Chevy’s next-gen trucklet gets a welcome revamp, including a pair of new fuel-efficient engines.
Amid the dark fog of uncertainty pervading the future of General Motors, the automaker debuts the latest revision to its Chevrolet lineup at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit: a heavily redesigned 2010 Equinox mid-size crossover. Set to go on sale in mid-2009 in LS, LT, and LTZ trims, the new model adopts the brand’s split-grille mug introduced on the 2008 Malibu sedan and will be one of the first GM vehicles to feature all-new and direct-injected inline four-cylinder and V-6 engines.
Dimensionally, the new Equinox rides on the same 112.5-inch wheelbase of the previous model, yet is one inch shorter and wider. A more steeply raked windshield gives a sleeker profile for improved aerodynamics, while available 17-, 18-, or 19-inch wheels pushed closer to the corners provide greater stability and allow for a more spacious cabin. The Equinox’s overall design is more aggressive than its bigger brother, the Lambda-based Chevrolet Traverse, with a more-sculpted front end, bold wheel arches, and distinct creases in the sheetmetal below the beltline. The rear sports stacked round taillights and dual exhausts, yet is reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz ML-class with its forward-canted C-pillars and flush-fitting, wraparound side glass.
Direct Injection, Whether You Like It or Not
With cross-town rival Ford waving a turbocharged and direct-injected EcoBoost finger in GM’s face, Chevy’s new trucklet will come out of the gate fitted with a pair of efficient DI engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 182 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 255 hp and 214 lb-ft. Both powertrains are backed by six-speed automatics and optional all-wheel-drive systems (front-wheel-drive is standard), with the new inline-four developing nearly as much power as the previous Equinox’s 3.4-liter V-6. DI technology also endows the new 3.0-liter V-6, with output almost matching the current Equinox Sport’s 264-hp 3.6-liter V-6.
Combined with electric power steering and better aerodynamics, the new engines help four-cylinder models achieve up to a claimed 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Outfitted with the V-6, GM says fuel economy drops slightly to an estimated city/highway rating of up to 18/25 mpg. However, enlarged fuel tanks allow for more than 500 miles of driving range, regardless of engine choice. And, like the 3.6-liter DI V-6 in the Cadillac CTS and GM’s Lambda large crossovers, both engines are happy with regular unleaded.
Help Where It Was Needed Most
While a stiffer body structure permits more-responsive tuning of the independent front and rear suspensions, drivers likely will consider the new interior the greatest improvement to the Equinox. The previous model’s considerable panel gaps, hard plastics, and overall rental-car build quality garnered little praise from us in the past. But the new cabin, which takes on GM’s new design direction and adopts styling cues from the Malibu and Opel Insignia sedans, appears to have advanced considerably. An attractive ‘floating’ center stack dominates the sweeping dash, with ice-blue ambient lighting around the console, cup holders, and door pulls. Both cloth and leather seating are available, and all trim levels include an adjustable rear seat that slides up to eight inches fore and aft for what GM says is best-in-class legroom.
On the technology front, the Equinox will be available with navigation and a seven-inch touch-screen monitor, as well as Bluetooth and USB connectivity, upgraded sound systems, and a dual-screen entertainment system for backseat passengers. Also featured are a powered and programmable liftgate, rear-view camera (displayed through either the navigation screen or rearview mirror), and an intelligent remote-start system that warms the cabin and activates the heated seats depending on outside temperature. Safety highlights include standard electronic stability and traction control, along with front, head-curtain, and seat-mounted side airbags.
Joining a Crowded Party
The updated Equinox looks promising at first blush and potentially could up the ante for the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V, particularly in regard to its new high-tech powertrains. However, we’ll have to wait for our turn behind the wheel to see where it fits in one of the fastest-growing segments in the market. It shouldn’t be too hard for the new Chevy to improve upon the previous model. That is unless GM’s financial breakdown necessitates significant last-minute changes or postponing production altogether.
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