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Inside Line Full Test 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT2

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[source: Inside Line]

The Things That Buyers Want

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By Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor Email | Blog

Date posted: 09-28-2009

Vehicle Tested:

2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT2 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

MSRP of Test Vehicle: $28,625 Price It!!

What Works:

Feels more substantial than competitors; interior design leads the segment; optional features of more premium crossovers

What Needs Work:

Falls short of observed fuel economy expectations; transmission is reluctant to downshift; steering lacks information

Bottom Line:

Chevrolet (finally) shows what it can do.

"Remember: This 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT2's competitors are the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue," he tells us. We kept repeating the words of the Chevrolet spokesman like a mantra while we were driving this compact crossover. We had a couple of good reasons.

First, the compact 2010 Equinox looks and feels as if it actually belongs in the same segment as larger, better-equipped SUVs. Second, this 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT2's frugal 2.4-liter inline-4 engine was adequate for driving slowly on city streets or cruising at a steady speed on the highway, but it kept trying to get our attention in an annoying way despite its nifty noise-canceling loop built in to the vehicle's audio system.

We also kept saying the mantra to ourselves because the 2010 Chevy Equinox is better than the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue in so many ways.

Nice Package

Packaging for a midsize SUV is typically less fraught with compromises in budget or real estate compared to the thrifty compacts. So when we first took inventory of the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT2, we were pleased to find that it presented a different, better class of SUV. It offers many standard and optional features that aren't available for most of its direct competition.

Most important, we weren't unhappy with the reedy song of the Equinox LT2's 2.4-liter direct-injection Ecotec inline-4 as it approaches its peak output of 182 horsepower at 6,700 rpm, nor with its ability to run at wide-open throttle to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds (9.0 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip). Even so, we had to remind ourselves that it takes patience and anticipation in traffic, because there's a fraction-of-a-second delay after you put your foot down before this 3,783-pound Equinox makes its move.

That said, when you drive a 166-hp CR-V or 170-hp Rogue, there's no doubt there's a high-revving four-banger working hard to merge onto the freeway, pass on a two-lane or simply haul itself up a steep grade. The Equinox LT2 is no better (or worse) in this regard, but there's a reason this otherwise competent SUV is available with an optional ($1,500), 264-hp 3.0-liter V6.

Lost in Transmission

The Equinox four-cylinder's "do more with less" dynamic is compromised by a six-speed transmission that's been optimized for fuel economy rather than for strong response. Chevrolet does not stand alone in the spotlight of criticism here. Practically every new vehicle we've driven with an automatic in the past year or so, including the all-new Cadillac SRX V6 (the Equinox's stablemate), has felt as reluctant to cooperate.

Most of the time, we circumvent the default transmission programming by pressing a sport button. Only the Equinox doesn't have a sport button and instead has an "Eco" button, which engages even more extreme fuel-economy programming that is meant to improve fuel economy by 1 mpg, but also makes the transmission even more stubborn about responding to your demands.

Presumably, the upside to downsizing an engine and slowing the transmission's responses is improved fuel economy. According to the EPA's estimates, this front-drive 2010 Equinox LT2 with its four-cylinder engine should earn top-of-its-class mileage — 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. That's pretty impressive, even for a compact SUV.

Yet our testing didn't come close to achieving these numbers, even though we're usually within 1 mpg of the EPA combined number. In this case, 21 mpg was the best we achieved. For comparison's sake, a 2009 Honda CR-V (FWD) earns a 23 mpg combined rating, and a front-wheel drive 2009 Nissan Rogue S earns 24 mpg.

Feature Presentation

But what makes the Equinox so good and so unique in the compact SUV category has nothing to do with its engine, nor its transmission programming and the resulting EPA rating. No, it's the Equinox's styling, design and features that make it a standout.

The list of features on our LT2 with a base MSRP of $26,190 is too long to list here, but an abridged directory of top-shelf standard items includes six airbags, stability/traction control, cast-aluminum wheels, auto headlamps, foglights, remote entry/remote start, rearview camera, eight-way power driver seat, sliding rear seats with 60/40-split and three-position recline angles, auto climate control, leather-wrapped tilt-telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, one year of OnStar's Safe and Sound with crash notification, Bluetooth for phone and a USB/aux jack.

