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2010 Chevrolet Equinox V6 AWD Review


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"The 2010 Equinox' extensive redesign offers a quantum leap forward in just about every category"

CHEVROLET EQUINOX V6 AWD 2LT

One of GM's Comeback Products
By Steve Purdy
TheAutoChannel.com
Detroit Bureau

This new all-wheel drive Equinox appeared in my driveway during a cold February week - the week of the Chicago Auto Show. Though some of my Detroit area colleagues fly to the windy city to cover the show, I always drive. Without complications it usually takes about three and a half hours to make the trip. But in February our famous “lake-effect” snow almost always complicates the journey. That’s why I was so pleased that this week’s tester came with all-wheel drive.

As it turned out we didn’t need the extra traction. Our Tuesday drive day to Chicago was dry though big snow came that night along with a 4-point-something earthquake, believe it or not. By our return time late Thursday afternoon the snow had been cleared and, though wet, the roads were just fine.

I’d rate the new Equinox better than “just fine.” This second generation of Chevy’s small crossover SUV, or CUV if you prefer, was a tad late getting here, as was the first generation, but she arrived reeking with panache. The first generation, introduced as an ‘03 model, showed up after most competitors were already out with their small, car-based SUVs. The original was nicely styled, adequately contented, and competent – in other words, just fine - but nothing to write home about. This extensive redesign makes a quantum leap forward in just about every category – and, they reduced the price about a grand on average.

The new Equinox can be had in four iterations: the basic, front-wheel drive LS starting at about $23,000, the 1LT and 2LT adding a bit more standard content, and the top-of-the-line LTZ for close to $29,0000. Standard power is the oft-touted direct-injected, DOHC I4 that the EPA says will get you a best-in-class 32-mpg. The 3.0-liter V6 and all-wheel drive are available as options on all but the LS. All models come only with a new, efficient 6-speed automatic transmission.

Our tester is the 2LT with all-wheel drive showing a starting price of $27,195. With optional audio and navigation package worth $2,145, the V6 costing an extra $1,500, the leather seating package (including heated front seats) for $1,050 and cool, machined aluminum 18-inch wheels for $250, the bottom line on the sticker becomes just over 32-grand.

Equinox prices are about middle of the pack for competitive vehicles like Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and that ilk. Of course, there are dozens of other comparables we could mention. I think every manufacturer has built a CUV on their small car platforms.

Our favorite Chevy dealer here in Lansing, Ralph Shaheen, tells me that they’ve been unable to keep more than a few in stock because of their popularity. I can see why. This thing is a knock-out.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, said a wise person long ago. If you’re a car buyer unfamiliar with this genre of vehicle, I’ll wager that it will make a great first impression both outside and in. I remember vividly my first encounter with the new Equinox about six months before formal introduction. GM hosted a preview of a bunch of new stuff at the Design Dome at the Warren Tech Center. Of the four products previewed – 2 Chevys, a Buick and a Cadillac – the Equinox held its own as the equal to anything in the room.

Equinox is built on the versatile GM Theta platform, originally developed for the 2002 Saturn Vue, which underpins a variety of other products and features independent suspension front and rear. It is somewhere between small and mid-sized with a 112.5-inch wheelbase. Though size categories tend to overlap somewhat this car feels more mid-sized.

Visually, the front end shows the current Chevy face with horizontal, two-section grille and prominent bow-tie emblem in the center. Exageratedly flared wheel arches both front and rear provide the requisite image of aggression and an upswept shoulder crease, slanted C-pillar, and 18-inch wheels give it an up-to-date appearance.

Inside, we find a most dramatic upgrade from the original with richer materials, bold design and nearly flawless execution. The leather seats come with contrasting stitching, everything we touch has a feel of substance and nothing appears compromised, cheap or tawdry. The design is both functional and boldly attractive.

The Ontario-built Equinox is just a smidge bigger than the competitors listed above as well as having the most standard horsepower in the class. Cargo capacity is listed at 63.7 cubic-feet with the second seat back folded and 31.4 with it in place. Ingress and egress, even for a big guy like me, is excellent both front and rear. Towing capacity is good at 1,500 pounds for the I4 and about 3,000 pounds for the V6.

The 3.0-liter V6 shows EPA numbers of 17-mpg in the city and 24 on the highway but our tester managed to average about 26-mpg on our Chicago trip which, as you might surmise, was mostly highway driving. This is a 3,750-pound vehicle with decent aerodynamics for an SUV.

Noteworthy, of course, is this 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder that comes standard on all levels of the Equinox. With a 32-mpg highway rating it is even better even than the Ford Escape Hybrid. While I have not driven the I4 yet I’ll note that is has just about the same horsepower rating (182) as the previous generation’s V6 (185, if I recall correctly). So, that means, with the large 18.8-gallon fuel tank, the highway cruising range is around 600 miles. I like that.

GM’s basic warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles but covers the powertrain for 5 years or 100,000 miles – stingier than most on the low end, more generous on the top end.

The driving environment in the Equinox was excellent. I felt like I was in a much more expensive and upscale car. It was remarkably quiet inside and the ride was both sturdy and comfortable. We filled the rear cargo area with stuff to take to our new little grandson in the Chicago suburbs, plus all our stuff for the auto show and had plenty of room for more.

There is no question that this is the kind of vehicle GM needs to keep making to facilitate their comeback. The last half dozen vehicles that have been refreshed or introduced as all-new have been this good and I’m guessing they’ll continue to keep ‘em coming. Sure hope so.

And, one last word for those who say they won’t buy a GM car because the company took government money to stay afloat. GM has announced that they will be paying back all the government ‘loans’ with interest by this summer. And, doesn’t it make sense to buy a car from a company you – the US taxpayer – own 60% of?

It’s looking good for a GM IPO later this year. We’ll be watching.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved