Mid-size five-seat crossovers are a huge segment, and Chevy wants yours to plug in—next year.
Chevrolet, it seems, doesn’t want to scare potential shoppers by offering up electric vehicles that stress too heavily the fact they’re … well, different. An advance preview of the upcoming 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV suggested it’s very much a Chevy first and an EV second. In practice, that means a long and capacious cabin for its segment, but also a long and prominent nose, only average frontward visibility, and no front trunk.
Still, from the driver’s seat, the Blazer EV has impressive, rich-feeling infographics and touchscreen displays. The hard black plastic in the rear compartment of the hand-built Blazer SS prototype we saw felt downmarket, but we’ll wait to see a production version before we make that judgment. Chevy knows volume SUVs, though, so its first mass-market electric utility will likely have features and options carefully packaged to reflect what its gasoline SUV buyers choose.
Maximum EPA-rated range is expected to be up to 320 miles for at least one model (likely a 2WD version), and Chevy will offer no fewer than three battery sizes. At a press preview, executives said only that various Blazer EV models would offer “small, medium, and large” battery sizes. They declined to discuss numbers, though informed speculation suggests they will use 8, 10, or 12 Ultium modules—giving capacities of roughly 68, 85, and 100 kilowatt-hours.
The electric Blazer will be offered in four trim levels, whose designations—1LT, 2LT, RS, and SS—will be familiar to most Chevy buyers. The two middle trims will ship first, in summer 2023, with the SS arriving “later” that year, wrapping up with the entry-level 1LT and a police-pursuit version by March 2024. Base prices will be “around” $44,995 (1LT), $47,595 (2LT), $51,995 (RS), and $65,995. All prices include the mandatory delivery fee. Chevy says it will guarantee those prices for a limited number of Blazer EV customers who make early reservations. It will be built in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, in the plant that now assembles the gasoline Blazer.
Heart of the market: midsize SUV
The 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV is the first electric Chevy aimed at the heart of the North American market: crossover utility vehicles. The electric Blazer sits squarely in the five-seat mid-size crossover segment, and will apparently sell side-by-side with the current Blazer, introduced in North America and China as a 2019 model. The Blazer EV is larger than the upcoming Equinox EV—we’ll learn more about that compact SUV in September—but it lacks the third row of a Chevy Traverse or Toyota Highlander. Its closest GM counterpart is the luxury Cadillac Lyriq.
With prices starting at $45,000—less than the $48,000 average transaction price for all new vehicles sold in June—the electric Blazer undercuts the luxury Lyriq by $17,000. All four of its trim levels will be available “within a year” from first deliveries, pledged GM execs at an advance press preview, unlike the Hummer EV—whose depositors may have to wait two years after first deliveries before they can obtain base versions.
The Blazer EV isn’t a small vehicle, but it’s lower and less blocky than a traditional SUV. Its tailgate is heavily raked, though visually that’s camouflaged by a long, black-painted air deflector trailing from the back edge of its roof. The rear doors especially are long, with the back wheels pushed further to the rear than in comparable gasoline SUV designs. Chevy’s designers call the SUV’s overall look “athletic.”
Front fenders have extractor vents in them, and the tall nose is surprisingly long for a vehicle with only an electric motor, some power electronics, and various heating and air-conditioning gear under it. That gives the car traditional proportions, with the drawbacks of only average forward road visibility. Nor is there a front trunk. The powered charge-port door is in the left-front fender, closest to the driver, and the light signature across the front of some models (what we used to call headlights and light bars) displays the progress of charging when it’s plugged in.
Inside, the focus is on the 17.7-inch touchscreen display, and the bright, clear, crisp graphics on its glossy screen. Chevy hasn’t gone all Tesla on the dash, though: hard knobs remain for cabin temperature, radio volume, and the like. No fewer than five large air vents are styled like turbine ducts (though in the prototypes we saw, that patterning was printed on shiny plastic, not tactile). They vaguely echoed those in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class in size and placement.
Front seats were comfortable, and the rear seat offers substantial legroom for three. The rear-seat floor is also flat, making the occasional center passenger more comfortable than vehicles with a driveshaft tunnel in the floor. The space between the front seats is entirely filled with a tall console. It’s large enough to hold an actual transmission, but it’s a long, deep storage bin instead.
