Chevrolets at their best offered "more than expected." This separated the revolutionary 1955 Bel Air from its popularly priced rivals at Ford and Plymouth. It defined the first two generations of Chevelles and the downsized 1977 Caprice. But as GM moved into the troubled 1980s and '90s, the clarion call at Chevrolet became "Good enough for Chevy." This sad phrase steered product planners, designers, and engineers into producing a generation of Chevrolets that were little more than segment placeholders, something to give the brand a presence in a category.
The original Equinox embodied this attitude to the hilt. On paper the specs were on target: a standard V-6 and automatic transmission, independent suspension, and discs at all four corners along with a roomy, reconfigurable interior for five. Dynamically and aesthetically, the vehicle was far less than the sum of its parts. Following in the path of a series of upgraded Chevrolets (the Malibu and GMT900 full-size trucks), the 2010 Equinox has eschewed the good-enough-for-Chevy attitude and has become a transformed crossover in the process.
After a deep-dive into the compact-crossover segment Chevy came to significant revelations. First was that owners of these vehicles appreciate and seek refined, comfortable products. Buyers told Chevy V-6 engines are not a high priority. Most important, Chevrolet decided if it was going to play in the CR-V, Escape, and RAV4 sandbox it must try to beat the best.
Of course, manufacturers have claimed this countless times in the past. Starting with the architecture of the first Equinox, the stage was set for another case of overpromising and underdelivering. Overall width is up a fraction over an inch and vehicle length has been shortened an inch. Powertrain offerings were rethought and both the old-fashioned "high-value" 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter OHV V-6 and the modern "high-feature" 264-horsepower, 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 are no longer offered. The Equinox Sport has been axed along with the 3.6.
Instead, a 182-horsepower direct-injected 2.4-liter DOHC I-4 is standard in all Equinox models and a 3.0-liter direct-injection version of the high-feature DOHC V-6 making the 3.6's 264 horsepower is available on LT and LTZ trim levels. Either engine is available with front or all-wheel drive and GM's six-speed automatic is standard across the board. The 3.0 in a front-drive Equinox is estimated at 18/25 mpg, 1 mpg better than the 3.6 in city and highway mileage.
When mated to the I-4, a driver-selectable "eco mode" is added to the six-speed automatic, which allows the torque converter clutch to lock up at lower speeds and changes shift points to improve fuel economy. The result is a front-drive compact crossover estimated to deliver 22 mpg in the EPA city cycle and 32 mpg highway. That beats the Ford Escape Hybrid's number, making the 2.4-liter Equinox the segment highway fuel economy leader.
Government 5-star and IIHS "good" crash ratings were a program target from the outset and base curb weight is up over the previous model. However, improved impact performance doesn't tell the whole story of the 110-pound mass rise.
With its interior of amusingly grained hard plastic, the original Equinox was a real boom box inside. Playing for segment leadership rather than mere participation made silencing the 2010 Equinox a gilt-edge priority. GM employed Active Noise Cancellation for the first time on any of its production vehicles. The system (on 2.4-liter models exclusively) employs two microphones to detect low-frequency sounds in the cabin and then uses the car's audio system speaker, including the subwoofer when fitted, to generate canceling sound. The noise-cancellation system also allowed engineers to drop the idle speed of the I-4, which yielded about 0.1-mpg-better fuel economy. Further noise mitigation is attained through the use of laminated acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows as well as triple seals on all four doors. Additionally, the level of interior materials is significantly upgraded to the point where the Equinox cabin is measurably better than Chevy's own Malibu. Yes, there are still some large hard-plastic components, but they've been moved out of the driver's primary touch zones or have been covered with soft (or soft-touch) trim. Compare interiors side by side with the chief competition, Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Toyota RAV4, and the Chevy eats 'em up and spits 'em out.
