By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Santa Margarita, Calif. – It was wedding time again, which meant a trip to California. While we were there, we arranged to borrow the latest iteration of the Chevrolet Equinox because it had not yet been in the North-West press fleet where we normally get our test cars. So, this trip was a good chance for us to spend time in the Equinox on California’s fast-moving freeways (sometimes they move verrrry slowly, too) and on some of the back roads. We had been reading many positive reviews written by auto writer friends and thought it was time get behind the wheel ourselves.
The Ivy green metallic paint accented the sculpted lines of Chevrolet’s compact crossover test vehicle, and it was a nice departure from the white and silver cars that seem to dominate the roads. From Chevrolet’s new dual port grille back over the shaped sides the Equinox looked smart and distinctive. It takes many styling cues from other attractive new Chevrolets including the Volt, Malibu and Cruze.
The interior is well designed with comfortable, good looking two-tone leather seating, abundant storage compartments and an excellent array of well-positioned controls. Vegan buyers may want to check out the available denim-style seat fabric. While playing the “which way do we turn now” game we especially appreciated the large high-mounted navigation and infotainment screen and the good directions.
The Equinox has cargo capacity of 29.9 cubic feet behind the second-row seating or up to 63.5 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded.
All new for 2018 the Equinox has been Chevrolet’s second best-selling vehicle racking up sales of more than 2 million units since it was launched in 2004. The latest version went on a crash diet dropping about 10 percent (400 pounds) of its weight, to make it more efficient and giving it an even more agile driving feel.
One of the weight savings programs was carried out by dropping the bulky V6 engine from the Equinox repertoire in favor of a choice of two turbocharged DOHC four-cylinder gasoline engines and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel. The standard fare is the 170-hp 1.5-liter direct injection four-cylinder attached to a six-speed automatic transmission. The optional 252-hp 2.0-liter optional four-cylinder uses a new nine-speed transmission. It wasn’t that long ago that an engine producing more than 100 horsepower per liter was rare, now it’s common to see four-cylinder engines at this much higher level.
As diesel engine fans, we’re excited to see that Chevrolet has committed to using diesel engines in some vehicles. The optional 137-hp 1.6-liter turbo diesel with a six-speed automatic in the Equinox, produces 240 lb.ft. of torque (only 20 lb.ft. less than the 2.0-liter gas engine) and it is expected to get up to 39 mpg. All three engines have a 3,500-pound towing capacity, which is enough to easily tow a small boat or a couple of adult toys.
Our 2.0-liter test vehicle was very spunky and had good passing power. Buff magazine testing lists a 0 to 60 mph time of 6.6 seconds. The EPA rates fuel economy of the front-wheel drive version at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. We averaged 26.9 mpg during out trip.
Buyers can choose from four Equinox trim levels: L, LS, LT and Premier plus a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Prices range from $25,570, including the destination charge, for the front wheel drive with the 1.6-liter turbo engine up to $39,220 for the Premier AWD diesel. With all the available options, the price can go as high as $41,675.
The Equinox Premier model has an elevated level of equipment including some niceties like a hands-free power liftgate, remote start, LED headlights, navigation, Chevrolet MyLink® audio, active noise cancellation, a wireless cellphone charger, heated steering wheel and on and on.
Safety equipment includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, park assist, Forward Collison Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Following Distance Indicator and Surround Vision. One feature we would have liked to have had is an Adaptive Cruise Control that allows the driver to follow a vehicle at a fixed distance without having to use the brakes or accelerator.
The Equinox is slightly larger than competitors which include the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5.
The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox has a very good road feel, resembling some of the German SUVS with its precise handling, good brakes and respectable acceleration. Overall, it is a very fun crossover to drive, and an excellent value, plus if you like the advantages of diesel power, its one of the few diesel-powered vehicles sold in the U.S.