Automakers are loath to admit it, but passenger car sales figures are down. Conversely, small to mid-size CUVs and SUVs are hot. Chevrolet’s timing for launching the all-new 2018 Equinox couldn’t be better.
I just tested the bow tie division’s re-worked CUV on the urban, country and mountainous roads of North Carolina.
Chevrolet’s new styling theme is bestowed on a vehicle that is 400 pounds lighter than 2017’s. All of this “loss” is due to a directive that each engineering team reduce weight. Through the use of smarter chassis components, bonding and build design combined with lighter four-cylinder, turbo-only engines, they cut the weight.
For the launch program, Chevrolet provided 2018 Equinox Premier-trimmed versions in AWD and FWD with base 1.5-liter turbo engine. Power is routed through a six-speed automatic that constantly puts you in the best (highest) gear for mileage. As for engine choices, a larger 2.0-liter turbo is due this summer, and in early fall, a 1.6-liter turbo diesel will be available.
Moving inside, the design is very appealing in the Premier trim with dual power, two-tone leather, heated/ventilated seats and tasteful chrome-accented knobs/switches. I liked the functions and positioning of the infotainment screen. All the expected convenience controls are there bolstered with MyLink audio, 8” touch screen, Bluetooth, Apple/Android capability, 4GLTE Wi-Fi and a good audio system.
During our drive we noticed (and felt) the hard plastic on mid-to-lower panels/interior pieces. Seating is inviting, but doesn’t offer more or less comfort than competitors. In the rear, folding seats have two recline positions and offer decent thigh bolstering, and outboard positions are heated. An optional panoramic roof adds light and makes the interior feel more spacious. Cargo room is decent at 63.5 cubic feet with rear seats folded, and there is some shallow under-cargo-floor space along with a space-saver tire.
On the various roads of our test route, Equinox had varying degrees of success. On urban streets it was nimble and very easy to park. The ride was well dampened and acceleration decent. Out on the highway, brisk/confident acceleration was lacking. Numerous times we had the pedal to the floor and said, “That’s it?” This situation was only amplified in the mountains.
The six-speed transmission programming does not offer any performance settings or performance algorithm shift learning that we could detect. Power shifting is not possible, and there isn’t a redline on the tach. Electric steering is a necessity and made for quick moves but no road feel. Bright spots include no torque steer and segment-competitive handling. Another tester and I noticed that AWD only engages after you push a button. Grip is maintained with 19-inch Hankook tires for Premier-trimmed cars.
The improvements Chevrolet has made to the 2018 Equinox are substantial. Is Equinox worth consideration? Absolutely — something I could not say previously.