One year after the S-10 received a major redesign, Chevrolet revised the Blazer, its popular midsize SUV based on the same platform. At the same time, the manufacturer also removed the "S-10" from the nametag. (Everything about the Blazer applies to the GMC Jimmy.) Compared with its earlier incarnation, the new Blazer was wider, longer, and sleeker, but faced tough competition from the perennial favorite Ford Explorer and, by 1998, from the larger but similarly priced Dodge Durango. And that doesn't even take the hot-selling import sport/utes into account.
Nonetheless, the Blazer cut its own swath, thanks in part to a significant move upscale in terms of fit and finish. Initially offered in base and LS versions, a ritzier LT level could be had with the four-door. By 2000, the base model was gone and the fancier TrailBlazer trim level was added above the LT. (It's worth noting that the base models are often criticized for their cheap plastic interiors, while even the topline vehicles didn't reach Toyota-level fit and finish.) The 1997 Blazer received new front sheetmetal to more closely match the S-10 pickup's reworked exterior, which itself was intended to reduce the full-size-truck styling gap. Minor changes greeted the Blazer in the last few years of its life, as the four-door model was briefly sold alongside the all-new TrailBlazer through 2004. (Two-doors survived until 2005.)
Part-time four-wheel drive was offered initially, but an all-weather all-wheel-drive system was introduced late in 1995. Chevy also offered off-road versions with stiffer shocks, a wider track, and more ground clearance (ZR2); these are the vehicles you want if you contemplate serious bushwhacking--cushier models were clearly designed for less rugged on-road work.
Choosing an engine is easy: There's just one. Chevy picked up the 4.3-liter V-6 from the S-10 and affixed it to only one four-speed automatic in the first year of the new Blazer. In those days, it made 195 horsepower and an impressive 260 pound-feet of torque. For 1996, Chevy introduced the Vortec name to the engine, accompanied by a host of internal changes to improve efficiency and durability, at the cost of five horsepower and 10 pound-feet of torque. As the 1996 model year wound down, Chevy finally offered a manual transmission, only for the two-door. (Chevy correctly figured the typical midsize SUV buyer didn't want to row the lever.)
Overall, the Blazer has fared about as well as expected. Chevrolet had yet to make a big quality leap, and owners complain of cheap interior materials, creaks and rattles, and a variety of drivetrain maladies that include leaking transmissions and engines that knock at startup. There are many recalls on the early models; if you find one in good shape, make sure the recall issues have been addressed. Ongoing thoroughly documented maintenance seems to be the key to sifting the high-value Blazers from the clunkers.
Source: Pre Owned: 1995-2004 Chevrolet Blazer
By Marc Cook