2010 Chevrolet Equinox: First Drive

Another rising star at General Motors

2010 Chevrolet Equinox: First Drive
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The word “equinox” describes a celestial phenomenon occurring twice a year here on planet earth. During this time period, the Sun is perched directly above the Equator, the result of which means day and night are approximately the same in length. As a young boy growing up in small town America, it meant staying outside a little longer in the evening and less time for homework once the sun went down.

FAST FACTS

1. The base Equinox engine is a 182-hp 2.4-liter Ecotec 4-cyl that gets 22/32 mpg (city/hwy) in FWD form.

2. The 2010 Equinox is priced from $22,440 to $29,795.

3. Cargo room is plentiful with 31.4 cu.-ft. feet in back and 63.7 cu.-ft. with the second row folded flat.

CHEVROLET CHANGES ITS STARS

The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox arrives at a time when the world’s attention is fixed squarely on every move made by General Motors. With the investment of tens of billions by North America to bring this company back from the brink, demand for success is high. The sun may glisten above for many hours when a planetary equinox comes around every so often, but the shine of a spotlight when so many people expect you to fail is sure to be just as intense.

Not to worry. The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox is everything anyone could hope for in the midsize SUV market. Watch out Toyota and Honda! When compared to the current generation RAV4 and CR-V, at first look anyways, it appears the Equinox has what it takes to compete (and then some) in the fiercely contested midsize SUV marketplace.

So, how is it possible Chevrolet could send one into the stratosphere so soon after experiencing such monumental technical and financial difficulties? By finally putting their best foot forward and holding nothing back at the launch of a new vehicle. Why this hasn’t been the pattern for so many previous decades, no one can explain.

WE NEED MORE POWER – SO HERE IT IS

The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox is part utility vehicle, part family wagon. Built exclusively at CAMI Automotive Inc., a joint venture between Suzuki Motor Corporation and General Motors located in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, this facility also produces the 2010 GMC Terrain and up until recently, the surprisingly unsuccessful Suzuki XL7.

Power for the 2010 Equinox comes in two equally fun-to-drive forms. The most popular is certain to be the new fuel efficient and surprisingly powerful 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder. I say surprisingly because it produces a substantial 182 horsepower at 6700 rpm and 172 ft-lbs of torque at 4900 rpm while returning EPA rated fuel economy numbers of 22 mpg city, 32 mpg hwy in FWD form. The All-wheel drive version is equally impressive with 20/29 mpg (city/hwy). As for performance, 60 mph is achieved in approximately 8.7 seconds with the FWD model.

The most powerful engine available in the new Equinox is equally new. Featuring 264 horsepower at 6950 rpm and 222 ft-lbs of torque at 5600, the 3.0-liter V6 offers smooth acceleration and quiet engine performance. Fuel economy is rated at 17/25 mpg (city/hwy) in FWD and 17/24 mpg with AWD. Performance in FWD trim is a second faster with the sprint to 60 passing in just 7.7 seconds.

Having recently experienced both engines firsthand, I was surprised that the four-cylinder was my preference. While it does demonstrate a slightly higher level of noise under hard acceleration, in today’s economy, the additional fuel savings seems a fair exchange for minor sound intrusion. Chevrolet predicts a highway cruising range of 715 miles, a best in segment figure.

Both engines feature direct injection systems. The benefit of this technology is an increase of up to three percent in fuel economy, a reduction in cold start emissions by up to 25 percent and a 5-8 percent improvement in horsepower and torque.

GM says the new Equinox 4-cylinder is estimated to be 12-15 percent more fuel-efficient than its less powerful Toyota and Honda rivals.

MORE REFINED THAN THE COMPETITION

Everything about the 2010 Equinox is designed to be quiet. This is most noticeable after completing a back-to-back comparison of the competition; a feat we were able to accomplish at a recent test event.

Noise and vibration are significantly reduced in several important areas. Body structure is dramatically improved over the previous model with the addition of acoustic materials used in door trim panels, laminate glass, A and B pillars along with the upper and lower trim panels and headliner.

Softer ride bushings smooth out rough road surfaces, while new tires offer lower rolling resistance and reduced tread noise. Exterior design elements improve aerodynamics to the point where the new Equinox is as slippery in the wind as a C5 Corvette. The overall effect is an affordable midsize Chevy SUV with a Cadillac-quiet demeanor.

Inside, the 2010 Equinox is equally impressive. Standard features include a four-way driver’s seat, a Multi-Flex sliding rear seat with 8-inches of travel, plus a 60/40 split fold-down. A premium cabin highlights chrome accents, ambient lighting and easy to understand gauges and switches. Outward visibility is excellent.

SO WHERE DID ALL THIS INSPIRATION COME FROM?

When pressed on this issue, General Motors claims no parts are shared between the attractive, though ultimately unsuccessful, Suzuki XL7 and the new 2010 Chevrolet Equinox. Looking at the interior, however, I can’t help but wonder if there is more to this than meets the eye.

By way of example, the power window controls found on the new Equinox are located in front of the gear shift knob, an XL7 standard feature. Though different switches are used in the making of the new Equinox, it seems obvious someone may have scoured an old parts bin to see what pieces could be refreshed for use somewhere else.

Rear storage space is superb, as are the back seats for adults - even six-footers. Space behind the second row is rated at 31.4 cubic feet with a total of 63.7 cu.-ft. with the second row folded flat.

Materials used are topnotch, with unique coloration and fabrics offering excellent wear and comfort. Parents should prepare to become the daily chauffeur of choice; your kids are going to love the new Chevrolet Equinox.

THE VERDICT

The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox has what it takes to be a player in the tightly contested midsize SUV market. Whether it reaches the stratosphere as General Motors hopes, is a question yet to be answered. Fresh from re-inventing itself, the future of Chevrolet looks set to go where few car companies have gone before.

LOVE IT
  • Attractive exterior shape
  • Expansive interior, good use of space
  • Excellent 4-cyl fuel economy
LEAVE IT
  • Small V6 gets mediocre power
  • Power window control placement

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