Drivers can still win when driving the family hauler
These entrants representing midsize crossovers are storied names resurrected to cash in on the American family preference for SUVs over sedans. Although neither the Blazer RS AWD nor the Passport Elite AWD will ever be mistaken for their off-road-bred predecessors, they offer tantalizing takes on the form factor.
MotorTrend’s March Mayhem is here! As part of our quest to find the best family car, we invited eight vehicles to compete in a winner-take-all bracket. Representing midsize crossovers in the first round are the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS AWD and 2019 Honda Passport Elite AWD.
The Honda Passport is without a doubt the more traditional and familiar. For all intents and purposes, it’s a Honda Pilot with 6 inches lopped off and a slight ride-height increase. Mechanically it sports the same 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 and nine-speed automatic transmission with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive; visually it’s virtually indistinguishable from the Pilot inside and out, save for the lack of a third row and a slightly different grille and bumper.
What the Chevrolet Blazer gives up in interior volume to the Passport, it makes up in style. No one will ever mistake the Blazer for anything else—save for maybe a jacked-up four-door Camaro—with its edgy styling and pony car–inspired interior. Like the Honda, the Blazer also has a V-6, a nine-speed auto, and all-wheel drive, though the Chevy’s engine displaces 3.6 liters and makes 308 hp.
To Chevy’s credit, the Blazer drives like it looks—like it’s trying to be the V-6 Camaro of crossovers. The Blazer is remarkably buttoned down and engaging to drive for the segment. Its V-6 is quiet and unobtrusive when you want it to be, but it wakes up when you open the throttle. Its nine-speed automatic is well tuned, too, with quick, decisive shifts.
How well the Blazer goes around a corner is largely irrelevant to most family buyers. For the record, it handles quite well for the class, making it good for emergency dashes due to childhood calamities. And the same qualities that make the Chevy enjoyable to drive also provide a better ride.
The Honda is most in its element when taking it easy. It feels bigger and softer and is at its best when cruising at a constant speed on the highway. At city speeds and when accelerating, its V-6 is neutered by its transmission; it shifts roughly at low speeds and is unresponsive when you need power. Its ride is on the stiffer side, minimizing roll and body motion with a slight ride-quality penalty. That allows it to handle rather well on twisty roads. But not as well as the Blazer. Despite Honda having a de facto home-court advantage at its own test track, like Duke struggling in Raleigh, the locale didn’t help here.
Honda makes a late comeback when you look inside. Being a slightly smaller Pilot, the Passport feels open and airy. All of the functionality baked into the Pilot, from its massive center console and door-mounted cupholders to its sliding rear seat and large cargo area, finds its way into the Passport. It’s incredibly functional, if a bit forgettable. Unfortunately, the Passport inherits the Pilot’s noisier cabin, clunky infotainment system, and rear doors that open only about 70 degrees, which makes it harder to fit a car seat.
Despite having less interior volume than the Passport, the Blazer is remarkably efficient with its space. There’s not quite as much storage in this sporty cabin, but up front Chevy provides the requisite cubbies for your phone and other knickknacks. Its roomy back seat offers a comfortable sliding and reclining heated bench with a flat floor helping ensure even the middle seat is usable. Rear doors that open nearly 90 degrees make installing a child car seat a breeze.
Ultimately, when two competitors are this close, the winner comes down to the small details. The Honda Passport is slavishly designed around providing enough space for your loved ones and their stuff. But often these vehicles serve as work-commuters, too, and here Chevy pays more attention to the driver. Besides, when hauling the whole family, everyone benefits from powertrain refinement and sound deadening.
Good family relationships often involve compromise, and that’s what the Chevrolet Blazer does well. The Blazer is powerful, composed, and fun to drive while offering the latest in infotainment, a shockingly spacious rear seat, and creature comforts like heated seats and power ports for devices. Its stylish sheetmetal helps it stand out in a sea of lozenge-shaped crossovers. The Blazer is the family vehicle that actually appeals to the whole family, and for that reason it upsets the Honda on its home court.
|2019 Chevrolet Blazer AWD RS||2019 Honda Passport Elite AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$48,270||$44,725|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.6L/308-hp/270-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6||3.5L/280-hp/262-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||9-speed automatic||9-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,274 lb (59/41%)||4,186 lb (58/42%)|
|WHEELBASE||112.7 in||110.9 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.4 x 76.7 x 67.0 in||190.5 x 78.6 x 72.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.1 sec||6.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.7 sec @ 95.5 mph||14.7 sec @ 94.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft||130 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)||28.1 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||18/25/21 mpg||19/24/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles||177/140 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.94 lb/mile||0.93 lb/mile|