The "how it started... how it's going" meme is an unfortunately fitting metaphor for General Motors' electric vehicle plans in 2023. This was supposed to the the year GM took on Tesla for real, with the rollout of multiple new electric models like the Chevrolet Equinox EV, Cadillac Lyriq, and Chevrolet Silverado EV—all meant to deliver 400,000 electric sales through the first half of 2024.
That was how it started. Here's how it's going: This year saw countless product delays, production problems, the cancellation and hasty un-cancellation of the Bolt EV and EUV (which remain GM's top-selling EVs despite their age and dated hardware) and a rethinking of that ambitious sales goal. Sure, GM is still handsomely profitable thanks to gas trucks and SUVs, but this was a rough year for what it still considers an all-electric future.
Gallery: 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV RS First Drive
Consider 2024 to be the do-over year, then. And the Chevrolet Blazer EV likely kicks off that effort. Aimed at the ultra-popular electric midsize SUV segment, the Blazer EV is a very big deal. It's meant to be a volume-seller that, along with the Equinox EV and upgraded Bolt EUV, will put GM properly in the electric game.
Does it stand a chance? I'm not sure yet. There are some real highlights here, like this range, interior, user-friendliness for new EV drivers and GM's next-generation software platform. But in other areas, the Blazer EV may just not be as strong a contender as GM needs it to be (and more than a few buyers may balk at the price tags).
|2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV RS
|340 hp/325 lb-ft (RWD) / 288 hp/333 lb-ft (AWD)
|102 kWh (RWD) / 85 kWh (AWD)
|190 kW (RWD) / 150 kW (AWD)
|324 miles (RWD) / 279 miles (AWD)
|$61,790 (RWD) / $60,215 (AWD)
|$63,290 (RWD) / $60,215 (AWD)
A Newcomer That's Friendly To Newcomers
The Blazer EV rides on GM's proprietary Ultium platform like all its next-generation EVs, but it slots into the family as the middle crossover option. The Equinox is technically the "compact" crossover, while the next EUV-only Bolt will be the "subcompact" one. Let's face it: Trucks and SUVs are what GM does best these days. (Also, almost all that it does, period, these days.) It knows what those customers want.
GM also knows that its mainstream American customer base is a little different from the early adopters who might go for a Tesla, a Lucid or a Rivian. Most of those buyers probably don't want an EV that attempts to rethink everything about cars—you know, like having one touchscreen in place of any other controls or getting rid of rear windows entirely. That customer, GM says, probably wants something close to a gasoline-car experience with the many benefits of electric power instead.
The Blazer EV feels explicitly designed to meet that person where they are right now. It packs a ton of physical controls inside—most of them are extremely similar to existing GM cars—and emphasizes user-friendliness. That's a good thing; not every EV on the road needs to represent some radical industry transformation. The Blazer also has good range ratings for its class and respectable fast charging; Chevy engineers also told me they especially emphasized the accuracy of their range estimates. They knew their customers wouldn't put up with comical overestimates that torpedo their next road trip.
Gallery: 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV
This approach is also evident in the Blazer EV's vast, diverse lineup. When all of them hit the market next year (hopefully), you can spec a Blazer in front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive forms, which alone makes it one of the most unique cars ever built. (And there are two different AWD systems depending on the level of performance you want.)
As such, it comes in three trims: base LT, with FWD or AWD; mid-level RS, the car in this test, which can be had with RWD or AWD; or the top-level high-performance SS with 557 horsepower, which is AWD only. Seriously, I wasn't kidding when I said the Blazer family is a diverse one.
But right off the bat, price is a bit of a concern. The Blazer EV already ended up significantly more expensive, at least at launch, than GM initially said. The AWD LT model starts at $57,710, and the RS starts at $60,215; the SS price hasn't been announced yet. Neither has pricing for the FWD LT model, but GM says it will be below $50,000. That's also where Chevy expects to sell most Blazers.
It's also worth noting that the Blazer EV had had an unusual rollout, at least as far as Chevrolets usually go. While this is the first "official" media drive for the car, aside from outlets like Edmunds that bought one, it's already on sale. As of this writing, about 1,000 are sitting on dealer lots nationwide. And it's already also been named Motor Trend's SUV of the Year, so it's fair to say there's a good amount of hype here.
