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The Oakland Press (theoaklandpress.com), Serving Oakland County


Business

Equinox exceeds expectations
Saturday, June 12, 2010

By Russ Heaps
Of Journal Register News Service

If you’re shopping for a small crossover, or even if you’re looking for a fuel-efficient small sedan, visit your Chevy dealer and ask to drive the redesigned Equinox, and prepare to be impressed. This isn’t a vehicle GM slapped together in a cynical effort to have a horse (any horse) in the small-crossover race; this is a carefully bred horse engineered to dominate the race. This is a crossover designed to cause Toyota RAV4s and Honda CR-Vs sleepless nights. It’s that good.

This is a vehicle you can feel good about owning; it’s capable of meeting the cargo-carrying needs of most crossover owners, and at the same time, it provides the passenger space and comfort of a midsize sedan.

Here are words you’ll rarely hear from a card-carrying, pedal-to-the-metal, performance-is-everything automotive journalist: The lower-horsepower 4-cylinder model is the one to buy. Heavens, did I just write that? I may never get work in this industry again.

The base Equinox engine is a peppy, torquey 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine. It’s all the engine most drivers will need. It accelerates smoothly and relatively quietly. It steps away from the line with enthusiasm when the light goes green. Once at speed, it has the guts to immediately react to a downshift and blast past slower traffic without complaint. A 6-speed automatic transmission hands off engine output to the front wheels. Shifting smoothly, the tranny makes the most of the hardworking 4-banger.

As satisfying as this four’s aggressiveness is, what really sells it is its fuel economy. The EPA estimates its mileage at 22 mpg in the city and a whopping 32 mpg on the highway. The little Versa on loan from Honda that shared my driveway with the Equinox for a week has an estimated EPA number of 31 mpg on the highway. So even if you’re considering a small econobox to stretch your fuel dollar, the 4-cylinder Equinox, with its extra cargo-carrying capacity, is a makes-sense alternative. Springing for the extra $1,750 to add all-wheel drive drops the fuel economy numbers to 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

Available as a $1,500 option on all but the $23,360 base LS edition is a 264-horsepower 3-liter V-6 that also uses the 6-speed automatic tranny. Its fuel economy is a decent, but less impressive 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. AWD reduces the highway number by 1 mpg.

The other trim levels are the 1LT, 2LT and LTZ. My test Equinox was a $26,190 4-cylinder FWD 2LT.

MacPherson struts in front and a multilink arrangement in the rear comprise the core of the four-wheel independent suspension. The ride is pliant and passenger friendly. Not engineered for sporty handling, this suspension still provides better-than-average cornering for a crossover.

Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard on every Equinox. Opting for the V-6 bumps wheel size to 18-inch alloys. Disc brakes at all four wheels are supervised by an antilock system. Related safety features include traction control, stability control, emergency braking assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.

In addition to the somewhat rounder and softer exterior lines delivered by this year’s redesign, Equinox also benefits from a complete interior makeover. A roomy passenger area provides space for five adults. The available 2-tone color scheme looks rich and upscale. Determined that passengers experience a quiet environment, Chevrolet beefed up the sound-deadening insulation, as well as installing noise-canceling technology. From any seating position, the Equinox feels like a more expensive vehicle than it is.

The 63.7 cubic inches of total cargo space is about average for this segment. Accessing it is made easier by the rear opening’s low liftover. When not folded down, the sliding-reclining 60/40 split rear seat can slide back to create more rear-seat legroom, or slide forward to enhance the 31.4 cubic feet of luggage capacity. A programmable power liftgate that can be set to raise at different heights to prevent the rear hatch from hitting anything when opened inside a structure is optional.

At first blush, the instrument panel looks capable of launching the space shuttle. The busy array of knobs, switches, controls and displays could give Mr. Spock pause. But everything operates intuitively. Full power accessories, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, six airbags, cruise control, and 6-speaker audio system with CD player, satellite radio and auxiliary input jack are standard on every Equinox. OnStar is also included on the base crossover, with a one-year subscription to its Safe and Sound service.

My test 2LT also had Bluetooth, remote start, redundant steering wheel-mounted audio controls, USB connectivity for the upgraded Pioneer 8-speaker audio system, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, rearview camera and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Regardless of the ruler used to measure Equinox, the result is positive. In performance, fuel economy, comfort and value, it scores impressively. The small-crossover segment is crowded and filled with competent performers. To stand out, a vehicle must exceed expectations in several areas, and Equinox does just that.



URL: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/articles/2010/06/13/business/doc4c14005d67446367241833.prt

© 2010 theoaklandpress.com, a Journal Register Property
 

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Funny review. I read a lot of reviews these days on GM vehicles where the writer is shocked at how good the vehicle is. Glad we own one.
 

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Only 172hp? They must have installed a restrictor plate on the models given to press members..
 

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NoobNox said:
Only 172hp? They must have installed a restrictor plate on the models given to press members..
I think he was looking at the torque not the HP
 

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grometsc said:
I think he was looking at the torque not the HP
That's a pretty big mistake for a "review" that will be seen by a lot of people. I'm not that old, but I still remember the days when spelling/grammar and factual errors rarely made it into major newpapers or magazines. Those days were pre-internet when newspapers actually had enough subscribers and could afford proof-readers and fact checkers.
 
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