Mountain Wheels: Mileage-generating Chevy Equinox makes for a solid ride
Special to the Daily
2015 Chevrolet Equinox AWD LTZ
MSRP: $33,670; as tested, $38,415
Powertrain: 182-HP 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA mpg figures: 23 combined: 20 city, 29 highway
At nearly 30 mpg in a long highway outing, the all-wheel-drive variation of the Chevrolet Equinox might have thrown a wrench into my never-ending suggestions about alternative-fuel vehicles.
For here’s a not-at-all-tiny machine, albeit in the compact SUV segment, that’s rated for 29 mpg in AWD guise and up to 32 mpg for front-wheel drive models — capable of those figures, and a healthy wallop of uphill boost — from a totally regular, gasoline-powered 2.4-liter engine, albeit one with a bit of direct injection and variable valve timing to generate better numbers.
I am still suspecting a little magic plays a part here, as Equinox weighs about 4,100 pounds and has 63.7 cubic feet of hauling space.
Admittedly, there’s a pretty significant chasm between the kind of folks who want to shell out for a premium European compact SUV and the good, old-fashioned Chevy fans who appreciate some very brand-specific aesthetics — and never the twain shall meet.
I speak here of Equinox’s sometimes ungainly relationship with the use of chrome-covered surfaces, for instance. My LTZ-level Equinox sported chrome plates under the rear bumper, chrome on the mirror caps, the lower edge of the front bumper, the window and grille trim and even more chrome on a couple of stylized fog lamps that looked like oversized garlic presses. Roof rails, chrome, naturally.
And inside, the updated and well-presented dash and console is again totally within the wheelhouse of GM aficionados, but is laid out so differently than other carmakers’ designs that, again, you’ll either love it, or be really confused. I guess it’s a matter of personal preferences, linked to GM’s own, sometimes peculiar, cross-platform choices.
What is undeniable is that the Equinox is quite an enjoyable and versatile drive, fashioned in general like a shrunken version of the Traverse. The stance has been toughened a bit and the tall wheel arches and strong character lines across the cabin help set it apart from being just another gently rounded crossover. There’s also some exaggerated action from the stuck-out rocker panel fins, and the wrap-around, darkened rear glass and downward-angled rear roof panel all work together to modernize the look. Those cabin dimensions also contribute to significant headroom inside.
In reaching my 30 mpg figure, I would have desired just a tad more precise feel in the six-speed automatic transmission, but you’ll be generally pleased with the experience.
What’s more, if more power is required, the option is an Equinox outfitted with a 301-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6, good for 23 highway mpg in all-wheel-drive trim. That bigger engine, as Chevrolet likes to note, lets you tow up to 3,500 pounds; in their own push for efficiency, the Ford Escape, Toyotal RAV4 and the Honda CR-V have dropped V-6s from the mix, so you can easily smoke them in a drag race.
Not a lot is different in the 2015 Equinox, though; like other members of the family, the car’s trademark OnStar system is now capable of pushing high-speed 4G LTE digital data to your many iPad-fixated passengers through a Wi-Fi connection. That data, of course, is not free — so you’ll have to be careful when everyone wants to stream Netflix all the way to grandma’s house. In that case, you might want to encourage your passengers to focus their attention on the seatback video screens and an old-fashioned DVD, a $1,295 option.
Equinox’s ride, however, is so wonderfully smooth that you might just rock the kids to sleep. And that in-between size — not too small, but also large enough to make it good for small moves, small crowds and smaller parking spots — does help set it apart from other behemoths out on the road. It’s 187.8 inches overall, with a 112.5-inch wheelbase, and is 72.5 inches wide.
The dash is indeed truly cockpit-styled and the sunshades over both the instrument and touchscreen navigation panels are a smart touch. Camaro-esque silver instruments and a bit of red highlight stitching on the armrests also add flair.
The look of the vertical air-flow vents, yet a little bit more chrome around the cupholders and gearshift knob and the general setup of the navigation and audio controls are, as mentioned before, something you will find greatly appealing, or not. I’ve been in a dozen or so GM vehicles in recent years and those physical audio and navigation controls are still a design and functionality entirely unique to that company.
What is undeniable is the comfort and quality of the seating, reasonably bolstered on the sides and good for the kind of long trip you’ll be able to make at 30 mpg. And in the rear, the MultiFlex seat can slide back and forth a good 8 inches to help accommodate your passengers.
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