|2010 Chevrolet Equinox
By Bill Clark
- Bavarian-like ride and handling!
- Comfy leather seats
- Interior and exterior styling
- Programmable power lift gate
- Feels underpowered even with the upgraded V6
- Torque steer when driven hard (front wheel drive model)
- Terrible ergonomics and User interface for electronics
Station wagons carry lots of stuff and drive like regular cars, but they have been labeled the most uncool cars in the world. People seem to avoid them like the plague. Large SUVs are great, but synonymous with gas guzzling and poor handling – and many are based on rough-riding truck chassis. There’s a great middle-ground called the crossover segment and Chevy has made a valiant effort to capture their fair share of this emerging market with the newly restyled Equinox. I’d go so far as to say they’ve built a crossover that can legitimately compete with the popular Japanese and European offerings. Really!
The exterior styling of the revamped Equinox represents a major step forward in thinking for Chevy. They have done away with the bulky, add-on plastic, after-thought styling that was distinctly and unfortunately ‘GM’ for many years. The previous generation Equinox just looked wrong from day one. The new Equinox has a sculpted, sleek, classy look. This car literally turned a few heads – including my own. With such a radical departure from the usual Chevy styling, I felt the car deserved an updated, revised Chevy logo to match. The dark-blue metallic paint was stunning and they used a tasteful amount of chrome accents to provide a very pleasing contrast and to set off styling cues. Any exterior plastic trim pieces had a nice diamond pattern texture to them. They really nailed the styling on this car. My only gripe was the cool-looking projector-beam headlights use incandescent light sources behind them – No Xenon or HID lights here.
Chevy also gave the interior a complete 180-degree makeover. It looks like nothing Chevy has offered before at this price point. No more modular, bulbous, interior features. Once seated inside, you are treated to graceful, sweeping lines, satin-finished aluminum accents and a tasteful dash of chrome here and there. Dash and door trim is attractive and flowing. The Equinox I had the pleasure of driving was the LTZ version which meant it had very nice looking two-tone leather seats to match the two-tone dash. I’d go so far as to call the interior exciting! You just feel like you’re sitting in something special.
Over the weekend, we went hiking at Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Of course we grabbed the keys to the Equinox (just because it looked so good) and left the family SUV at home. We took 101 from the South Bay area up through San Francisco and then over a very twisty part of Highway 1 to Mt Tam.
The Equinox had rock-solid tracking on the freeway – just like the family SUV. The ride is just slightly on the firm side – not in a jarring way, but in a way that gives you the sense that the car is very stable and planted in a confidence inspiring way. I love that kind of ‘firm’.
The crossover is remarkably quiet at freeway speeds. You can actually carry on conversations using your ‘inside voice’. This is in part due to the low rolling-resistance tires which offer better gas mileage and reduced road noise, but I think the chassis is very well sound-damped too. Side effects of the tires seemed to include a slight ‘tramline’ sensation on grooved freeway pavement, but that’s a very minor quibble.
The innocent by-product of a car engineered to be quiet is a muted engine. Other manufacturers have been engineering engine sounds back into the vehicle cabin. There is some engine noise with this car, but it’s not pretty. It sounds like a muffled coffee grinder. Someone tell Chevy that some intake noise under heavy acceleration is sexy and acceptable.
Through the streets of San Francisco, which are anything but smooth, the car displayed remarkable composure. It did a great job of isolating the occupants from the shock of the potholes, trolley tracks, and other pavement irregularities that San Francisco is infamous for.
This is nothing like the family SUV! I figured the fun would be over when we got to the twisty turns of Highway 1 just north of San Francisco. Rather, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Equinox tackled the corners. The more I pushed the car around the corners, the more shocked I became at how well it stuck to the road. No doubt the 18-inch 235/55 rubber all around helped out here, but the chassis was so stiff and the suspension so well-controlled that you could really push the car and it stayed planted. The chassis exhibited very little body roll, even when pushed hard. Well past the point where my passengers let me know they’d had enough, but well before the car communicated any such message itself. The car was very responsive to steering inputs and was just a joy to drive around Mt Tam. In summary, I’ll say it has strong Bavarian handling traits. Thank you, GM Chassis/Suspension engineers!
When I took delivery of the car, I was told that it had an upgrade package which included a 264HP 3.0 liter V6 that revs to 7k RPMs (a $1,500 option). Sweet! What enthusiast doesn’t love an engine upgrade? The gearbox was listed as an auto, but with six forward gears and a manual gear select mode. Sure sounds fun. There’s nothing like a high-revving engine with a close ratio transmission to pump up the fun quotient.
Unfortunately, the fun stopped at the spec sheet. While the car is somewhat quick on paper for its class, it felt a bit sluggish for normal daily driving. It was a bit of work to get it to accelerate quickly and you really had to stay high in the power band to keep things interesting. After driving around for a day I actually pulled over to pop the hood. Is there really a V6 in there? It feels more like a peaky 4-banger. Yep, there’s the V6. Hmm…
At highway speeds, the 6-speed automatic takes its sweet time down-shifting for passing. Press the gas down a ways and it’ll shift from 6th to 5th, but you still have no power. Press the gas more and it’ll downshift to 4th – now you have a little power. If I floor it, I should be able to get some power out of the top of third… Hello? Tranny? The transmission ignores your right foot’s request for more power if it will result in a downshift into the power band (Say over 4.5k RPMs). I guess they wanted to control the torque steer. If you really wanna go there, put the shifter in manual mode and toggle the gear select thumb switch on the shifter and tell the car you want third gear – OK, now you have some passing power.
When your not demanding power from the motor, it does drive quite nicely. But if you want to pass, use manual mode, which still has a delay do down shift, but just flooring it still takes about 3 seconds for it to downshift.
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