California Autos Examiner

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

The Chevrolet Equinox has never been a vehicle to which I’ve given much thought. I would describe the exterior styling as adequate and the interior amenities as marginal. Those are pretty milquetoast words to describe any vehicle and certainly not ones that you’d want to use in any product brochure.

Now on the horizon is the 2010 Equinox and while I cannot say that I’ve driven the car, I have spent some serious time walking around and sitting inside the vehicle. The verdict so far? It’s a hit!

Firstly, let’s talk about the exterior styling. I think that the new Equinox is quite a looker. In fact, when judging it against the RAV4 and CR-V, it over delivers on both design and content. That is a pretty big deal. For me, the Equinox manages to look premium and nicely detailed. The daylight opening on all models has a chrome surround, a nice touch. As you stare at the vehicle, you notice little flourishes like a crease in the sheet metal behind the rear door or a slight flair on the d-pillar that gives the car better aerodynamics. The rocker panels are integrated into the door, just like the Ford Flex, and that helps keep pants clean and allow for easier entering/exiting.

An interesting aside, I spoke with the exterior design manager for the Equinox and I casually mentioned that I felt the Malibu had too many bowties integrated into the design. The Equinox as far fewer, but it does feature them on the rear taillights for a specific reason: to fight counterfeiters. If parts makers produce the taillight with that bowtie, then GM has an easy legal case against them for using Chevy’s emblem. I had never thought of that and now that it has been explained to me, I’m okay with small emblems being there. This designer is also the manager for the forthcoming GMC Terrrain and while he couldn’t get into specifics, he said that the two vehicles will look nothing like each other.

The Equinox has “large” styling, but that doesn’t show up at the gas pump. The Chevy is a class leader in fuel economy, posting numbers of 21/30 city/highway for the four cylinder and 18/25 for the V6. To obtain the best mileage, drivers hit an “Eco” button which can add up to an additional mile per gallon of efficiency (partial credit for the Eco button is included in the EPA numbers). The four cylinder model has an 18.8 gallon tank and the V6 has 20.9 gallon tank so your cruising range for either model will be right around 500 miles. In other words, you’ll need to empty your bladder before the Equinox needs to refill its tank. Towing capacity is ~1500 pounds for the four cylinder and ~3500 pounds for the V6. If you opt for the towing package, you pick up a hitch and trailer lighting socket.

Also getting attention from engineers was noise attenuation. On four cylinder models, active noise cancellation is standard. The noise cancellation system allowed the team to drop the idle down and thereby save fuel. As a side note, GM is using the same supplier who provides Honda with its noise cancellation system. Acoustic laminated glass is used for the windshield and two front windows. A host of other tricks were used to keep the vehicle quiet. Again, without a ride and drive, it’s impossible to tell how well it all works, but if we take the Malibu as an example, then sound levels should be quite good.

Under the hood, there is a choice of either a 2.4L Ecotec direct injected I-4 engine estimated at 182 horsepower which is yoked to a Hydra-matic 6T45 six speed automatic transmission and a 3.0L DOHC direct injected V-6 engine estimated at 255 horsepower and commanded by the Hydra-matic 6T70 six speed auto with manual shift control. Given that direct injection motors can produce a racket, special attention was paid to locating fuel system parts, such as locating the fuel pump down low, where they produced the least noise. For those interested, Michelin and Hankook will be the tire suppliers for the Equinox.

The interior receives a tremendous makeover. The quality, fit and finish inside the vehicle is vastly better than before. You will notice that the plastic on the top of the dash is hard, but the graining and sheen are much better. There are too many features to list individually, but I’ll cover some of the more important ones.

There is an optional dual screen entertainment system that integrates into the seatbacks. You can play a DVD on one screen and hook up your video game or portable DVD player to the other screen. This will undoubtedly prevent some backseat battles. Because the rear seat has 8” of fore/aft travel, you can scoot the seat far enough back that Jonny won’t be able to kick at the screen. Oddly, at least to me, there is not power inverter as there is on the Malibu. Instead you get four power ports: two up front, one for the middle row and one in the back. Chevy reps told me that the cost/benefit wasn’t there and that portable inverters are cheap enough for consumers to buy. A power liftgate with a height limiter is available on the Equinox. Apparently it was a bit of a battle for the team to get this feature added, with some folks feeling that this feature wasn’t suited for this model. A backup camera is can be ordered as well, either appearing in the rearview mirror or, if equipped, in the navigation screen.

A “floating” center stack is bathed in ice-blue ambient lighting, featured within and surrounding the center stack, encircling the center-console cup holders and within the door pull cups. There is also a light small light in the roof which provides some extra illumination at night, in this particular case I thought the finish of this light was well executed—unlike the HHR which simply has a small hole cut in the overhead console and an LED sitting precariously behind it. I have to say that I find this ambient lighting to be a bit gimmicky, but then again I have not driven the car at night. It should be noted that the ambient lighting is standard on all models, but that lighting inside the center console is not standard. That center console is very deep and contains a power outlet, if equipped a audio input jack and USB connector. Uplevel audio systems feature Pioneer branded speakers, 40GB hard drive for music and certain non-protected video files.

The 2010 Equinox is a stylish and feature rich vehicle. Provided it has the right dynamics on the road and is screwed together with care, then it should make a big splash once it arrives. However, that doesn’t mean that it will market itself. Project managers said that the Equinox will see some disruptive campaigns, rather like the Malibu launch. Honda and Toyota customers would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t check out this newcomer.

General Motors covered my expenses to attend the 2009 NAIAS.


Anonymous said...

I was there and saw it too and agree with you. I was unexcited after seeing the advance release of pictures which don't do the styling justice. But the real winner on this car is the interior. It's got that hard to define something that just makes it right. Everything looks good together and seems to be where you would think it would be. I actually walked away thinking this may be the surprise of the gm lineup released at the auto show because it is much better than you can describe on paper.

Unknown said...

I believe you with this reprot man.

When you wrote the last line: "General Motors covered my expenses to attend the 2009 NAIAS"... and after reading other reviews that you've made, I can tell that you seems to be a very honest man(woman) when writting about cars.

I really like this vehicle, it has everything that I like. I'm 24, male, hobbies: work, beach and paaaarty... yes work, I work a lot. And this suv fit in all that.

I'm gonna buy it!!!

Dave said...

I just purchased the new 2010 equinox. I traded in a 2005.

The 2010 just looks, rides better and gave me a better option of power in the 264 hp. Oh yes it is a heck of a lot quieter.

Jonathan said...

Comparing the car against the competition and specifically Mercury Mariner, it is a good match when equally equipped. The down side is that there are few incentives to buy the Equinox. Ford is giving $1500 and 0% plus $750 private rebate offer, while on the Equinox the best I can get is 6.9% (or an added $100 / month car payment). GM, please ante up some good deals for current GM owners as well as non-GM owners in September 2009. Once you do that, the decision to buy this GM car is an easy one.