2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT 2.0T Review: Giddy Up

2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT 2.0T

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, DOHC (252 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm; 260 lb-ft @ 2,500-4,000 rpm)

Nine-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive

22 city / 29 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.5 (As Tested, MPG)

Base Price: $30,040 (U.S)

As Tested: $34,375 (U.S)

U.S. prices include $895 freight charge.

I tried in vain, but I couldn’t track down a proper early ‘60s surf rock station on the SiriusXM radio during my time driving the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. I was imagining the Beach Boys’ classic “409” every time I planted my right pedal in this improbably powerful compact crossover. Sadly, the basic facts and figures don’t lend themselves to poetic lines like “She’s real fine/my four oh nine:”

She can go/my two point oh.

My nine-speed, front-drive, direct-injected two point oh.

Giddy Up, two point oh.

My apologies for the not-quite-Brian Wilson earworm. Few crossovers inspire anything, let alone any hint of song. This Chevrolet Equinox has plenty of power (and torque steer), but can it measure up beyond the engine room?

Speaking of this lovely 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, it has perhaps the best start/stop system I’ve ever experienced outside of a hybrid. In most vehicles equipped with this nominal fuel-saving feature, I tend to deactivate it due to the abrupt shaking that occurs upon restart. Not on the Equinox. While I could tell from the gauges that the engine had shut down and restarted at a traffic light, I couldn’t feel or hear it. It was that seamless. Bravo, General Motors.

The driving experience is generally quite good – road noise is muted, and there was no harshness when I pounded a poorly marked speed bump at speed. I hate to trot out the old car mag trope, but I did find the steering to be remarkably numb and over-boosted – except at the extremes of travel, where the steering felt artificially heavy as the wheel approached the stops.

Stomping on the throttle, the 252 horsepower overwhelms the front tires, creating torque steer unlike anything I’ve felt since driving a heavily-modified “tuner” car many years ago. It was controllable, certainly, but it’s out of character for an otherwise sedate family hauler.

Interestingly, our corporate overlords up in Canada can’t get this package. There, the 2.0-liter is only available with all-wheel drive. The 1.5T-powered Equinox starts at $27,340 Canadian. AWD models start at $29,740, and AWD 2.0T models start at $35,740 CAD.

Anyhow, controlled application of the right foot is advised when driving any turbocharged vehicle, lest you become overly familiar with the local gas stations. While the EPA estimates 25 mpg in mixed driving, my admittedly city-biased test loop returned an unimpressive 20.5 mpg. Stay out of the intoxicating boost and that figure should improve – I just couldn’t restrain myself.

It’s not often I receive comments while driving a test vehicle (unless the car is unusually exotic or otherwise odd). However, I lost count of the bystanders who remarked about the stunning green finish applied to this Equinox. Officially named Ivy Metallic, this hue is marvelous and kudos to Chevrolet for offering something beyond the typical variations on gray, silver, titanium, and pewter. Naturally, Ivy Metallic is a $395 extra-cost option, but I believe it’s well worth standing out in a parking lot of meh.

Beyond the paint, the Equinox is inoffensively styled, with a couple of slashes in the profile view that seem to hide a bit of the visual bulk.

A close look reveals an inconsistency in the chrome trim surrounding the windows. As seen below, the trim was lifting on the rear passenger door of this Equinox.

Attempts to push the trim back into alignment only saw it stubbornly return to its raised position. I’m not certain if the adhesive has let loose, or if an aggressive car wash dislodged the chrome, but it’s a disappointing letdown.

I’ll contain my serious nitpicking to the middle of this review, but the convergence of the vinyl door trim and the plastic door card (seen above on the left rear door) isn’t as well finished as one would hope for a crossover looking to compete with the best from Japan and Germany.

Here, the soft material isn’t well tucked in beneath the plastic, leading to a gap that will at the very least gather debris. Knowing that young families make up the bulk of Equinox drivers, I can easily see a small set of idle hands picking away at this gap during a road trip.

Aside from this, the Equinox looks to have a solid interior. Some will certainly complain – as journalists always do regarding GM products, it seems – that the dash and door panel materials are hard and cheap. Here, I remind you that kids will be beating on this interior, and a sturdy piece of plastic will likely remain presentable for years, where a softer-touch material may easily deform, if not tear, from the abuse of a few over-sugared kids.

The hexagonally quilted cloth interior again may seem low-rent, but it’s bulletproof and comfortable. A couple of stifling hours spent behind the wheel were pleasant and sweat-free. The seats themselves had one of the widest ranges of travel and adjustment I’ve seen in any vehicle — I could go from five inches of headroom to brushing the sunroof with a long press of a button.

I’ve read complaints elsewhere about the distance to the touchscreen, and yes, it is a bit more of a stretch for the right hand than in some other cars. But it’s a difference of, possibly, an inch or two, and the well-placed steering wheel buttons control nearly every function with ease. The optional Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay, though I don’t have any fruit-powered electronic devices with which to test) are welcome additions, and work perfectly.

As some here know, I’ve been encouraging my beloved wife to move on from her 12-year-old Chevrolet Trailblazer — mostly for fuel economy’s sake, though I’m also tired of fixing everything that fails from the wrath of road salt.

Her largest concern for any replacement is interior space. While certainly an EPA class or two below the old body-on-frame SUV in real numbers, the Equinox feels positively spacious considering the relatively small exterior footprint. The kids had plenty of space in the second row, mercifully preventing them from kicking me in the back all day long. Cargo volume is plentiful for any gear we might need for a weekend of soccer, softball, and cheerleading events. Coolers, camp chairs, and the other detritus of suburban escape all fit beautifully.

Overall, the little details let the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox down. If the fit and finish was a bit better executed, this would be a more-than-worthy competitor to segment leaders from Honda, Toyota, and Nissan. While the extra power in this 2.0-liter Equinox is welcome and interior space is excellent, I’m not sure the additional performance justifies the fuel economy penalty.

I’ll admit I’m looking forward to the diesel-powered Equinox, which should hopefully bring excellent efficiency to the compact crossover segment.

[Images: © 2017 Chris Tonn]

Related

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *