I was ten years old when my dad bought a 1990 Chevy Blazer. Coming from a long gray boat of an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, the Blazer was the coolest thing I had ever seen. it rode high, was two-tone blue and white, and had what other kids had referred to as a way-back. I enjoyed riding back there on long trips to Corpus Christi, no seat belt and no worries. Little did I know that ten years later, I would be driving that Blazer in college, and it would slowly become the absolute bane of my existence.
I like to tell stories about that Blazer, how its engine kept failing, how it would randomly turn off in the middle of the highway–do you know how hard it is to steer and stop a car without power steering and brake assist? There was also a time rust ate through the thinger under the car, and it started sounding like it had no tailpipe at all, rumbling loudly through the apartment complex every time I tried to drive somewhere. Towards the end, my dad painted the whole thing white, and after the third or fourth engine rebuild, decided to drive it into a lake, never to be seen again.
Okay, that’s not true. I’m pretty sure I drove that thing until graduation and replaced it with a Nissan Altima. Driving a new car that got me from point A to point B without any shenanigans was a breath of fresh air, and I decreed at that moment, that I would never drive a Chevrolet Blazer ever, ever again. I was absolutely ruined on buying and owning cars, and decided that going forward, I would never keep a car more than 3 – 5 years. That way, it couldn’t suddenly die on me at 80 miles per hour.
After the Altima, I leased car after car, wasting way too much money on SUVs and sporty cars alike. I really did think that if I kept making more money, I could keep up this carousel of new vehicles and never have to worry about reliability again. But then Rainbow was born, and I found myself trying to fit two car seats into the back of a Mazda6. it’s not that they don’t fit; it’s just tight. And bending over to strap in a kid isn’t great for my forty-two-year-old back. Getting either of them in and out of our Highlander is so much easier.
So I decided it was time to stop leasing and buy a mid-size SUV that could fit the kids comfortably for trips around the city. I’ve been researching for a while, but it wasn’t until I made a trip out to California and had to rent a car that I found what I was looking for.
I had never considered a Honda Passport, but after driving it for a couple days, I realized it was pretty damn nice. There’s nothing about this SUV that screams flashy, but it’s roomy, punchy, and easy to drive. The only thing I didn’t like was that it didn’t have a gear shift–just buttons. I love the progress of technology and all, but that’s weird. Weird like electronic parking breaks. Gimme something to step on!
Enter the Blazer
Given that all mid-size SUVs are more or less the same (in this author’s opinion), I started focusing on how big the engines were. V6 was a minimum, and the closer to 300hp, the better. The Honda Passport gets close, but the Blazer goes over. In my research, I found out that the Blazer is a Blazer in name only… it’s no longer based on a truck frame and bears little resemblance to the 1990 version. It has all the bells and whistles anyone could want, including AWD, wireless Carplay, and remote start. Compared to the Passport, it looks stylish as hell, and for some reason, I decided I wanted to drive it.
But could I really do that? Could I own a Blazer again? Was I just restarting the same cycle of buying an unreliable car and passing it down to my son so he could be embarrassed to drive his girlfriends (or what have you) around in college? Well… yes, if it’s not the same as the old version, and everything I’ve read about it says it’s not. So why not at least test drive it?
As it turns out, wanting to test drive the Blazer was my first mistake.
Hell is a Car Dealership
When engaging dealerships, it’s important to not get zeroed in on any given location. I submitted my email address on the Chevy website so I could get a few bites from dealerships around Austin. Whoever was the most polite and/or convenient would win my test drive business. Predictably, every note I got read like a form letter, and the high-pressure sales tactics came right out of the gate.
When can you come in and test drive?
The most persistent of the bunch was Don Hewlett Chevrolet in Georgetown. Not only did multiple people try to contact me, they also recorded “personalized videos” so I would feel personally seen by them. That was a nice touch, though to be honest, I didn’t watch any of them. I just wanted to sit in a Blazer and press on the gas pedal.
Finally, I responded to one of their emails.
Me: Can you confirm there is an RS V6 AWD Blazer on the lot?
Them: Yes, we have plenty of V6 models! When can you come in and test drive?
Me: It’s a little bit of a drive, can you confirm it’s the RS AWD?
Them: Yes! When can you come in and test drive?
I was eager to get this test drive out of the way, so I took an early lunch from work and headed up I-35 to Georgetown. On arrival, I was introduced to a saleswoman who took me to her little cubicle with a price sheet ready for me to look at. I waved it away and asked to test drive the Blazer. She said she’d be right back.
Twenty minutes later, I’ve paced her cubicle a million times, checked in with the team at work, and even played a few rounds of Wordscapes. When she returns, she informs me she can’t find the Blazer because someone else must be showing it. She’ll be right back again, she says.
When she returns sometime later, she gestures to a chair and says I can sit down. “No thanks, I’ll stand,” I say. After asking me again what kind of Blazer I was interested in, she informs me there are no Blazers on the lot. Not one. Not one I could look at. Not one I could sit in. But hey, they have a 2019 used Blazer if I wanted to buy that.
I was already standing, so it was easy to start to leave, but she implored me to wait another minute so she could talk to her sales manager and “see what they could do.”
Turns out what they could do is send in a hitter to convince me that FWD was the same as AWD, that the Honda Passport was a shitty car, and that I shouldn’t have expected a Blazer to be on the lot because they were selling so fast. I asked if they had sold an RS V6 AWD Blazer in the twenty minutes it took me to drive up and instead of an answer, they offered to order one for me to test drive… for a mere $500 deposit.
As I drove home, no closer to testing out a Blazer than I was an hour before, I couldn’t really be mad. You expect to get screwed at a car dealership, whether that’s out of your hard-earned money or your precious little time. As an optimistic person, you tend to hope the whole car buying scene gets better, that salespeople become honest, and that they don’t just do whatever it takes to get you to walk into their building.
So maybe the Blazer is just not to be. Perhaps it’s the universe telling me this whole Blazer idea is a bad idea. I really can’t tell, and I’m still curious how that thing drives and feels. Maybe I’ll keep trying.
Somewhere else, of course.