Now that we're all, at least temporarily, part owner of an automotive icon, I'm checking in on our investment.&nbsp;&nbsp; GM now has a better deal on labor.&nbsp;&nbsp; Reducing commitments to pension and health care certainly helps the bottom line.&nbsp;&nbsp; Without great new product though, they're stuck in neutral.&nbsp;&nbsp; First out of the shoot is Chevrolet's 2010 Equinox.&nbsp; Targeting the heavy hitters - RAV4, CR-V and Escape - their strategy is sound. This is the kind of vehicle people are buying these days.&nbsp; If they're buying anything at all that is.
This is the second generation Equinox and a big step forward from the first.&nbsp; Think it's a knee jerk reaction to current events?&nbsp; Remember, it takes two to three years to go from sketch to factory product.&nbsp; Engineers started work on this Equinox without any hint of the economic Armageddon that was about to descend on the entire automotive world.&nbsp;
So, how'd they do?
Take a bow Chevy.&nbsp; Equinox is suddenly a threat to be reckoned with.&nbsp; The old one was fine; the new one gets what it needs to take on all comers.&nbsp; That's not to say it's perfect.&nbsp; In certain aspects it loses out to the competition.&nbsp; But taken as a whole, Equinox is a very compelling package and one that should surprise those who claim The General can't compete.&nbsp; Buyers who take the time to compare Equinox to Ford, Honda, and Toyota CUVs could have a tough time walking away without a new set of Chevy keys.
This piece will be longer than most since a lot of shoppers are looking at compact crossovers.&nbsp; I won't be diving into the political football about saving the domestic brands, nor will I gaze into my crystal ball to foresee the future of the business.&nbsp; To quote Yoda: "Always in motion is the future" (ya gotta love the internet).&nbsp; It's my opinion that persistent&nbsp; perceptions of the auto industry are no longer true.&nbsp;&nbsp; The old GM is guilty of many things but cars like Malibu, CTS, G8, Aura, Vue, Traverse, Camaro and Enclave are as competitive as anything out there.&nbsp; But I digress &hellip;&nbsp;&nbsp;
Owners want 5 things
When it comes to interior volume, CR-V, RAV4, Escape and Equinox are all in the same 130-cubic-foot ballpark.&nbsp; They're similar in exterior width too, but when it comes to length Equinox wins.&nbsp; Or would that be loses? It's some 10 inches longer than the Honda which is actually slightly larger inside.&nbsp; It might be about crumple zones but judging on design efficiency alone, Equinox isn't off to the best start.&nbsp;
Loads of research by GM - done in the garages of living, breathing CUV owners - found they want five things in this order: Fuel economy, value, quality, style, and all-wheel drive.&nbsp; They also want great taste that's less filling, but that's off topic.&nbsp; It's in this checklist that Equinox begins to gain ground, making the horse race a lot more interesting.
Fuel economy is #1
Compact crossover owners told Chevy the main reason for buying their vehicle was gas mileage.&nbsp; Reality check: Not all of these rigs do very well in this department.&nbsp;&nbsp; One reason the outgoing Equinox didn't snag more shoppers is that it's only engine was a V6.&nbsp; Now there's a choice.&nbsp; The smaller one is a 2.4-liter inline 4 that produces 182 horsepower and 172 lbs-ft of torque.&nbsp; The 3.0-liter V-6 pumps out 264 HP and 222 lbs-ft.&nbsp; They tow 1,500 and 3,500 pounds respectively.&nbsp; Both engines are direct injected and both get 6-speed transmission.&nbsp;&nbsp;Choose between front and all-wheel drive.
The result is this - &nbsp;the 4-cylinder bags an EPA-estimated 32 mpg highway, 22 city rating when ordered with front-wheel drive.&nbsp; CR-V in the same configuration trim scores 27/20, RAV4 with a 4-cylinder 28/22.&nbsp; Expect the Chevy marketing folks to drill this best-in-class rating into your brain with a laser scalpel when the Equinox marketing begins.&nbsp; I heard it a couple dozen times at the press launch here in the Detroit area.&nbsp; FYI - AWD 4-cyliner Equinoxes score 29 highway/20 city.&nbsp; The V-6 Equinox gets 25/18 with front-drive, 25/17 with AWD.
I spent most time with the V6.&nbsp; Zero to 60 happens in a brisk 7.8 seconds, according to Chevy.&nbsp; That's about a second slower than a V6 RAV4.&nbsp; Using laminated material in the windshield and front side glass, my tester is quiet at speeds over, well &hellip; uh, faster than you'll probably be driving.&nbsp; Ride quality is comfortable but still buttoned down in the corners.&nbsp; With the much desired raised seating position, the car-like Equinox is a pleasure to pilot.&nbsp; The turning radius is a little wide but a smidge better than the outgoing model.
A half hour in the 4-cylinder model finds it works harder than the V6.&nbsp; You'll hear it reach down to lower gears more often in cut and thrust city driving.&nbsp; Its 0-60 time is 8.7, about a second quicker than CR-V.&nbsp; In short it's perfectly fine for everyday motoring and GM figures &frac34; of those who park one of these in their driveway will go for it.&nbsp; Four-cylinder models use the stereo speakers for interior noise cancelation, sort of like those fancy Bose headphones.&nbsp; It seems to work, the 4 sounds pretty good when dodging through traffic.&nbsp;
All models come with the expected safety electronics like traction and roll stability control plus 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.&nbsp; In case these can't save your bacon, 6 airbags are your wingman.&nbsp; OnStar will then pinpoint your location and automatically alert authorities.&nbsp; Hope you never need all this.&nbsp;&nbsp; OnStar has many other great features like audible turn-by-turn directions, should you not spring for the navigation system.&nbsp; To list its many features would require a separate article, and I'm already behind schedule writing this one.
