The Chevrolet Blazer is a talented, well-rounded crossover. The Camaro of SUVs, as we’ve dubbed it, has sporty looks and an aggressive demeanor—especially in sleek RS guise. We recently spent some time in the 2020 Blazer RS and came away impressed with its fresh interior and competence on the road, but we also think there’s room for a little bit more.
On the road, the Blazer RS felt like a willing partner and it was capable enough to handle whatever I threw at it—within reason, of course. I even thought it could handle a swoopy mountain pass if it really had to. Even though it doesn’t have the outright power to demolish SUV lap records, we think the hypothetical Blazer SS could be the X3M fighter Chevrolet never knew it wanted to build.
Thanks to the 308 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque provided by its 3.6-liter V-6, the Blazer RS with AWD already sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and runs the quarter-mile in 14.7 seconds at 95.5 mph. That’s not bad for a 4,274-pound crossover. In our testing, it stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, and its best figure eight lap was a respectable 27.1 seconds at 0.65 g average.
We’d like to see improvements in all of those areas for our hypothetical Blazer SS. It doesn’t even need to be its own special model, and we think something from the Chevy parts bin would work perfectly. Hear us out: A transversely mounted version of the LT1 V-8 from the outgoing C7 Corvette and current sixth-gen Camaro paired to Chevy’s latest nine-speed front-drive transaxle sounds like the perfect way to motivate a performance-oriented Blazer SS. Paddle shifters, absent from current Blazers, would be a must.
Channeling all of that power would require Chevrolet’s best front-drive-based all-wheel drive system, hardened to handle the torque. We’d like to hope Chevrolet would spring for a fancier system like the electronically controlled center diff in the Subaru WRX STI or an on-demand twin-clutch rear axle like a Ford Focus RS, capable of torque vectoring and creating a rear torque bias.
Realistically, though, Chevrolet doesn’t have any such system in its arsenal and would need to spend substantial money to develop one. An on-demand coupling is probably the most likely as it would improve fuel economy, but we think a vehicle like this ought to have full-time all-wheel drive, so we’d prefer a helical center differential at minimum with a fixed front-rear torque split.
This will help the Blazer feel more characterful, and when combined with brake-based torque vectoring (limited-slip differentials are also expensive) will help give it much better traction out of corners. We also wouldn’t mind seeing slightly wider front and rear track widths to give better overall grip, and maybe a few tweaks to the body—like quad exhausts and an even more aggressive front end.
Pair all of that with some other performance goodies like bigger brakes, uprated suspension components, lighter wheels, and stickier tires and you’ve got yourself a real performance machine. All of this would help dial out some of the understeer the Blazer suffers from when you’re really pushing it, and the power from the V-8 would make it significantly quicker than the RS in a straight line.
Even though this idea is born entirely of a hypothetical conversation I was having with fellow editors Alex Nishimoto and Zach Gale, Nishimoto pointed out there is some historical precedent here. Remember the Chevrolet Impala SS? In 2006, Chevy took an LS-series V-8 (a 5.3-liter version dubbed the LS4) and stuck it sideways under the hood of its front-wheel-drive family sedan. Even though it wasn’t an SUV, the concept of taking an ordinary family car and dropping in a V-8 (flipped 90 degrees) is something Chevrolet has clearly explored before. The all-aluminum LS4 made 303 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque, and turned the sedate-looking Impala (along with its Monte Carlo SS and Pontiac Grand Prix GXP platform mates) into a real sleeper. According to our colleagues at Hot Rod, the LS4 used a unique low-profile accessory system with a flattened water pump to accomodate the unusual transverse application. It also featured a relocated starter, unique intake manifold, GM’s “Metric” bellhousing pattern, and a slightly shorter crankshaft.
Performance SUVs aren’t some ridiculous fantasy, either. Even since the original X5 M sparked the birth of the segment more than a decade ago, performance SUVs have been coming thick and fast. Mercedes Benz currently offers the GLA, GLC, GLE, and GLS with high-powered AMG engines—there are six different variants in total. The Germans currently have a stranglehold on the segment, though.
Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes all make some of the fastest SUVs in the world. Outside of the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus (both of which hail from companies owned by Volkswagen), those four brands have little in the way of competition. But America’s appetite for the big people carriers doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Ford offers semi-sporty ST versions of both the Explorer and Edge SUVs, too. However, it must be said they’re not full-on, hardcore performance machines and generally aren’t compared to the Germans when it comes to outright performance. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk gets closer, and the upcoming Dodge Durango Hellcat may as well, and with all of that in mind, a hardcore, pumped-up SUV from Chevy seems to make more sense than ever before.
Whether Chevy will execute this idea of ours is entirely up to them, but we’d love to see something faster, meaner, and more exciting from the Blazer. With its sedan offerings shrinking, the Bowtie brand could really benefit from something fast and practical in the lineup.
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