2020 Chevrolet Blazer or Cadillac XT5: Which model and trim should you buy?

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Beside its nameplate, today’s Chevrolet Blazer has little in common with its long-forgotten predecessor, born a half-century ago (to compete with a certain recently re-released Ford Bronco, in case you missed it). While the first Blazer, code-named K5, was a semi-clone of the then GM pickups (we’re talking body-on-frame architecture […]

Beside its nameplate, today’s Chevrolet Blazer has little in common with its long-forgotten predecessor, born a half-century ago (to compete with a certain recently re-released Ford Bronco, in case you missed it). While the first Blazer, code-named K5, was a semi-clone of the then GM pickups (we’re talking body-on-frame architecture powered by straight-sixes and V8s), its resurrection, launched last year, is an SUV that resembles a luxury vehicle, which puts it square in the sights of GM’s Cadillac division.

More specifically, the Cadillac XT5.

In fact, this duet started out being a comparison with the bigger, 3-row sibling Chevrolet Traverse. But, there was so little differences between the Blazer and the XT5 that we thought it better to analyze when to stop investing in Chevy’s middle-class five-seater and opt for the premium Cadillac badge.


Thank God, things move fast in GM’s product planning department. For the 2019 model-year, the Chevrolet Blazer offered a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine making 193 horsepower, which could then be optioned up to the 308-hp 3.6L V6.

Yes, a 193-hp – in front-wheel-drive guise no less — in a mid-sized SUV. But the company came to its senses: Now, the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer can be ordered with a 2.0L, 4-cylinder Turbo with 230 hp and, more importantly, 258 pound-feet of torque. Note that for 2021, the LS version will completely disappear, GM seemingly figuring out that old bait-and-switch with a low MSRP that nobody wants is no longer a viable marketing strategy.

Marketing goofs out of the way, we were lucky enough to test the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer in its sporty RS guise, and initially, when we saw the price tag — a whopping $55,768 — we thought that things were looking good for the Cadillac camp. Especially since when we crossed over to the Cadillac showroom, we found the XT5 — built on the same platform — starting at a seemingly competitive $44,300. That’s probably the reason it is the best-selling Cadillac product in North America and represents half of all the luxury brand’s sales in Canada.

But the XT5, which replaced the Cadillac SRX in 2016, is one of the oldest models in the entire GM family. And on closer inspection, with its interior a little barren, its controls fussier than they need to be, its aging silhouette and its price tag $7,000 to $10,000 more expensive for the same equipment than the Blazer, the XT5 is definitely ready for a refresh.

3 reasons you should choose the Chevrolet Blazer

1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde driving

In many vehicles, the difference between “comfort” and “sport” modes is minuscule; you switch from the slightly more soft to the slightly more firm and barely notice the difference.

Not in the Blazer RS. In fact, the mode selections are so dramatic that the Chevy feels like it has Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde split personalities. The presentable side of the Blazer RS is so softly suspended, so comfortable, so smoothly cruising that you’ll feel as if you’re behind the wheel of a Buick. For long distances on the highway, not only does the vehicle have great road manners, but thanks to the cylinder-deactivation system of its naturally-aspirated V6, we recorded a steady 7.7 L/100 km on a long highway ride. Now, we’ll admit we were feathering it a bit while respecting speed limits, but non-hybrid V6 SUVs — especially with AWD — seldom suck back less than 9.0 L/100 km in any circumstance.

But, turn the central control knob to its checkered flag mode and suddenly Mr. Hyde appears, the Blazer RS transforming into a much sportier version of its former soft, cuddly self. And sorry to be so politically incorrect, but we like this big, bad Mr. Hyde. The automatic nine-speed transmission that we found a bit sleepy in the Touring mode was more willing in Sport, the steering became decisive and the overall ride, delightfully firm. For this, we need to thank the RS’s sporty suspension, with 40 per cent more compression damping at the front and 15 per cent more at the rear compared to baseline Blazers.

2. The look

The Blazer looks good. Simple as that. At a time when pretty much every SUV is  beginning to blend into one homogeneous shape, the Chevy Blazer comes across as an unusual  — dare we say flashy — silhouette.

Every marketing team claims their product has a unique appeal, but we really do think the new Blazer looks — pardon for the reference to the sloganeering of another luxury brand — like a cheetah ready to pounce. Have a look through our photo gallery and note the bold grille topped by a thin line of headlamps, giving a malicious glare to the vehicle’s front. And even if this writer is not fond of the rear end — which seemingly borrows a little too much from a minivan’s tailgate — the overall product still looks larger and more luxurious than its price tag suggests.

3. The intelligence

The Blazer’s intelligence starts with an infotainment system easy to “domesticate.” Our favourite is the ability to program the driver’s seat to an automatically welcoming temperature when the engine is started. Even the a/c fan speed can be pre-programmed to engage on start-up. If only the Blazer could make espresso, it would be the perfect morning companion!

