By Mark Phelan

Detroit Free Press

2019 Chevrolet Blazer at a glance

Base price: $29,995

As tested: $48,270

Engine: 3.6-liter V6 engine, 9-speed automatic transmission, 308 hp 6,700 rpm; 270 lb-ft of torque 5,000 rpm,

Mileage: 20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined

SAN DIEGO - The 2019 Chevrolet Blazer midsize SUV is poised to jump to the head of its class, thanks to great looks, a roomy and comfortable five-passenger interior and good performance.

If you remember the boring old Blazer and TrailBlazer midsize SUVs, forget them. The 2019 Blazer doesn’t share a nut or bolt with them. It’s long, elegant and surprisingly luxurious — Chevrolet’s answer to people who fear booming SUV sales will mean highways full of bland lookalikes.

I recently spent a couple of days driving Blazers in and around San Diego, on twisty mountain roads, steep hills, flat out highway runs and rush-hour traffic.

The Blazer’s handling and steering were responsive, making it feel like a smaller vehicle in heavy traffic. The ride is comfortable, and the cabin is quiet at highway speeds and over rough pavement.

The styling is interesting, with narrow LED running lights, a sharp nose, fast windshield and roof and sculpted sides. It’s one of the few SUVs you’re likely to recognize 100 yards down the road.

Blazer prices start at $29,995 for a front-wheel drive model with a 193-horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

I tested a Blazer RS, the sporty model with all-wheel drive and the optional 308-hp 3.6L V6.

A smooth nine-speed automatic transmission is standard.

Chevy expects the Blazer to compete in a growing new segment of high-styled five-passenger midsize SUVs.

It fits in the lineup between the compact Equinox and three-row Traverse.

Blazer prices can approach those of the family-oriented Traverse, but Chevrolet doesn’t expect the two to compete based on the idea that buyers of five-seat SUVs are more interested in style than practicality.

The Blazer RS’s sporty handing and responsive handling should win over buyers who have been skeptical about switching to an SUV.

It’s at least as much fun to drive as the front-wheel-drive midsize and large sedans automakers are abandoning in favor of SUVs.

The Blazer’s main competitors are likely to be the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano and Honda Passport, another old name that’s coming back attached to a new model this year.

The Blazer’s interior has the head and shoulder room of a large luxury sedan, and plenty of cargo space.

Just about everywhere you touch is wrapped in soft materials.

Infotainment included a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless charging and an 8-inch touch screen.

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