Performance to WOW you
Along with being GM’s first mass-priced Ultium EV, there’s another first: The Chevrolet Blazer EV is the first-ever Chevy, gasoline or electric, to be offered with a choice of front- or rear-wheel drive as well as all-wheel drive. So far, dedicated EV platforms seem to split 50-50 between front- and rear-wheel-drive setups, but Chevy offers both—though brand executives acknowledged they’re still sorting out how to market the differing advantages of front- versus rear-wheel drive for (non-AWD) versions of the LT2, the only trim level that will offer both.
The different drive configurations are likely to be offered with different battery capacities, meaning a variety of ranges. Chevy said all capacities will share the same housing, though, so lower range doesn’t offer more legroom or any other feature occupants would notice.
Chevy didn’t provide specifications, but for the high-performance SS model, it estimated power of up to 410 kilowatts (557 horsepower) and 648 pound-feet of torque. As per GM’s habit, the fastest acceleration is achieved through a special drive mode with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink name. In this case, it’s WOW, for Wide Open Watts, giving the Blazer EV SS a projected time from 0 to 60 mph of less than 4 seconds.
The onboard charging module accepts up to 11.5 kilowatts (from homes with suitably powerful charging stations), while GM says the Blazer EV can charge at up to 190 kilowatts at CCS DC fast-charging stations that can deliver that rate. Under optimal circumstances, with a largely depleted battery, the car can add up to 78 miles in 10 minutes of charging. Many asterisks apply to that claim, of course.
The Blazer EV will include the latest iteration of GM’s SuperCruise hands-free assisted driving technology. Its software architecture will allow additional features to be added—and paid for—over the air.
If at first you don’t succeed …
It’s been nine years since GM reportedly convened a board panel to assess whether Tesla, represented a threat to the company. The first successful U.S. auto company since 1924 started by entrepreneurs had managed to get its Model S into production, and luxury buyers were walking away from Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes-Benzes—also Toyota Priuses—to snap them up. The Tesla was good-looking, it was fast, it was sexy, and it just happened to be electric. Plus, as buyers learned, it had its own rock-solid fast-charging network to allow long-distance travel. (GM still doesn’t have one of those, but that’s a different article.)
EV advocates and analysts can be justifiably skeptical of GM’s latest plan for electric vehicles. While $30 billion of capital investment, including an ultimate total of five battery cell plants, is nothing to sneeze at, GM has to prove its EV plans are serious by actually building and selling the cars across its four remaining brands, none of which is known for being tech-forward or trendy.
Consider the history to date. First came the 2011 Chevrolet Volt—a snug five-door compact hatchback that buyers loved but consumers and salespeople struggled to grasp. Then, for 2017, came the current Chevy Bolt EV, the first 200-mile EV that wasn’t a Tesla. As an upright, practical but nerdy compact hatchback, it also lacked that brand’s glamour.
After a very long wait that has spanned more than two years and one global pandemic, the evidence of GM’s commitment to EVs in multiple segments from all of its brands is starting to emerge. The company’s March 2020 “EV Day” presentation introduced the Ultium battery and module platforms, and showed reporters and analysts a dozen models it intended to put into production. GM has big plans for multiple models, all based on the Ultium cell and platform technology. A handful of those vehicles are now on the road in small numbers.
The first new electric Chevy announced was the Silverado EV pickup truck, an electric reboot of the 2002-2013 four-door Avalanche pickup, whose “Mid-Gate” allowed longer cargo to be carried in its short bed. (Don’t ask GM officials why they didn’t call the electric Silverado the ‘EValanche’; they will glare at you.) Now the Blazer EV and its upcoming, smaller Equinox EV sibling are meant to boost those volumes significantly.
The Blazer EV is the first mass-priced EV built on GM’s Ultium platform, which has spawned the GMC Hummer EV and the Lyriq so far, along with two BrightDrop electric commercial vans. All of those are now being delivered in very low numbers, with higher volumes depending on reliable production of lithium-ion cells from the GM-LG Energy Solutions joint-venture plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Those cells are scheduled to start emerging in the second half of this year.
Can they do it? While GM will likely dribble out news, carefully staged publicity events, and a slew of marketing, we’ll likely have to wait until early 2023 to drive a Blazer EV. And we suspect Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and of course Tesla may have their own news before then as well.
While it’s a tired trope for a writer to end a story with “Stay tuned,” in the case of the Blazer EV, that’s the only possible advice.
Chevrolet provided airfare and ground transport to enable Charged EVs to bring you this first-person drive report.
Source: Charged EVs