When I was looking to replace my Ramcharger a few years ago, I seriously considered the Blazer, Explorer, Cherokee, 4Runner, and XTerra.
After seeing that the 4Runner and XTerra cost $5,000 more than the others for the same year and mileage, they were off the list.
I eliminated the Blazer after reading the numerous, consistent complaints about failure of ball joints and wheel bearings, and problems with the transmission and 4 wheel drive.
That brought it down to the Cherokee and Explorer.
Since they quit making the regular (non-Grand) Cherokee in 2001, they were already getting to be an old car by the time I needed my replacement in 2006, although the (non-Grand) Cherokee had a really good reputation.
I went with a 2002 Explorer Sport and just couldn't be happier! I've put almost 30,000 miles on it (it now has over 107,000) with never a problem. Smooth ride, good 4x4, and over 23 mpg on the highway.
My neighbor's GMC Jimmy (same thing as the Chevy Blazer) also had the same ball joint and wheel bearing problems.
I think the little Chevy Blazers are cheap-o's that are not up to the rigors of living in South America. I worked in Bolivia for a time, and even though there were a ton of early '70s Dodge Dart taxi cabs and Dodge 1-ton trucks around, the mining company I worked for used Mazda B-2500 pickups. There were only a couple of paved roads in the whole country, and everything else was pot-holed hardpan. The tires on these things were heavy duty rubber with inner tubes, if that gives you an idea. Those little Mazdas were great, although the terrible roads still rattled them apart.
My first trip down from La Paz, our pickup was trying to shake loose the intermediary shaft out of the transfer case because the pilot bushing had vibrated apart. However, the Mazda was simple enough that it could be fixed by a guy in the alley with a hammer, which I'm sure would not be possible with a complicated NorteAmericano vehicle.
I agree that there are some places in South America in which city and country roads are a real hell. But Chile is quite different from Bolivia. I live in a large metropolitan area and the Blazer saw the mud from a really good distance. 95% of time I used this SUV in the city and on paved highways. In Chile most highways have been privatized in the last 20 years. We pay toll to go everywhere, it's expensive but we get better roads that way.
I'm a father of two, and I used the Blazer to take my kids to school and the occasional weekend trip to the countryside or beach. You don't buy a blazer for heavy duty (Nissan and Toyota lead that market with reliable trucks, but they are spartan, not really good for families).
Anyway I'm happy now. Just bought a small Hyundai. It's been OK so far.
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