Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a Chevrolet Equinox already for sale?
Yes, but going on sale this summer is a brand-new model. Let's put it this way: We wouldn't want to be a dealer with an old Chevrolet Equinox still sitting on the lot. The new 2010 Chevrolet Equinox looks better, sounds better, drives better, and offers more features than the outgoing model. This isn't a step up, it's a step over what hopefully is a relic of "old GM." Oh, did we mention it also costs less than the outgoing Equinox, and improves upon fuel economy by 33%, offering 32 mpg on the highway? That's not just better than Equinox of old, that's better than the entire competition of now.
Photos courtesy of: Chevrolet
Did you say it gets 32 miles per gallon? As in Magic Johnson's jersey number?
Yes we did, and there is nothing magic about it. The key piece of the equation is a new 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-cylinder transmission that has been engineered to offer more power with greater efficiency. Details like low-rolling resistance tires and electric power steering (four-cylinder only) also rob less energy from the vehicle, thus increasing fuel efficiency too. Structurally, the Equinox saw its drag coefficient (a measure of wind resistance, the lower the cd the better) drop from 0.42 to 0.36 cd, another key factor in improving fuel efficiency. Even the V-6 version gets decent fuel economy, with an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway with 2WD, and 17/24 with AWD.
How does the Equinox drive? Would you choose one engine over the other?
We spent the majority of our time with the 2.4-liter four cylinder-equipped Equinox. The electric power steering was light but remained on-center. Take your hands off the steering wheel and it keeps driving straight. Through corners and turns, the suspension always reset itself nicely into a planted position. That said, over bumpier roads the suspension felt somewhat harsh, especially if you happened to be sitting in the back seat. The four cylinder engine was more than adequate, and the transmission shifts were smoother than Marvin Gaye singing What's Going On. The 3.0L V-6-equipped Equinox isn't much quicker than the 2.4-liter, though it felt more refined and can tow more than twice (3,500 lbs.) what the four-cylinder can. Chevrolet predicts 75% of models sold will be equipped with the four-cylinder.
I used to have a compact SUV and between the buzzy, underpowered four-cylinder engine and the cheap build quality, it made for an obnoxiously loud driving experience. Any better here?
Chevrolet spent a lot of time bragging how much they invested in making the Equinox top of its class when it came to the reduction of noise and vibration. They pointed out 36 different structural areas where improvements were made to deliver a quiet driving experience, and even went as far as to install a noise cancellation system using the same principles as those Bose headphones on the guy in seat 3F. We, we drove the Equinox on dirt roads, off road, on road, across rumble strips, and on the highway, and Chevrolet…brag away, because you can back it up. This really was an exceptionally quiet, rattle-free vehicle, and it delivered an interior ambience one might expect on vehicles costing way more.
I like collecting odd furniture pieces from the "Free" section on Craigslist; how's the cargo room?
We know what you mean. We found a 50-ft Canary Palm Tree in the free section of Craigslist last week, but lacked a backhoe, crane, and flatbed-semi to take it home with us. That said, for things like dressers, the back seat folds flat for a good 63.7 cubic feet of storage space, and as you can see next to our 6-foot editor, there is a wide rear opening too. We should note here there is an optional power-operated rear liftgate that can be programmed to stop at a specific height should you have a low-garage (or short legs). For smaller items bought on Craigslist like stolen Dells and fake Louis Vuitton purses, there are tons of storage options including a deep center console that can swallow an entire laptop. And just like police at a bank robbery, cup holders have the place surrounded; wherever you look you'll find a spot to drop your McCafe cup.
I'm looking to trade down from a Chevrolet Tahoe, but still want an SUV that makes me feel safe, even if it isn't the size of a tank. Will the Equinox keep me protected in an accident?
Chevrolet targeted the Equinox to get nothing but 5-star safety awards, and with six air bags, stability control, ABS, and traction control standard, that goal should be within reach. All of the Equinox's main competitors have received top marks for safety, so anything less than par for the course is a head-shaking bogie. Chevrolet has a recent history of great safety design (for instance, the IIHS Top Saftey Pick Chevrolet Traverse), so we're not too worried. The Equinox also comes standard with OnStar, and has optional on-demand AWD as well.