The more you use the Chevy, the more its intelligent design presents itself: From the door pocket deep enough for your wet umbrella to rails and easy-to-remove bars in the cargo area for securing storage, the Blazer has been designed by engineers who use SUVs the way modern consumers do. Speaking of which, there’s 1,818 litres of storage space behind the front seats and the banquette slides fore-and-aft to accommodate people and their possessions. Bravo.

Which Chevrolet Blazer trim should you choose?

Well, the first thing to rule out is FWD models; only four per cent of Canadians opt for a front-wheel-drive Blazer, says GM, and it’s murder on resale value. So let’s focus on the four possible AWD versions, all at, or over, $40,000 when prep fees ($1,900) included.

Without hesitation, our choice is the RS, for its unique “split-personality” mode selection previously detailed. Unfortunately, even if this version starts as high as $46,300, Chevrolet dares make adaptive cruise control, the ventilated front seats, the heated rear seats and the wireless charging all optional — so you’ll have to fork an extra $4,400 for the RS Plus package. Want a panoramic sunroof? You’re looking $1,685. The Iridescent Pearl Tricoat that shows off that resolute silhouette best? Another $1,195.

Truth be said, the list of significant options is longer than for any SUVs we analyzed in any recent duets. So, like us, maybe you would be tempted to step up into the supposedly more upscale Cadillac XT5…

3 reasons you should choose the Cadillac XT5 instead

1. The front seats

The Cadillac SUV may share (too) many components with the Blazer, but the one biggest difference is the front seats; they are simply much more comfortable. If, as this writer, your back is a slave to Voltaren and Rub-A535, you want an XT5 for your long-distance sojourns. There is a downside though; your adult rear seat passengers will have less room than in the Chevy — we’re talking about a small 5 per cent reduction in headroom but a whopping 15 per cent for their legs.

2. The refinement

The biggest flaw affecting the Chevrolet Blazer — especially in our $55,000 version — is the sometimes cheap plastic and mediocre soundproofing. The Cadillac erases those weaknesses, with a cabin that looks — and feels — more luxurious.

For this, we thank the Caddy’s upscale materials and the choice of livery: Beside the Jet Black and pale Cirrus, you can get warm and elegant browns’ dérivés of Maple Sugar, Sedona Sauvage and Kona (the wood, not the small Hyundai crossover) trims. We also like the superior sound insulation of the Caddy, although if you really want a “library quiet” cabin, you’re probably better shopping in a Lincoln showroom.

3. The Coach Potato shopping

If you have read recent Motor Mouth columns, you may already know that Cadillac has the ultimate interactive showroom located in a film studio somewhere in Toronto – a Canadian brainstorm, we should mention, that was up and running before Covid-19. If you did, you already know that the one-on-one 3D online experience allows you to shop from home, “in your jockey shorts dribbling BBQ sauce all over your bathrobe”, with concierges walking you through a virtual presentation and being able to not only answer all your questions but visually point out benefits with the live filming. This digital experience is as stress-free as car shopping can get.

Which Cadillac XT5 trim should you choose?

The problem is that, for all intents and purposes, these two vehicles are twins separated by badges, with the XT5 always commanding between a $7,000 and $10,000 premium compared with the equivalent Blazer. That’s why we would suggest the Cadillac in Premium Luxury trim equipped with the same turbocharged four-cylinder engine as in the Chevy.

Yes, for the first time, the 2020 Cadillac XT5 receives a 2.0T engine — but don’t sweat too much about it: It’s only seven horses stronger than the Blazer. And even with this Premium Luxury price-tagged at $51,300, you’ll have to pay more for ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and intelligent cruise control. #Shame.

We’re less sure about the V6 since a fully optioned XT5 will set you back some 66 large, a bump of ten grand up from the better-looking and better road-mannered Chevrolet RS. Besides, said V6-powered Caddy is rated to tow 1,000 pounds less than a similarly V6’ed Chevy — 1,590 kilograms (3500 pounds) versus the Blazer’s 2045 kilos (4500 lb.).

One thing we are sure about: Forget about the base XT5 Luxury, in either its FWD ($44,300) or AWD ($46,800) guises. A Caddy sans the availability of sunroof, front seat lumbar adjustment or adaptive cruise control is not, well, really a Cadillac.


Overall, while we liked our time in the XT5, in this comparison, we’re Chevy fans, all the more since the entire 2021 Blazer lineup will make six additional driving aids — automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, IntelliBeam — standard across all models (to be called the Chevrolet Safety Assist). Depending on the price, of course, this could only make the Blazer even more competitive with luxury stalwarts.

As for the XT5, the advantages for moving up one entire brand seem a trifle lame — front cornering headlamps, rain-sensing automatic wipers, tri-zone climate controls and that’s about it — so while we rate the 2.0L Turbo powered Premium Luxury the best of the Cadillac SUV, it doesn’t change out minds that the Blazer remains the better buy.

Of course, a new generation of XT5 with a (let’s dream…) V-version could be a game changer…

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