Back to the list.&nbsp; Value is #2
This one's tough to measure since it can mean many things to different people.&nbsp; If we're talking price, then Chevy's PR folks are claiming victory here too.&nbsp; Including destination, prices begin at $23,185.&nbsp; Like interior size, the prices for all said competitors hover around this same point.&nbsp; Chevy claims that Equinox comes with nearly $1,000 more equipment than the others.&nbsp; A quick web check at Brand H and T finds that's pretty much true. Example? Chevy's standard alloy wheels are optional on RAV and CR-V.&nbsp; Traditionally, resale has been lower on Chevy products so take that into consideration.
More pricing?&nbsp; $24,105 gets you a 1LT, the model Chevy feels will be most popular.&nbsp;$26,190 bumps a guy up to the 2LT where single zone auto climate control is standard, another $2,600 delivers the high-zoot LTZ.&nbsp; Add $2,200 for AWD on any of those.&nbsp; My well equipped V6 AWD tester with leather, DVD entertainment and navigation stickers for $36,525.&nbsp; It's possible to bump it $1,000 higher with chrome wheels and the tow package.&nbsp;
Moving on to #3 (quality) and #4 (style)
I like number four better so I'll start with that.&nbsp; Equinox is arguably the best looking of the bunch.&nbsp; With Chevrolet's distinctive split grille, it looks a full grade more expensive than it is.&nbsp; Door handles are placed into the flow of a crease in the sheetmetal, chrome is tastefully sprinkled on even the base models.&nbsp;
The interior is what owners see the most and a Malibu inspired dual-cockpit design makes this a very nice place to spend time.&nbsp; Seats are extra comfy, some with a memory feature. Ice-blue lighting looks, well, cool.&nbsp; Shop at dusk to appreciate the ambience.&nbsp; There are many storage cubbies including a center console where a laptop computer or small dog could live comfortably (note to PETA, this is what's known as a joke).&nbsp; Bluetooth handsfree phone connection and a USB interface that accommodates iPods and flash drives full of MP3 tunes is available, even standard on some models.&nbsp;
The user interface is straightforward.&nbsp; You may never have to crack the manual if the navigation is ordered.&nbsp; Skip it and a back up cam is still available with a screen mounted in the rear view mirror.
As for quality, the pre production tester I drove nearly 150 miles was squeak and rattle free.&nbsp; A close look at interior plastics finds no obvious molding seams or flashing.&nbsp; Everything lines up perfectly, even a lip that flows from the instrument panel to the doors.&nbsp; Same goes for the exterior sheetmetal.&nbsp;&nbsp; My only gripe is that the instrument panel uses hard plastic instead of soft feel material.&nbsp; That said, it's something that's seldom touched so I can understand wanting to save some money here.
Chevy did their legwork
Getting into Equinox is good clean fun because the doors reach down far enough to cover the sill.&nbsp; That means no more muddy pant legs.&nbsp; This design is similar to Toyota Venza and Ford Flex.&nbsp;
In the backseat there's a good amount of room for three adults, though be warned that the center position's seat back pushes in like an over achieving lumbar adjustment.&nbsp; I find this position in CR-V to be equally uncomfortable.&nbsp;&nbsp; To max out cargo or legroom there's almost 8 inches of fore and aft travel to the rear seat.&nbsp; Seatbacks recline, foot room is good and the kids can plug into a dual source entertainment system.&nbsp; The screens flip out from the front seatbacks so unlike the ceiling mounted design, they don't block the driver's view from the rearview mirror.&nbsp;
Normally this is where I'd do the infamous TP Trunk Test but since I'm on a press event my bath tissue supply is far away.&nbsp; I am a professional with years of experience though and pretty good at guestimating.&nbsp; Wheel arches with storage cubbies intrude into the cargo hold.&nbsp; Even though the cubic feet are the about the same on all three, I'd say the usable space in Equinox is less than the Honda and Toyota.&nbsp; Let's call it a 9-10 packer compared to 12 with RAV and CR-V.&nbsp; With seatbacks down, the floor is slightly angled.&nbsp; Just so you know.&nbsp; Finally, the available power liftgate is easily programmed to raise to a specific height.&nbsp; Good for smaller people or low garages.&nbsp; RAV4 uses a side hinged cargo door that opens on the wrong side for urban drivers and doesn't protect people from the elements like a liftgate.&nbsp;
All-wheel drive.&nbsp;That's it.&nbsp; All the competitors have it so let's move on.
If you made it down here, congratulations
Either you're very interested in this vehicle or you have a lot of time on your hands.&nbsp; I'll assume the first.&nbsp; Let's dismiss the "rah-rah buy American" attitude because shoppers invest a lot of money in a vehicle and they deserve good value and engineering.&nbsp; That said, those plunking down $29,000 on a vehicle (the average transaction these days) are cheating themselves if they don't test drive at least three vehicles.&nbsp; Compact crossovers shoppers should have Equinox on the list.&nbsp; All the attributes that can be measured and experienced are done very well.&nbsp;&nbsp; The Chevy engineers have done a terrific job here.&nbsp; The harder job lays ahead though; convincing shoppers it's worth a serious look.&nbsp;
No doubt, GM's financial situation will deter a certain percentage of people from even looking at Equinox.&nbsp; Their loss.&nbsp;&nbsp; Based solely on its merits, Equinox is quite compelling and exactly the kind of thing GM needs to bounce back. Fellow shareholders, product like this very encouraging.