There is nothing extraordinary, compelling or even polarizing about the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. But when considering its compact crossover constituents, pleasant and familiar is the safe choice for a large portion of the population. Behind the Silverado full-size pickup truck, the Equinox is Chevrolet’s second best-selling vehicle so much is riding on this redesign. And on the corporate journey to be “America’s favorite and best-selling brand,” the road needs to be paved with inoffensive vehicles that offer everything to everyone. With this in mind, the Chevrolet Equinox is a winner.
On sale now, this next-generation Equinox is now 4.7 inches shorter overall and weighs about 400 pounds less. It also features downsized, turbocharged engines that replace the 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 3.6L V6 options of yesteryear. The new standard engine is a 1.5L turbocharged inline-four, which produces 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. It’s the not punchiest engine in the segment (Honda CR-V’s optional 1.5L turbo offers 190 horses) but is competitive enough amongst the 2.4- and 2.5L engines in the class as well as provides the most torque amongst four-cylinders.
With less metal to move, the Equinox handled itself well during our jaunt through the Carolinas, including the winding two-lane roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Body roll was surprisingly minimal, making the drive fun — almost. Passing power is adequate but some on-throttle lag and a somewhat tepid pace to get to speed disappoint when compared to the vehicle’s poised handling. The Equinox shows no urgency in getting from zero to 60 mph, but once you’re there, you’re good.
While the spring arrival of the, ahem, Equinox offers some spunk, summer will be the season to greet the optional 2.0L turbo and 1.6L turbodiesel. Estimated to produce 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0L will also be exclusively paired with a new 9-speed automatic transmission and feature an estimated 3,500-pound towing capacity in a segment that averages 1,500 of pull. (Note that this is the same towing capability the outgoing 3.5L V6 produced.)
The 1.6L turbodiesel will be mated with the standard 6-speed automatic found in 1.5L models. Estimated to produce 136 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, the diesel model is expected to offer an EPA rating of 40 highway mpg. Featuring a standard start-stop engine control system, 1.5L-equipped models are already EPA-estimated at 26 city, 32 highway and 28 combined mpg, so don’t be a surprised with the Equinox diesel’s equally impressive numbers. And thanks to the its late-summer arrival, Chevrolet will offer the only diesel in its class, beating out Mazda’s long-promised but much-delayed diesel which is slated to make its North American debut in the CX-5 later this year.
While the forthcoming engines are interesting flavors, the rest of the Equinox’s offerings are standard fare. The styling is clean but simple and chameleon-like in that one minute you see it but in a crowded parking lot, you don’t. But Equinox buyers aren’t interested in style points so much as they are in being given the tools to do their own thing, carry some stuff and find new roads. Or such is the world according to Chevrolet.
Interestingly, the new Equinox’s shorter wheelbase and overall length still keep it at the top in size but toward the bottom with interior volumes. At 40.0 inches, front headroom does best all but the CR-V’s 40.1 inches, yet front legroom is the worst of the segment at 40.9 inches compared to class-leading Ford Escape’s 43.1 inches.
Cargo volume also is unimpressive with 29.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 63.5 cu-ft when folded flat. By comparison, the CR-V (it is the segment sales leader for a reason) offers 39.2 cu-ft with the rear seats up and 75.8 cu-ft when they are down. It is worth noting, however, that the Equinox’s rear underfloor storage is a rather cavernous hiding place and extends the full length of the cargo area. There are also plenty of useful nooks and cubbies throughout the vehicle.
Where the new Equinox makes significant gains is in the technology department, particularly regarding new safety features such as: surround vision, lane keep assist with departure warning, low-speed forward automatic braking, forward collision alert with following distance indicator, safety alert seat and rear seat reminder. Lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert also are available. The names are a mouthful but accurate, leaving little second guessing as to what they do.
For example, the safety alert seat feature literally alerts your seat (and you) to a crash threat, such as when in reverse should the vehicle’s RCTA system pick up a moving object, the seat bolsters will vibrate. It’s definitely alarming but gets your attention. And it can be disabled. Surround vision is projected within the available 8-inch multi-information touchscreen and offers a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the vehicle while reversing, parking or towing.
That being said, none of these new features are standard. The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is available in L, LS, LT and Premier trims but in order to have the option of even checking the boxes for the fancy stuff, one must bypass the starting MSRP of $23,580 and move up to the LT model, which starts at $26,750. And that only adds BSM, RCTA and rear park assist. Premier models receive those as standard but the rest of the electronic nannies are options. At this trim the Equinox will have you cashing out $30,790 before the $895 destination fee, other packages or even all-wheel drive are added.
The Orange Burst Equinox Premier FWD I tested had a total vehicle price of $35,470, which included $3,785 in extras such as heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, premium paint and the aforementioned safety technologies. With more packages available as well as other options and accessories like the $995 Iridescent Pearl Tricoat paint, a new FWD model can easily tap $40,000.
The new Equinox does feel like a premium vehicle and will be an appealing proposition to the compact CUV-buying masses with its butt-warming and -cooling seats, an abundance of soft-touch surfaces, extra safety features and intuitive connectivity tech such as OnStar, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But for the current price point (especially with two additional engine options arriving in a couple of months) and with plenty of comparable CUV offerings, the life goal that bland is best is a pricey pill to swallow.