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Thread: 2010 Chevy Equinox

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2010 Chevy Equinox

    GM may yet get off the mat.

    The new Camaro is selling well - and for the first time, GM has a small crossover SUV that's not just competitive with the equivalent Honda and Toyotas.

    It's better.

    WHAT IT IS

    The Chevy Equinox is a compact crossover SUV similar to Honda's CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 (among others). It comes in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, with either a four or six-cylinder engine, seats 4-5 people and starts at $22.440. A loaded V-6/AWD model tops out just under $30k.

    WHAT'S NEW

    Though the Equinox name isn't new, the 2010 model has been completely updated and shares only its core frame with the old version. Like Camaro, the 2010 Equinox is one of GM's post-bankruptcy Hail Mary passes that could win the game - if enough buyers give it a look.

    WHAT'S GOOD

    A outstanding, finely crafted interior that makes its competitors' cabins look cheap or boring - or both at the same time. Sharp, classy exterior. Bigger than its "compact" designation suggests. Standard four-cylinder engine has enough power (182 hp) that you don't feel compelled to buy the extra-cost V-6. And the thing can get a class-best 32 mpgs on the highway - very close to the fuel economy of many dismal microsmall econo-boxes such as the Toyota Corolla.

    WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

    If GM doesn't pull out of its death spiral, resale values (and depreciation rates) will be disastrous.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    The standard 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine features state of the art direct injection and variable valve timing and produces a very commendable 182 hp. Despite a high compression ratio (11.7:1) this engine also runs on regular unleaded, too. It is teamed with a six-speed automatic.

    Optional is a 3.0 liter V-6 that produces 264 hp; like the four, this engine also features direct injection and high compression - yet also likes regular unleaded.

    It, too, comes with a six-speed automatic.

    Either engine is available with front-wheel-drive or (optionally) all-wheel-drive.

    Power-wise, the Chevy's standard four dominates the four-cylinder-only Honda CR-V, which comes standard with a 166 hp, 2.4 liter engine that's tied to a surprisingly dated (for a Honda) five-speed automatic. The Equinox also beats the CR-V on fuel efficiency - an even bigger surprise - and not by a tiny margin, either. The front-drive CRV is rated by the EPA at 20 city and 27 highway while the front-drive Equinox comes in at 22 city and truly impressive 32 highway - a 5 mpg difference.

    The Toyota RAV4's standard 2.5 liter four (which produces 179 hp) is more evenly matched but it is hampered by its even more dated four-speed automatic transmission. The RAV4's optional 269 hp 3.5 liter V-6 just barely outmuscles the Chevy's optional V-6 but it only comes with a five-speed automatic vs. the more up-to-date six-speed in the Equinox.

    Another impressive Equinox stat is that the four-cylinder version of the 2010 model is almost exactly as quick, 0-60, as the V-6 version of the previous Equinox. It does the deed in about 9 seconds flat (FWD versions) while V-6 equipped models dip solidly into the eights.

    Maximum towing capacity (with the V-6) is a sturdy 3,500 lbs. - vs. 1,500 lbs. for the wimpy four cylinder-only CR-V and (surprisingly, again) 2,000 lbs. for the V-6 equipped RAV4.

    DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    I live at a fairly high elevation (appx. 3,400 feet) and more important than that for test-driving purposes, my daily drive takes me from that height down a steeply graded and very curvy road to the valley below - and then back up again. Most four cylinder-powered cars (unless they are really light little sports cars like a Miata) are not happy here. Engines with adequate power on flat roads at sea level struggle and suck wind as they try to ascend the mountain. But the four-cylinder Equinox I drove for a week was remarkably athletic - both in its ability to climb up that six percent grade and (no kidding) to give a guy in a BMW 325i a run for his money.

    He did beat me to the top - but not by much. I always had him in sight.

    And I'll tell you something else, too. The same week I drove the Equinox I also had a Lexus RX350 - a vehicle that costs easily twice as much - and the Equinox was more up to the job of a race to the top of Bent Mountain against a BMW than it was. The fancy Lexus's tires squealed sooner, its body leaned more alarmingly and it arrived at my personal ok, that's fast enough! point earlier, too.

    Maybe there's some Camaro DNA in the Equinox's bloodline. All I can tell you is it is much more fun to drive fast than a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. And when you're not driving like you stole it (or it's a press car loaner) the Chevy feels far less "compact" (read: tinny and small) than either of its two chief compact crossover SUV rivals. In fact, it's so close to mid-size in character as well as physical dimensions (the Equinox is seven inches longer overall than the RAV4 and about ten inches longer overall than a CR-V) that its official designation is more of a happy technicality than an actuality - kind of like a natural heavyweight boxer who drops a few pounds so he can fight in the next-lowest division. And beat everyone in it!

    That doesn't mean the Equinox is a fatty or ungainly. Just that it's not what you'd expect from a vehicle that's technically a "compact."

    STYLING & UTILITY

    It's a strong-looking vehicle, bold - but not cartoonish as some GM efforts of the past have been. Hunky pressed-in wheel arches; subtle side-scalloping, a powerful-looking front end with large grille opening and wide-eyed headlight assemblies.

    Nice.

    The interior is one of GM's best efforts in years. It's coherent, it's classy and it's hands-down better in terms of appearance, materials used and fit and finish than any other vehicle in this segment. It's a dual cockpit theme with a "v" center stack, the trim pieces done in high-grade-looking pewter/aluminum and everything backlit in cool blue. It's elegant and sharp and a whole lot more than you'd expect to find in a $22k Chevy.

    It also makes a lot of $30k vehicles look not so great in comparison.

    Some critics have pointed out that the Equinox doesn't have as much total cargo capacity as either the RAV4 or the CR-V and they are correct. The Chevy comes in at 64 cubic feet, total, vs. 73 cubic feet for both the Toyota and the Honda. The RAV4 also offers an available third row, which neither the CR-V nor the Equinox do. However, a difference of 9 cubic feet is not likely to be a big deal to most potential buyers - while the Chevy's substantially better fuel economy, significantly stronger standard engine and higher maximum towing capability probably will be.

    And though the Equinox may not have a third row - it does have about an inch and a half more backseat legroom than either the RAV4 or the CR-V (39.9 inches for the Chevy vs. 38.3 for the RAV4 and 38.5 for the Honda CR-V).

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    In 17 years of writing a weekly car review this is the most quality-feeling and quality-looking $22k (to start) Chevy I have been in. You will be impressed, too. GM has even upped the powertrain warranty to five years or 100,000 miles.

    The only iffy thing is GM itself. The Equinox is a great vehicle, but if GM tanks, so will the resale value of this vehicle - and that is something that's not an issue with either the RAV4 or the CR-V and thus, the chief advantage those two have over this otherwise superlative Chevy.

    A rearview back-up camera cleverly built into the left-hand side of the rearview mirror along with park sensors are the only safety-related items not included in the base price of the Equinox. Crash test scores weren't out at the time of this writing but given its size advantage as well as its newness (and thus, the benefit of the latest design techniques) my guess is the Equinox will score at the top of its segment.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    This is the best compact (and modesty priced) crossover SUV on the market right now. Simple as that. If GM pulls through, it will be due to the belated but thank-the-Motor-Gods-they-finally-got-it-right excellence of vehicles like the 2010 Equinox.

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    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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