On the plus side, GM says all Blazer EVs get the full $7,500 tax credit now, but when the rules change in 2024, the automaker is optimistic it will still qualify for some.
A Handsome Exterior, But A Winning Cabin
With a few notable exceptions, the midsize crossover world is one where exciting design goes to die. Even in the EV world, most just end up looking like blobs. I wouldn't lump the Blazer EV into that category; thankfully. It's generally a handsome, athletic design that wears its proportions well. It lacks little commonality with the gasoline Blazer (which, dare I say, is a better-looking vehicle) and absolutely none with the classic and iconic K5 Blazers, which may have been a wasted opportunity with this nameplate. But all in all, it's far from bad.
The inside of the Blazer EV is where the design work shines. This was a superb cabin, full of high-quality materials, extremely cushy seats and user-friendly controls. Buttons! The Blazer EV has them. They're on the steering wheel, the doors, the dashboard—you even get a volume knob. What a concept.
This makes the Blazer EV significantly simpler to operate than many electrics on the market, and safer to do things like adjust the air conditioning or radio at highway speeds. In keeping with the crossover's performance image, you get some Camaro vibes inside, like the big, circular air vents and driver-centered screens.
The downside is that large center console cuts into cabin space that's more open on cars like the Ioniq 5 and Nissan Ariya, but whether you're up front or in back, it's a great place to spend time. I did not love the control stalk that you have to kind of pop in and out to shift into drive or reverse, but otherwise, my complaints were few.
Blazer EV SS shown.
I have to throw some praise on the 17.7-inch center infotainment screen and 11-inch display in front of the driver, both of which are standard on every Blazer EV. They're superb units with excellent graphics, quick response times and tons of features, which I'll explain more below.
The Blazer EV should also appeal to folks who need a lot of size out of their midsize crossovers. It's longer, taller and wider, and it boasts more interior room and cargo space than the Ioniq 5, Mach-E and Model Y, though it lacks the front trunks that the latter two cars have.
A Promising Start To Ultium's Software Revolution
As notable as any of these features is GM's new Linux-based Ultifi "end-to-end vehicle software platform," which is a fancy way of saying its infotainment system and everything else on the tech front you'd want from a modern EV. That includes over-the-air software updates as well as the new Google Built-In operating system.
Perhaps infamously now, this means the Blazer EV and its cousins will not include the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection systems. The backlash to that decision has been intense, but it's easy to see GM's side here: It wants to do all sorts of things with maps, advancements in autonomy and charging route planning, and that's tough to do with a third-party system in the way. Plus, imagine where this goes in the long-term; do car companies become, essentially, hardware manufacturers for tech companies? Surely they don't want that.
To pull off such a move, whatever replaces Apple CarPlay and Android Auto had better be damn good. However, my initial impressions of this system are positive, thanks to no shortage of help from Google Built-In. Not only do the car's two display units look great, but they perform great too, and all menus are generally very simple to navigate. You can also easily customize what information and features you see on each display. Moreover, this is Google Maps we're dealing with, so the navigation experience is basically second to none, including charging route planning.
I want more time with this system before rendering a verdict as to whether it's a viable replacement for the proven and effective Apple CarPlay, but I like what I see so far—and I didn't miss CarPlay at all on this drive. So far, so good.
Range And Charging
On the range front, the Blazer EV is competitive in its class. It offers two battery sizes depending on the trim level and powertrain: an 85 kWh unit or a 102 kWh one. Generally, you're going to get either an EPA-estimated 279 miles of range (LT and RS with AWD) or 324 miles of range (RS with RWD.)
The 85-kWh battery can DC fast-charge at speeds of up to 150 kW, able to add 69 miles of range in just 10 minutes. The 102-kWh battery does even better with speeds up to 190 kW, and it can add an impressive 78 miles on the RS RWD in the same time frame.
Now, those max charging speeds aren't as good as some competitors—Hyundai and Tesla in particular—but they can still pile on the miles in a relatively short time. (We'll weigh in on the true highway range and efficiency when we get one for longer testing; the few hours we had with these Blazer EVs in sunny San Diego didn't provide what I'd call actionable data yet.)
