Drive Review – 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel
Chevy’s Near-Transparent Diesel Serves Up Satisfying Torque and Fuel Efficiency
Those who remember Chevrolet’s 2005-2009 first Equinox crossover utility vehicle (CUV) will recall it as an okay initial effort but less than competitive with segment leaders Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4. The second-gen Equinox introduced for 2010 leapt all the way up to highly competitive in what was becoming an ultra-hot class, and it has aged well. But this segment has grown ever tougher with Nissan's hot-selling Rogue, Ford's Escape and many others from virtually every volume automaker. So this all-new Gen 3 Equinox had to at least equal the segment's leaders, if not surpass them where it could. And we believe it does.
We’ve reported on 2018 Equinoxes motivated by the base 1.5L turbo/six-speed automatic and the available 252-hp 2.0L turbo/nine-speed automatic gas 4-cyl. powertrains, and now we’ve spent quality time with this Equinox Diesel. Its 1.6L turbocharged oil-burner four also mates up to the six-speed automatic, and it easily exceeds our initial expectations.
A clean-sheet redesign developed within General Motors and led by GM’s diesel product center in Torino, Italy, this willing engine pumps out 240 lb-ft of torque with a variable-geometry turbocharger that generates strong low-end grunt as well as high-end power. Its standard stop/start feature enhances stop-and-go driving efficiency; it happily consumes B20 bio-diesel fuel and delivers 28 EPA city, 39 highway and 32 combined mpg with FWD (better than competitive hybrids, Chevy says) and a 500-plus-mile cruising range. A new switchable AWD system also improves fuel economy by decoupling from the rear axle when not needed.
The new interior takes advantage of the all-new architecture with a lower windshield base and instrument panel for better forward visibility. Available denim-look cloth seats blend style with durability, while the new “kneeling” rear-seat cushions tilt forward when their split-folding seatbacks are lowered for a flat load floor and 63.5 cu. ft. of cargo space. Connectivity technologies include seven- and eight-inch-diagonal MyLink infotainment systems that support Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an available OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
We were generally impressed by the new interior’s design as well as its usability. The soft surfaces are nice to see and touch, and even where there is hard plastic, it has a quality look (not cheap). The open bin below the HVAC controls, ahead of the cupholders, offers a handy 12V outlet, an aux plug and two USB ports, and the deep console bin has two more USBs for phone and device charging. And there is more than ample leg, knee and headroom for second-seat occupants even behind my (full-back, long-legged) front seat position.
On the driver assist and safety front, in addition to Lane-Change Alert with Side-Blind-Zone Alert and Rear-Cross-Traffic Alert, the Equinox's comprehensive suite of available adaptive crash-avoidance technologies includes new-for-2018 Safety Alert Seat, Surround Vision, Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator, Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, a Rear Seat Reminder (to help you remember a child or pet still in back) and a Teen Driver feature that lets parents set controls and review an in-vehicle "report card" to encourage safer driving habits.
Using four cameras -- the standard Rear Vision Camera, a forward-looking camera in the front grille and two side-looking cameras under each side mirror -- available Surround Vision provides a 360-degree bird’s-eye view around the vehicle to help backing up and parking. When you shift into reverse, the bird’s-eye view is displayed on the center screen alongside an image from the forward- or rear-looking camera.
Also, through judicious use of lightweight materials, structural adhesives and high-strength steels, 2018 Equinoxes weigh some 400 lb. less than comparable 2017 models. Yet their all-new body is substantially stiffer, and their stronger and stiffer but lighter structure pays off in several ways because lowering a vehicle's mass improves virtually every aspect of its performance, from acceleration to fuel economy to braking and handling agility. Strategic use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels in the body structure provides a robust “safety cage” surrounding the occupants, and the fact that the stiffer chassis flexes less enabled engineers to focus on ride comfort while fine-tuning both ride and handling with greater precision. In addition, stiffer structures are inherently better at preventing noise and vibrations, so less insulation is needed to provide a quiet cabin.
So, how does it drive? We found its torque strong and its performance surprisingly brisk, given its modest 1.6L displacement, both from rest and from mid-range (two-lane highway passing) speeds. We found its twisty road handling surprisingly agile, its lumpy road ride surprisingly smooth and its braking and steering pleasingly strong and responsive.
But probably our biggest surprise was the turbodiesel’s near-transparency. If you did not know it was an oil burner, you very likely wouldn’t notice it. It is a trifle slower than a typical gas engine to fire up from cold, but once running, its smoothness and quietness – at idle as well as at speed -- are truly remarkable. And its fuel efficiency? We logged an impressive 38.8 mpg on a spitited two-hour two-lane test drive, then 34.5 mpg on a weekend road-trip mix of fast freeway and urban/suburban touring.
In just about every way, this 2018 Equinox Diesel proved to be a great travel vehicle. The seats were long-term comfortable, the cabin quiet at speed, the interior storage and connectivity opportunities plentiful and handy and the MyLink infotainment system intuitive and easy to operate. Our only complaint was a lot of tar-strip tire slap on some Michigan freeways.
Pricing for the 2018 Equinox turbo-diesel starts at $31,435 (including destination).
2018 Chevrolet EquinoxVehicle type: Compact CUV
Base price: $31,435 (including Destination)
Price as tested: $34,275
Engine: 1.6L turbodiesel 4-cyl.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 137 @ 3,750 rpm
Torque: 240 lb. ft. @ 2,000 rpm
Curb weight: 3,693 pounds (AWD)
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
EPA mileage rating: 28 mpg city, 39 highway, 32 combined (FWD); 28/38/32 (AWD)