Chevrolet’s midsize SUV Equinox has sold more than 2 million units since its debut in 2005, and earned its place in the top 20 of US car sales, at number 15 for 2016. Now in its third generation, the Equinox hits the market with not one but three turbocharged engine options, one of which runs on diesel, as well as a new suite of safety enhancements and a whole new look.
On a Chevrolet-sponsored trip to North Carolina, I got to sample the Equinox with the standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine through the Appalachian mountains. A 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel will be available later this year.
The smallest power plant is good for 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of low-end torquey grunt. That output is well matched to competitors like theand but the Equinox has a bit of an edge. Thanks to the use of high-strength steel, the previously bloated crossover is now 400 pounds lighter. In a world where manufacturers are scraping to lose 50 pounds out of a chassis, Chevrolet is knocking it out of the part with its current diet.
A shorter body combined with less weight means the little 1.5-liter puts out plenty of power to motivate the Equinox up the hills, down the highway and around town. Even on the twisty roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Equinox felt nimble enough and ready to turn. The steering has a good weight to it, but like most electrically-assisted setups, there isn’t much road feel. No matter, as the Equinox isn’t trying to be a Porsche Macan. Instead it gets the job done with a minimal amount of fuss.
The Equinox’s six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, and while the gearbox may need a little encouragement to downshift for passing, it does so without much commotion.
Chevrolet will make all-wheel-drive available on the Equinox, but no examples were available for me to try. With the all-wheel-drive option, drivers can manually switch from all-wheel to front-wheel drive. Other switch-hitting vehicles disconnect the rear axle automatically, but Chevy leaves it up to the driver.
Thanks to the lighter weight, the 2018 model sees a bump in fuel economy from last year’s edition. The front-wheel drive Equinox that I sampled is up to 26 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, while the all-wheel drive should return 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg for the highway.
My only complaint from behind the wheel is the throttle lag. Press on the gas and the engine takes a good second to respond to the input, making it tough to accelerate out of corners or out of a sticky situation. It’s not a deal breaker but the computer could be programmed for a more responsive right pedal.
Heated seats for everyone!
The cabin greets passengers with an optional two-tone leather design or nifty cloth seats with a denim-like weave. Heated seats are available in both front and rear, but only front seat passengers can have their rear ends cooled. There is plenty of storage for keys and phones, both in the center console and armrest, as well as the door.
Although the Equinox is a bit smaller on the outside, it hasn’t lost any cargo capacity. With the rear seats folded up there is nearly 30 cubic feet of space. Fold those babies down and that space expands to 63.5 cubes. The seats don’t fold perfectly flat, but it’s pretty close and should do just fine for the ubiquitous run to Ikea or Home Depot.
2018 Chevrolet Equinox: A skinny supermodel…
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The intuitive MyLink infotainment system displays on a standard 7-inch or available 8-inch touchscreen. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The hotspot is easy to connect to, but keep in mind, it’s just a way to get the internet to your devices. If your phone is out of a service area, chances are the car won’t be getting a signal either.
A big bummer is that you’ll have to pay extra for most safety features, if they are even offered at all. While the lower L and LS trims are offered with a backup camera, they don’t have any of the advanced camera and radar-based safety elements like forward collision alert and automatic braking, and they aren’t even offered as options.
The midrange LT trim line only offers blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as part of the $1,945 comfort and convenience package. That also brings along a few extras like a power lift gate (which can open fully or just to 75 percent at the touch of a button) and dual-zone climate control.
The top-end Premier trim gets blind spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert standard, but low speed collision alert and braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist as well as surround view cameras and a haptic seat are part of the $1,895 Comfort and Convenience II package. If you haven’t felt GM’s vibrating seat, prepare yourself. Waver just a bit over the left lane line and the left side of the seat gives a sharp buzz. You may be put off, but it sure does get your attention.
Adaptive cruise control isn’t offered on any trim line. Insert sad trombone sound here.
Meanwhile, much of the competition out-does Chevrolet in terms of standard safety equipment and driver’s aids. Toyota Safety Sense is standard across all trim levels of theand includes lane departure alert and mitigation, adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking. The Honda CR-V has lane departure alert and mitigation, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring standard on all but the lowest trim level.
The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox with the standard 1.5-liter engine is available now. It starts at $24,475, but the front-wheel drive Premier trim I sampled, with the Comfort and Convenience II package as well as iridescent pearl paint and, not joking here, a $40 front license plate bracket, comes to $34,615 with destination. It is a fine crossover with a comfortable interior and plenty of useable tech, but those looking for driver’s aids as standard equipment will be disappointed.
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