The impacts of COVID-19 notwithstanding, many mainstream auto brands are enjoying strong sales of three-row utilities in the United States, and many are seeing potential in the midsize, five-passenger utility segment, aiming to please empty nesters who no longer need a large SUV, but still appreciate the versatility and capability such a vehicle provides. In that category, General Motors offers the Chevrolet Blazer in addition to the GMC Acadia, which now have a new rival to deal with – the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.
To develop the Cross Sport, the German brand seems to have stolen a page out of GM’s playbook. Using the same MQB platform and mechanical components from the “regular” three-row Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport bolts on a slightly redesigned body and removes the third-row seat, creating a new two-row model in its lineup that didn’t cost much to engineer. Now that the VW Atlas Cross Sport is hitting the market, could the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer learn a few things that its new German/American adversary excels at? Absolutely.
1. Interior Room
First off, the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is much bigger inside than the Blazer, since it rides on the exact same wheelbase as its three-row Atlas counterpart. Meanwhile, the Blazer uses the shorter version of the GM C1 platform, making it smaller than the three-row Chevrolet Traverse. The Cross Sport benefits from more legroom and shoulder room, while its cargo volume is rated at 40.3 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks upright, and 77.8 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. The Blazer, by comparison, manages 30.5 and 64.2 cubic feet in the same conditions.
2. Towing Capacity
Properly equipped, the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer can tow up to 4,500 pounds, while the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport can pull a maximum of 5,000 pounds. Sure, both metrics are pretty close, but it could make the purchase difference for some crossover buyers who frequently tow a trailer.
3. Pricing & Base Powertrain
At $29,995 (including freight), the Blazer carries a lower base price than the Cross Sport’s $31,565. However, for that sum, the Chevy is equipped with the 193-horsepower, 2.5-liter LCV inline-four, while the base engine in the VW is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four rated at 235 horses. To get the Blazer’s 230-horse, turbo-charged 2.0-liter LSY inline-four to match the Cross Sport, buyers must move up to the 2LT trim level, which starts from $33,995.
4. Active Safety Features
If there’s one area where the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer seriously lags behind the VW Atlas Cross Sport, it’s in the active safety feature department. Every trim level of the VW gets forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. By comparison, the frontal collision avoidance systems are only available on the Blazer’s two highest-end trim levels – RS and Premier, and as part of the Enhanced Convenience and Driver Confidence II Package, meaning a minimal investment of $45,270. Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert is available from the 1LT trim, which means spending at least $35,340.
Finally, the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport is covered by a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, while the 2020 Chevrolet Blazer’s comprehensive coverage is limited to 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. To GM’s defense, its limited powertrain warranty is longer, at 5 years or 60,000 miles.
And to those keeping track of this sort of thing, the Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport are built at the company’s Chattanooga plant in Tennessee, while the Blazer is assembled at the GM Ramos Arizpe factory in Mexico.
Does the Cross Sport have anything to learn when compared to the Blazer? The Chevy’s most noticeable advantages concern fuel economy and handling. Case in point, the Blazer delivers city/highway/combined ratings of 21/28/24 mpg for models with the turbocharged 2.0L engine and front-wheel drive, and 19/26/21 mpg with the range-topping 3.6-liter LGX V6 engine. The 2.0L FWD Cross Sport is rated at 21/24/22 mpg, while the V6 nets averages of 17/23/19 mpg – both lower than those of the Chevrolet. And, as those who have driven the Blazer know full well, the vehicle can handle itself very well, particularly in the twisties, almost to the point of being spirited, engaging and fun-to-drive.