The utility of a crossover with the economy of a sedan! That's the boast being made by Chevy's second-generation 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, and the claim does not come attached to any expensive hybrid or diesel technology. Instead the base Equinox gets a spanking new 2.4L four bristling with variable valve timing on both cams and direct fuel injection. Letting liquid fuel evaporate inside the hot cylinder cools the charge considerably, permitting an impressive 11.7:1 compression ratio with no knock on regular fuel. That high compression combines with more complete fuel burn to lower hydrocarbon emissions, improve power, and reduce fuel consumption.

The result? It makes 182 hp and 174 lb-ft. That's just three horses and 36 lb-ft shy of the former pushrod V-6's output, and performance with the improved gearing of the standard six-speed 6T45 Hydramatic is supposed to equal the 3.4L V-6's (9.1 sec to 60 mph by our equipment) while EPA fuel economy hits 21/30 mpg FWD, 20/27 AWD, up from 17/24 (FWD and AWD). Furthermore, you may be able to beat that number. An ECO button on the dash remaps the transmission shift strategy and calls for more aggressive fuel shutoff when coasting. There's a slight NVH and driveability penalty, but it reportedly pays off, and the EPA does its testing with and without this button pushed, averaging the results. Ordering a base vehicle without the luggage rack will further improve your mileage (it comes on more than 30% of Equinoxes so EPA tests with the rack). Electric power steering, 17-in. low rolling-resistance Michelin tires, improved aerodynamics (from 0.42 to 0.36 drag coefficient), and a host of other tiny details contribute to the fuel economy bump, but none is expected to dramatically increase the cost of the base car.

Stepping up to the 3.0L V-6 option erodes the fuel economy somewhat, but that engine is also direct-injected, using the same high 11.7:1 compression ratio to deliver 255 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque (down from the 2009 port-injected 3.6's 264/250). Fuel economy still inches upward from the 3.6L's 16-17/24 EPA city/hwy mpg to 18/25 mpg FWD, 17/24 AWD. The optional all-wheel-drive system is Haldex based and incorporates an American Axle-sourced limited-slip rear differential featuring an electronically controlled clutch pack to distribute torque left or right. Maximum trailer weight remains 3500 lb for the V-6, 1500 for the new four.