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2010 Chevrolet Equinox: First Drive

More, Better
X10CT_EQ031.jpgWe recently drove the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, with brief jaunts in both a front-drive I4 model and an AWD V6 model. This generation has grown leaps and bounds over the SUV it replaces, in refinement, features, but not size. The Equinox now slots in at the top of its class.
Equinox is more comfortable inside, better-looking outside, and better screwed together. The exterior develops a smart and expressive family look. Among the achievements is a quieter and more pleasing interior environment. We began to see the fruits of GM’s interior work with products from the latest Tahoe to the Malibu to the orphaned Saturn Aura. But GM continues to prove an internal shift in understanding. Seems repetitive to mention the point again, but perception still lags reality. So, again: GM is building vehicles with excellent interior and exterior styling and quality. Equinox continues the evolution and reinforces corporate commitment.
Our short drive revealed improved driving dynamics, with a far more stable on-road feel. The V6 and I4-equipped models use the same basic suspension, but with specific tuning. The I4 is tuned with a ride along the more traditional truck direction, stiffer and more rugged, while the V6 models tip toward the softer, luxury-oriented end of the spectrum. Each personality is appropriate for price point and target buyers.

Both engines are new, but the 182HP 2.4L I4 is the bragging point and its power moves Equinox along nicely and quietly, though the 264HP 3.0L V6 is more refined. And the I4 boasts 32mpg highway in front-drive form. Buyers can keep the size and function of a mid-size SUV with less drama at the pump. Power is about the same as the outgoing car, but the more efficient engines get a standard six-speed automatic and both offer a smoother driving experience. Both engines can be had with front- or all-wheel drive.
Equinox wears a comfortable execution of the latest family look, following from the Malibu and the Traverse, as well as evolving the model’s formula. Chrome exterior elements on LTZ models are liberally, but not overly, applied to dress up the modern family car. A windscreen moved forward about three inches allows for a sleeker look, rocker panels integrated into the doors make ingress/egress easier, and aerodynamics are much improved.
Well Equipped, Chevrolet Improves Feature Content
Making it bit easier to maneuver about town, is a smaller footprint, though space is not sacrificed. Wheelbase is unchanged, but overall length shorter. Safety and entertainment options are dramatically improved, though Chevrolet opted not to lead the segment by offering blind-spot or cross-traffic detection aids. OnStar is still standard, voice controls are improved, but it doesn’t seem that Chevrolet is all that interested in variation on the Ford Sync feature. Chevrolet does finally offer a full-featured navigation system, however.
Inside, the utility of the prior model is also improved, including the richly colored two-tone interior option. There are more storage bins and what Chevy calls a floating center stack. The multi-flex, 60/40-split and fore/aft sliding second-row seat configuration continues. Among the cool new touches, the Equinox offers a programmable power tailgate, developed for the Cadillac CTS wagon and being added throughout the GM portfolio. The Equinox also offers a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with fold-up screens in the back of both passenger and driver headrests capable of displaying different inputs; this screen system is also used on the new 2010 Buick LaCrosse.
The optional remote start was bumped to a smart system that adjusts HVAC and turns on heated seats, depending on outside temperature. Bluetooth, a seven-inch touch-screen navigation screen, 40GB hard-drive navigation and audio storage system, USB connectivity, and two versions of rear-view camera system are on the new feature availability list. When the DVD navigation system is ordered, a rear-parking system displayed in the nav screen is available; without the navigation system, the Equinox can be had with the less-expensive rear-view-mirror-mounted system.
And For a Lower Price
Despite more standard equipment and new powertrains, Chevrolet lowered the price of the 2010MY Equinox, compared to the outgoing 2009MY product, by nearly $1900 for some models. Even the basic models are smartly equipped, starting about $23,000, but the top LTZ launched with a base price of $28,000, it could be optioned north of $35,000. Standard equipment includes six airbags, remote entry, power mirrors and driver’s seat, an aux jack, cruise control, stability control, OnStar, and XM satellite radio.

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