

In addition to its unique face, the Blazer is the first Chevy SUV to showcase a “floating roof” – a design touch popularized by Japanese makes like the Murano and also seen on the new Lexus RX. Chevy hopes these style points will attract empty-nesters who no longer need three-row SUVs for their children but still crave the utility of a mid-size ute.

Inside, the Blazer further cements its bold design as it borrows heavily from Camaro. Below a tablet-like, standard 8-inch touchscreen, the center console features big aviation-style air vents with rotating rings to control cabin temperature.

A brightly bezeled cockpit instrument display contains the driver instruments. The interior comes stuffed with familiar GM tech including standard 4G WiFi and smartphone app connectivity.

The second row offers plenty of legroom for three. With the rear seats down, the Blazer’s cargo space is small for the class at 64.2 cubic feet, but Chevy introduces its first cargo management system with rails and a cargo net to help order the space.

Chevy SUV marketing boss Steve Majoros says the Blazer “will be priced competitively within the midsize SUV segment.” Expect it to start around $30,000, with the Premier trim topping out north of $45,000 when the vehicle comes to market in early 2019.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

 

 

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