For now, the Blazer EV uses the CCS plug, but like all GM EVs it will switch to Tesla's NACS plug in the coming years, giving it access to Tesla's Supercharger network as well. It also has a heat pump system, like all other Ultium vehicles.
On other fronts, however, the Blazer EV is a mixed bag. It will have Vehicle to Home later next year, GM officials said, so it will be able to power your house and other devices—something not every EV does yet.
Unfortunately, and strangely, GM's excellent Super Cruise driver-assistance system is only available on the Blazer EV SS and RS with AWD; the RWD RS won't have it, and that addition isn't in the cards, officials told me.
On The Road
Unfortunately, the driving experience itself is where the Blazer EV is a bit lacking. Here's another number that matters a great deal: 5,591 pounds in RS RWD form. That's about what all of these weigh, depending on configuration, which puts the Blazer EV generally around 1,000 pounds heavier than its three direct competitors. No EV is a lightweight at the moment, but that heft puts a real damper on whatever performance aspirations Chevy had for the Blazer EV. (The AWD version cuts about 200 pounds out for its smaller battery, but it's still big.)
It's not a quick car, and it doesn't feel like one; all that weight is a lot to ask from the 288 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque you get in the AWD RS. Its power delivery felt more like a gas car, rising as acceleration builds, and not the hit-you-in-the-face instant torque you get from most EVs. On a few occasions, my co-pilot and I would try and switch to Sport Mode to see if that would give it some extra grunt, but then we'd find the car was already in Sport Mode. Do not expect the athleticism you get from a Mach-E or a Model Y.
Gallery: 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV SS
The RWD RS fared a little better. Unlike most dual-motor EVs, it actually has more power—340 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. It was also noticeably the more agile of the two RS options I drove in California, certainly not tail-happy but able to handle its size in the corners well enough. The SS version will surely fare better, since 557 hp (and 648 lb-ft torque!) are nothing to sneeze at; that car will also pack the "Wide Open Watts" mode that uncorks all that power to move it from zero to 60 mph in under four seconds.
Since the RS models are in the mid-$50,000 to $60,000 range, we know it won't be cheap, and a Kia EV6 GT already offers the same performance (or better) than the SS for the RS' price.
Put aside your "performance" expectations, and the Blazer EV is just a fantastic daily driver. The ride quality is superb—easily trumping the Model Y and Mach-E—the cabin is remarkably quiet and tire noise is minimal. You can toggle one-pedal driving off and on from the main screen, and I preferred using it because it's very smooth and seamless. There's also Regen On Demand, a paddle on the steering wheel that dials up the regenerative braking, just like the Chevy Bolt.
Aside from the performance, it's one of those cars from a "mainstream" brand that feels more like a luxury car than its humble badge lets on. But will that be enough to convince buyers to go for it?
Price And Early Verdict
In the end, I'm not so sure. The Blazer RS AWD I spent most of my time in came in at $60,215. Even with the tax credits kicking things down to about $52,715, you're looking at thousands more than a comparable Ioniq 5 or Mach-E—to say nothing of the Model Y, which can be had for fire-sale prices these days.
Is it worth it? For buyers who truly need the bigger space, maybe. But they may be better suited for the inevitably cheaper 2LT FWD model launching next year. The SS should be quite interesting, but since the RS models are in the mid-$50,000 to $60,000 range, we know it won't be cheap. And if you want performance, a Kia EV6 GT can be had right now for RS pricing.
Finally, no matter which way you shake it, these prices are all a lot to ask for a Chevrolet and not, say, a Cadillac—something a few of my industry colleagues noted during our test. (For the record, the remarkably similar Cadillac Lyriq starts at $58,590; you may want to check that out instead if you can find one.)
More than anything, I like what I see from GM's Ultium EVs. I think the Equinox EV and updated Bolt EUV will be huge hits if they can offer similar hardware, software and experiences for much less. If nothing else, the massive success of the Bolt on the year it was sentenced to die proves that people want cheaper EVs above all else. With any luck, the Blazer EV can get there too—or find a niche all its own.
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2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV RS