I'm a traveling salesmen (I sell genuine Bakelite domino sets to retirement communities) and spend a lot of time on the road. Will I find the Equinox comfortable on long trips?
We are a big fan of the seats in the Equinox, and found them very comfortable and easy to position. There are plenty of interior amenities to keep you entertained including an optional USB hookup for your iPod, standard XM Satellite Radio, and if you happen to be selling dominos to clientele in the colder parts of our country, there is an intelligent remote start system that will activate the HVAC system and optional heated seats based on the outside temperature. Overall we found the interior attractive, inviting, and relatively upscale for this class.
I noticed an "Eco" button in front of the gearshift; what does this stand for and what does it do?
It stands for "Economy Mode", and among other things it holds gears for longer periods of time and can improve fuel economy by up to three percent or one mile per gallon. It's only available on the four-clynder Equinox, and since we barely noticed a difference in driving, we say leave it in the on position and keep the change. This is probably an appropriate time to mention that there will be no hybrid version of the Equinox for now.
My kids can't drive in a car for more than 5 minutes without starting World War III. Please tell me this car comes with a rear entertainment system?
What did parents do before rear entertainment systems? Must have had to learn how to effectively parent, teach their kids to read books, or know a couple good games that required thought and imagination. We digress. The system Chevrolet uses is really slick, with two dual LCD screens that hide away nicely into the back of the front seats. Each screen has a separate video input, so if both kids got a PSP during this year's holiday season, you can drive assured that the East and West will not be warring. The rear entertainment system can be had as part of a $1,295 package that includes a Pioneer premium 8-speaker system, rear seat dual-player DVD system, a remote control, and two wireless headsets.
How would you configure an Equinox if you were buying one?
First thing we should point out is that both the V-6 and AWD are standalone options, so even if you get the four-cylinder, 2WD Equinox, you aren't precluded from any option packages. The Equinox 2LT represents a great value at $25,445. This includes features like remote start, Bluetooth, rearview camera system, USB connectivity, an upgraded Pioneer sound system, and everything that comes standard on the Equinox from the safety items listed previously to the Multi-flex fold flat rear seat. Navigation is available as a standalone option, though it's pricey at $2,145. A fully loaded Equinox tops out a little above $35,000. A destination charge of $745 comes attached to all vehicles.
Any more buying tips or details I should be aware of?
Leather is a $1,050 option, but we actually found the cloth material they used on the base seats to be even more comfortable.
We're a big fan of being able to get a rear-view camera ($320) independent of the navigation system ($2,145).
While the 19-inch wheels look nice, the ride quality might suffer more than the aesthetic value gained.
You've probably heard plenty about Cash for Clunkers vouchers, and assuming legislation passes, the four-cylinder Equinox could qualify you for $4,500 cash back depending on what you trade in.
Finally, look for Equinoxes to start arriving at dealerships shortly.
What other vehicles might be on my shopping list and how does the Equinox compare?
The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are the dominant players in the compact SUV segment (the RAV-4 practically invented it). Fuel economy is at the top of the consideration set for shoppers in this segment, and while the RAV4 and CR-V get decent fuel economy, the Equinox blows both of them away, offering a full 6 mpg better on the highway than the CR-V, and 5 mpg better on the highway than the RAV4. What's notable to us is how dated the RAV4 and CR-V interiors look when compared to the Equinox. To their credit, the RAV4 does offer a third row, and the CR-V's ride is smoother than that of the Equinox. The Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid might also be on your list, and nothing can touch the Escape Hybrid when it comes to city fuel economy at 34 mpg. The Subaru Forester is a solid choice as well.
On the scale of "pebble in the ocean" to "boulder in a kiddie pool", how important is this vehicle to "New GM"?
There might be a lot of excitement around the yet-to-be-released Chevrolet Volt, and for the spirit of the company, launching it is certainly a boulder in the kiddie pool. In terms of boosting the Chevrolet bottom line, the Volt's contribution is more like pebble in the ocean. The compact SUV segment is on track to make up almost 10% of all vehicle sales in the US this year, meaning producing a winner in this category is crucial. So while excitement among the general public surrounding the new 2010 Chevrolet Equinox might be pebble in the ocean, the lift on the bottom line could be boulder in a kiddie pool…which is exactly the kind of impact New GM needs to survive, and we think the Equinox is ready to make a big splash.