Our tester added a Chrome Appearance package that also included rear parking sonar ($695), leather seats with heated front buckets ($1,050), a power liftgate ($495) and metallic paint ($195) for a total price of $28,625. A power moonroof, a hard-drive-based navigation system and DVD rear-entertainment system are available.

But the thing that can't be itemized, categorized and monetized is how well designed and presented it all is. Even with our Equinox's somber jet-black interior (the two-tone treatment is more attractive), we couldn't ignore the obvious attention to design, build quality and superior content. Soft where it should be, modeled with the appropriate amount of texture and handsomely stitched where it ought to be, the Equinox's interior is vastly superior to that of any current compact SUV, save burgeoning premium compacts like the Audi Q5.

The Equinox's seating matches its premium style. The driver seat is eight-way power adjustable with lumbar adjustment, which is uncommon for its class. The rear seats offer between 1.5 inches more rear legroom than a CR-V and 4.6 inches more than a Rogue. The Chevy's 60/40-split fold seats also slide fore/aft and recline in three fixed positions. Luggage room with all seats occupied is about average at 31.4 cubic feet, and maximum cargo room behind the front seats is also about average at 63.7 cubic feet.

Pick of the Litter

In terms of exterior styling, we feel the Chevy plays the best riff on GM's compact SUV platform. Unlike the forced styling of the 2010 Cadillac SRX, the "I'm a truck, really I am" 2010 GMC Terrain, and the recently departed Saturn Vue, all of which are essentially the same unibody chassis with different wrappers, the Equinox looks appropriately scaled, detailed and thankfully restrained.

Though out on the highway, some observed a brittle quality to the Equinox's ride. Most likely caused by a combination of the 35 psi inflation for the P225/65R17 tires (a fuel-saving practice) and compression damping that's a little too harsh, the Equinox slaps its tires on seats between concrete slabs on the freeway. Rebound damping, however, is quite good, providing a gentle return to an otherwise smooth and controlled ride.

Electric-assisted power steering (EPS) — another fuel-saving measure — seems to be an elusive art to the engineers at GM. It can be done properly, as Mazda and Mini have proven, yet the Chevy Equinox has steering that feels like a driving simulator, and not a very good one at that. Sure the Equinox has light steering effort at low speed so it's easy to park, and some people might prefer its isolation from the bumps and thumps of the road surface, but it doesn't make for great driving.

Of course great driving is apparently not the mission here, as the Equinox circles the skid pad with 0.78g of grip and then weaves through the slalom at just 60.2 mph. At least it comes to a halt from 60 mph in 132 feet.

Another Reason To Consider GM

Despite its few dynamic idiosyncrasies, we feel the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT2 represents yet another clear example of what GM can accomplish.

It appears that the General's got some new orders. We trace the beginning of this resurgence from the 2008 Cadillac CTS right up to the 2010 Buick LaCrosse that managed to outshine a Lexus ES 350 in a recent comparison test. The mandate has changed from "Good enough is good enough" to a more courageous, "Don't just make it competitive; make it better."

From its contemporary styling and class-leading features to its competitive pricing and miserly fuel economy, the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox is the right SUV for the times, and not a minute too soon for GM.

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Makes me want one. This thing hopefully will be able to conquest some people. For once, saying that actually has some meaning and not just some wishful thinking.

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Most of their concerns won't even be on the radar screens of your average CRV/Rogue/RAV-4 driver. I've been driving around a 166hp 4-speed CRV for a while now.... a 182hp 6-speed equinox which also has more torque, would be positively SS like.

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Even with our Equinox's somber jet-black interior (the two-tone treatment is more attractive), we couldn't ignore the obvious attention to design, build quality and superior content. Soft where it should be, modeled with the appropriate amount of texture and handsomely stitched where it ought to be, the Equinox's interior is vastly superior to that of any current compact SUV, save burgeoning premium compacts like the Audi Q5.

I think GM deserves a round of applause for this. Especially since it's coming from Edmunds.

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The current CR-V has 180 hp, and weighs 400 pounds less than the Equinox. The Rav-4 is also 400 pounds lighter than the Equinox. All GM vehicles need to get on a diet.

