I may as well cut to the chase here, and say, proudly, that what we have here is a no excuses Chevy. That’s right-put the Equinox against the best in its class, and the Chevy has no excuses, no stories-it simply does its job, and does it well. GM has also wised up on product introductions. No new wrapper, with promises of better drivetrains to come-it’s all here, right now.
Chevy entered the hotly contested crossover market with the 2005 Equinox-not a bad car, but the styling was forgettable. The only engine choice was a V-6, so it was oddly matched against the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape, who all offered four cylinders. Ã‚Â Competent, yes, a standout, no. That all changes with the new for 2010 Equinox.
Unless we’re talking about Camaros or Corvettes, we don’t normally associate everyday Chevy’s with stand out styling, but the new Equinox is an exception. Starting up front, Chevy continues to push for a corporate “face” (much like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Acura and VW do). The look works here, and the big Chevy bowtie leaves no question as to what you are looking at. A strong character line, bulbous wheel arches and other design elements all contribute to a cohesive, modern, and tasteful look. Not timid, not outrageous, just right.
The interior styling of the Equinox is a home run for Chevy, and here, they are in a league of their own, as the competition all look like appliances in comparison. Sitting in the drivers seat, you get a sense that knowing how important this car was to GM, they simply let their designers be creative. It worked. The Equinox has style, but it is very easy to live with. You can easily just jump in and drive. The stereo/HVAC controls do have quite a few buttons, but a 30-second study is all it really takes to get familiar.
Thoughtful touches abound-rubberized cupholders for different sized drinks in the center console (with ambient lighting at night), console storage under the center armrest with lighting that could swallow a laptop impressed me. Our tester had XM satellite radio, which I found easier than other makers’ to move quickly from station to station. On cool New England autumn mornings the heated seats were welcomed, and the red stitching on the black leather seats, console, and arm rests lent a sporty flair inside the Equinox. I also applaud GM for placing the back-up camera display on the rear-view mirror-a place where I can actually use it.
Driving the Equinox was also a pleasant surprise. I found the ride to be well damped and well controlled. Twisty roads and changes in pavement quality never upset the car, and there wasn’t a creak, squeak or rattle to be heard. The steering was responsive, but I was let down by the fact it transmitted no road feel whatsoever to me.Ã‚Â Our tester came with the standard 2.4L direct-injected four cylinder, good for 182hp, teamed to a 6-speed automatic. On paper, that doesn’t sound like much power to haul an all-wheel drive crossover, but the Equinox had plenty of pep around town, and passing on the highway was never an issue. The engine is smooth, and most of the time very quiet. Driving the Equinox, I really couldn’t make a case for spending the extra money on the optional and thirstier 264hp 3.0L V-6.
The Equinox is available in LS, LT, and LTZ trims, with front or all-wheel drive. Our tester was an LT with all-wheel drive, with an as-tested price of $$31,025USD. Not inexpensive, but our Equinox had options like a power rear liftgate (loved that), rear-seat entertainment (2 DVD screens with remote, headphones), and the leather heated seats.
In sum, the new Equinox is impressive. There is real substance behind the looks, and any buyer considering a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 would be wise to take a good long, look at what Chevy has to offer. If the Equinox is any indication of what we can expect from the “new” GM, we have a lot to look forward to.