Battle of the mid-majors pits sedan against crossover
Military air traffic isn’t uncommon while visiting the Honda Proving Center. Fighter jets zip by, and bombers lumber across the sky from the many nearby Air Force and Navy air bases. But we don’t often get a show like we got while comparing the Blazer and Altima.
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. After defeating their direct competitors in the first round, the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS AWD midsize crossover faces off against the 2019 Nissan Altima SR midsize sedan in the semifinals.
Two F/A-18 Super Hornets stole our attention as they practiced dogfighting. Each Hornet danced through the air, twisting, turning, and falling as each pilot attempted to point the jet’s nose at the other. After a few minutes, with no clear winner to us on the ground, they formed up and zipped north back to base.
Unlike what we’d witnessed, our military often practices dissimilar combat training, when two wildly different jets practice against each other.
What’s this have to do with the Blazer and Altima? Simple: When buying a car, many people choose from dissimilar vehicles that meet their needs in different ways. You can learn a lot from comparing vehicles within their segments. Sometimes, though, you can learn a lot more by crossing those segment lines.
Clearly, the biggest difference between the Altima and Blazer is their design philosophies. It’s hard to overlook the inherent packaging advantages of a midsize crossover compared to a midsize sedan, but the Altima puts up a good fight. Its trunk opening is wide, and the trunk itself is deep; two massive hockey bags, for example, would fit next to each other—but the lack of a center pass-through for sticks could be seen as a flaw the Altima and many sedans have. The Nissan’s rear seats do fold forward, but that obviously reduces how many passengers you can carry. The sedan’s biggest advantage here is its low step-in height, making it easier for children to climb in by themselves.
As we saw in our quarterfinal round, the Blazer isn’t the most spacious crossover in its class, but its back-seat package easily equals the Nissan’s, and its cargo area is significantly larger. Four hockey bags could be squeezed in the Chevy’s trunk, and although there isn’t a center pass-through, either, sticks and other long items can slide between the rear bench and interior walls. Children might have a harder time climbing up into the Blazer or other crossovers, but the higher hip-point makes it easier for an adult to reach in to buckle up those young ones.
You used to be able to rely on sedans out-driving crossovers and SUVs, but after driving the Nissan back to back with the Chevy, we might be witnessing a changing of that guard. Sure, both were comfortable, quiet, and plenty powerful at city speeds and on the highway, but they differentiated themselves on the proving center’s winding road. The Blazer handles surprisingly well for a front-drive-based crossover. Its chassis is buttoned down and refined, and steering is light and accurate—it was at least equally as engaging (and likely faster) than the Altima on the winding track.
Maybe that’s meaningless to most buyers, but those same dynamic qualities that make the Blazer such a performer on the winding track also make it better in emergency lane change scenarios. In simulated emergency situations, the Chevy was rock solid and drama free, its electronics working unobtrusively to keep all four tires grounded and the nose pointed in the right direction, helping the Blazer clear the test without so much as brushing a cone. With all-wheel drive manually engaged (it’s permanently “on” in nearly every other CUV), the Blazer is even more stable. The Altima, on the other hand, was easily upset in our emergency tests. Its chassis is less composed and its electronic stability systems less sophisticated, making it harder to control compared to the Blazer.
Instrumented testing reveals the Altima to be slightly quicker than the Blazer, but there’s no denying the seat-of-the-pants superiority of the Blazer. The Nissan’s (and most sedans’) clearest advantage over the Chevy is in fuel economy; the Altima’s turbocharged variable-compression four-cylinder helps it net an EPA-estimated 25/34/29 mpg (9.4/6.9/8.1 km/100 L) compared to the Blazer V-6 AWD’s 18/25/21 mpg (13.1/9.4/11.2 km/100 L). That’s a substantial difference, though with today’s gas prices, that might not be a big factor for most people. If oil prices soar and family budgets tighten, that 8-mpg (29.4-km/100 L) difference in the combined cycle will be a deal breaker for some and spur others to opt for smaller engines, like the Blazer’s front-drive-only 2.5-liter I-4.
At the end of our bout of dissimilar training, one insight became abundantly clear: There’s a reason American families have been abandoning sedans for crossovers, and that reason isn’t necessarily styling or ride height. As the Chevy Blazer proves, midsize crossovers are incredibly versatile—serving as a one-size-fits-all magic bullet for an average family—and they can be both better to drive and more engaging than a comparable sedan. Quite simply, with fuel economy the main exception, everything the Altima does well, the Blazer does better. And with that, the Chevy Blazer midsize crossover advances to the finals.
|2019 Chevrolet Blazer AWD RS||2019 Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$48,270||$31,060|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.6L/308-hp/270-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6||2.0L/248-hp/280-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||9-speed automatic||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,274 lb (59/41%)||3,416 lb (61/39%)|
|WHEELBASE||112.7 in||111.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.4 x 76.7 x 67.0 in||192.9 x 72.9 x 57.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.1 sec||6.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.7 sec @ 95.5 mph||14.5 sec @ 98.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)||0.89 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)||26.5 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||18/25/21 mpg||25/34/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles||135/99 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.94 lb/mile||0.68 lb/mile|