Climbing into an AWD 2.4-liter Equinox LT during a rainstorm, we almost hot cranked the ignition. The engine was running, but the sound of rain falling on the sunroof drowned it out, and its idle didn't vibrate through the toe-pan, seat, or steering column. And the triple door seals, acoustic glass windshield, and front-door windows have pretty much eliminated -- eliminated -- A-pillar, wiper, and mirror-patch wind noise at speeds up to about 65 mph.
According to Chevrolet, the front-drive 2.4-liter Equinox is good for a 0-to-60-mph time of 8.7 seconds. The V-6 shaves nine-tenths off that time.
Setting the I-4 Equinox transmission into Eco Mode doesn't significantly change the driving experience when puttering around. Even though the converter clutch engages a lower speed, there's no appreciable added roughness. The Eco Mode's revised shift points are not quite so transparent. At part throttle, acceleration becomes more leisurely, not to where the Equinox feels doggy, but apparent enough to a sensitive driver. The majority of drivers in the segment would be hard-pressed to feel the slight decrease in performance.
To the enthusiast, discussing vehicle dynamics in this segment seems irrelevant. If you're looking to carve up a canyon road in a CR-V rather than a Civic, for example, you've got one strange set of priorities. With that in mind, the 2010 Equinox is a less than optimal choice for said twisty driving than a Cobalt SS. But when the road becomes more challenging than a thoroughfare, the Equinox will do nothing untoward or dangerous unless provoked by a madman. The base P225/65R17 all-season Michelins are optimized for reduced rolling resistance and good tread life. They become the "fusible link" when pushing the Equinox very hard, giving the driver plenty of audible notice before they let go of the road in complete frustration. The ride/handling compromise has been biased in favor of comfort and predictability, the segment rule. Compliance and road isolation is the order of the day for driver comfort and reduced cabin noise. Cars with the optional P235/55R19 Hankooks generate considerably more tire sound than those equipped with 17- or 18-inch rubber.
Power steering with the V-6 is a hydraulic system, while the I-4s get a new rack-mounted electric power-steering system. Steering feel is noteworthy for a direct-acting electric rack, better than some electronically controlled hydraulic systems.
The 2010 Equinox LS carries a base MSRP of $23,185, with power driver's seat, tilt and telescope steering column, power windows and locks, air conditioning, and alloy wheels among the standard equipment. Mid-range 1LT model starts at $24,105, adding privacy glass, roof rails, and an electronic compass. Higher-end 2LT further adds auto climate-control A/C, Bluetooth, USB connection, rearview camera, foglights, and upgraded audio with steering-wheel controls, and starts at $26,190. The topline $28,790 LTZ throws in a memory seat and mirrors for the driver, heated leather seats, sonar rear park assist, exterior chrome package, and power tailgate. Pricing may be the biggest news of all since a 2010 Equinox LS undercuts the previous version by a hefty $1825. The mid-range 1LT carries an MSRP $905 less than that of the 2009 base version.
With the 2010 Equinox, Chevrolet has a product that genuinely outperforms its best competitors in the areas of NVH, accommodation, and fuel economy. That it does so with better content and more than competitive pricing marks a return to the "more than expected" philosophy that brought about Chevrolet's postwar golden age. Just as important as how it performs in the market, the Equinox should be the final nail in the coffin of the jaded GM concept of "Good Enough for Chevy."
| 2010 Chevrolet Equinox |
| Base price || $23,185-$28,790 (MSRP) |
| Vehicle layout || Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV |
| Engines || 2.4L/182-hp /172-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.0L/264-hp /222-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 |
| Transmission || 6-sp automatic |
| Curb weight || 3800-4200 lb (mfr) |
| Wheelbase || 112.5 in |
| Length x width x height || 187.8 x 72.5 x 66.3 in |
| 0-60 mph || 7.8-9.6 sec (mfr est) |
| EPA city/hwy fuel econ || 17-22/ 24-32 mpg (est) |
| CO2 emissions || 0.76-0.99 lb/mile (est) |
| On sale in U.S. || Currently |