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Get that interior in the Malibu ASAP.

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The interior looks nice. More car-like.

Edit: It's pretty darn expensive. Hard to tell as Chevy's website sucks, but it appears a fully loaded one with nav gets into the low 30's?

Most of their concerns won't even be on the radar screens of your average CRV/Rogue/RAV-4 driver. I've been driving around a 166hp 4-speed CRV for a while now.... a 182hp 6-speed equinox which also has more torque, would be positively SS like.

As smk4565 said, the CR-V weighs 400 lbs less (420 lbs less for 4WD models), and the current 2010 model is rated to 180 hp. From a few first-drive impressions I've read (one user comparing the 2009 to the 2010 side by side; same trim), it appears that the 2010 is improved a good tick above the old. And the performance is improved as well. The CR-V could use a 6-speed though.

Edited by siegen
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The interior looks nice. More car-like.

Edit: It's pretty darn expensive. Hard to tell as Chevy's website sucks, but it appears a fully loaded one with nav gets into the low 30's?

As smk4565 said, the CR-V weighs 400 lbs less (420 lbs less for 4WD models), and the current 2010 model is rated to 180 hp. From a few first-drive impressions I've read (one user comparing the 2009 to the 2010 side by side; same trim), it appears that the 2010 is improved a good tick above the old. And the performance is improved as well. The CR-V could use a 6-speed though.

Good point on the Chevy website, it is really bad. All white background and silver cars, how boring, and it is slow, and specs and feature lists are hard to find sometimes. I also noticed a lot of GM sites don't publish the weight of their cars, or make you download a PDF for simple specs.

The Equinox in a way is replacing the Trailblazer as well as the old Equinox, so going into the $30s isn't so bad. Traverse replaces the minivan and 7-seat Trailblazer and compensates for the shift away from BOF SUVs like the Tahoe.

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I'm going to have to agree that the Chevrolet website is difficult to navigate. They have everything so divided there. It takes forever just to find photos of the interior of their cars/trucks.

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The current CR-V has 180 hp, and weighs 400 pounds less than the Equinox. The Rav-4 is also 400 pounds lighter than the Equinox. All GM vehicles need to get on a diet.

The Equinox (174@4800rpm) has more torque than both the CRV (161@4400rpm) and RAV-4 (172@4000rpm). Laughingly, the RAV-4 is pushing that torque through a 4-speed automatic.

While I don't disagree that that Equinox could be lighter, accelleration is clearly not a priority in this market.

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After driving this I was impressed.

I wanted to drive the 4 since many raved of it. I would have like a little more power but it should suit most drivers. The only place noticed the lack of power was on the freeway on ramp and in passing. It was not bad but I wished it just has about 25 HP more. You can rev it out hard and it will get the job done.

If I were to buy one today it would be the V6. Now if they offered a Eco Turbo it would make for an interesting combo with the 6 sp tranny.

Ride was sold and very car like. Noise was only a factor on WOT and it was not a major issue. Steering felt twitchy to me but I am used to heavier steering on the daily driver. A few more miles and I would have adapted well.

I liked the digital speedo in the dash It was like a poor mans HUD. It was easy to see and on a sunny day easy to veiw.

The HAVC will be easy to use once you know where to look. I was driving and had to find the Auto Air but that is just something you would learn on the first day once you owned it.

Speaking to my local dealer he has been getting a lot of sales on these and if he could get more they would sell as soon as they came in. Right now he said this one is hotter for him than the already hot Camaro.

I hope to drive the V6 soon and will post what I find. I figure it will just be a little less peppy as the Malibu due to the smaller engine and more weight. But this is not a race car so it sould do fine.

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Love the interior, very sharp exterior. It looks great in those photos.

Functionally, it still sucks! The 2nd row seats still do not fold flat! When you need to haul,

that function is a must have! :toiletpaper:

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Functionally, it still sucks! The 2nd row seats still do not fold flat! When you need to haul,

that function is a must have! :toiletpaper:

???? Not sure what you're harping about: even the old Equinox had fold flat rear seats....What's your point?

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Functionally, it still sucks! The 2nd row seats still do not fold flat! When you need to haul,

that function is a must have! :toiletpaper:

Not if you only need to haul people. :scratchchin:

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