1994 Chevrolet K
If you’re big on four-wheeling, you probably should give consideration to Chevrolet’s K Blazer. Sure, the basic vehicle is hardly a new entry as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Many of the rough edges have been smoothed in styling, handling and performance, but it’s still basically the same vehicle it was a quarter century ago-and enough of a crowd pleaser to keep Chevrolet (and GMC with its full-size Jimmy) pumping them out. Ford also continues to make its full-size Bronco for the same reason.
We drove a 1994 edition Sport model with a much-improved 6.5-liter 180-hp V8 diesel. When considering the K Blazer Sport with the diesel, you have three major issues to confront. First is price. This muscle-bound four-wheeler is going to cost you nearly $30,000 MSRP when equipped like our test model. Next, people of smaller stature are going to have trouble entering and exiting unless you get aftermarket running boards. And last, the restricted rear seat/cargo space doesn’t really offer a lot of easily accessible room.
You simply can’t ignore the K Blazer’s big, bold visual statement. It’s high, measuring 72.4 inches from ground to rooftop, 8.1 inches higher than Chevrolet’s midsize S-Blazer. Ground clearance is not out of the ordinary, but the step up over the door sill almost an acrobatic exercise . As mentioned, aftermarket running boards (Chevrolet doesn’t offerthem) will help.
Although the platform for this vehicle is 25 years old, the look is very contemporary. Lines are smooth and more rounded than on the S-Blazer. Our Sport edition was 0nyx Black, with black grille, bumpers, wheel lip moldings and lower bodysides. This was all set off nicely by 16-inch styled aluminum wheels clad in husky LT265/75R blackwall tires.
The K Blazer’s height and distance off the ground are also apparent when you pull yourself up and in the cabin. Aside from people of small stature, this could be a problem for women in skirts and children.
If those clambering on board are headed for the back seat, they really have some contorting to do. But once inside and seated, all the hard work pays off with wide expanses of glass that provide for great vistas.
Seats are comfortable and supportive. Chevrolet accurately calls this a five-passenger vehicle with this seating configuration. A front bench seat option makes it a six-passenger vehicle, although the transmission hump and shift console make it short-trips-only for the middle front seat passenger. The rear seatback folds forward for maximum cargo capacity, but it’s not split, so there is no provision for a rear seat passenger and longer cargos such as skis.
There is plenty of head, shoulder, hip and knee room. While we wouldn’t want to have three rear seat passengers for too long, there’s enough room in the K Blazer to make a safari without everyone hating each other after a day or two.
Although this is a big-looking and big-acting vehicle, cargo volume in the K Blazer is relatively modest. Volume with the rear seatback folded is 99.4 cubic feet. With the rear seat in place, it’s 51.8 cubic feet. Midsize four-wheelers such as Jeeps Grand Cherokee Limited, Ford Explorer Limited and Isuzu Trooper LS have volumes very near this.
Perhaps our biggest quarrel with K Blazer’s cargo capacity is how you get to it. To enter from the rear, you lift the upper tailgate glass (released by a driver’s remote control when the transmission is in park), then drop the tailgate. You have to reach over or around the tailgate for access. This can be difficult, especially for cargo placed forward. You could access cargo forward through either door, but access is limited by the front travel of the bucket seats. Also, the spare tire and wheel are mounted to the left side of the cargo area, further limiting capacity and access.
Safety equipment is comparable to other makes. There is no driver-side air bag – the Ford Bronco and jeep Grand Cherokee currently are the only models with this safety feature. Air bags are in the works for Chevy and the imports.
From the driver’s standpoint, everything is laid out properly. Chevrolet has had enough time to get some things right and the ergonomics here are straightforward and well-done. Gauges, switches and controls are all sensibly placed, legible and well-lighted. There is convenient storage, and the cupholders, while too small for bigger cups, are adequate.
What K Blazer does very well is perform. In traffic, its size was a definite asset. Other vehicles seemed to respond to K Blazer’s “get out of my way” statement. Handling was sure and responsive. There was little or no body roll in cornering. The power steering system is one of the best, with enough road feedback to let you know what is going on, yet enough power to handle every on- and off-road situation with ease.
There is a standard four-wheel antilock system on the front disc/rear drum brakes. They performed flawlessly in our test, with no evidence of “shudder” as the system applied and released the brakes to help prevent wheel lockup and skidding. The independent coil spring suspension offered a smooth, solid ride and worked well in some he rutted off-road going.
If you’ll be doing a lot of off-roading, you could be very happy with K Blazer. It is excellent in the mud, in the ruts, among boulders and going up and down grades. The K Blazer’s Insta-Trac 4×4 System also performed without a hiccup. We shifted on the move from 2WD to 4WD high in some muddy ruts and kept right on going. Shifting to 4WD low for a muddy grade involved stopping, shifting the optional automatic transmission into neutral, then shifting the transfer case to 4WD low. While not exactly state-of-the-art, it was no big deal and very similar to the 4WD low shift requirements of many competitors.
Some positive comments about the optional diesel engine (the standard engine is Chevrolet’s faithful 5.7-liter, 350 EFI V8, producing 200 hp at 4,000 rpm): Unlike some of GM’s early car/light-truck diesel engines that exhibited substandard zeal, this engine really works, especially in the K Blazer. It runs strong, clean and relatively quiet and provides performance similar to a gasoline engine while offering the economy and strength of a diesel. The diesel option adds $2,825 (with dual batteries standard) to the base price, but we feel this cost would be offset over time with lower fuel bills.
We are not ho-hum about the 1994 Chevrolet K Blazer. We love its big, bold look and feel. Driving it, we felt as though we could conquer anything we met on- or off-road. We are especially impressed with its performance and the capability of the optional diesel engine. Overall, there are 4WD vehicles on the market that are more pleasing, but the K Blazer is priced right up there with the best.