General Motors' (GM - Get Report) 2018 Chevrolet Equinox compact crossover is the latest in a slew of family-style vehicles that pack a great deal of technology into a highly engineered package designed to carry out a variety of purposes more modernly and efficiently than its antediluvian ancestor, the station wagon.
This year's Equinox, built near Toronto, debuts the third generation of a model that appeared first in 2005. Thanks to a thoroughly re-engineered and stiffer architecture and smarter packaging design, Equinox got a bit shorter and 400 pounds lighter, meaning that steering and handling feel much tighter.
For the time being, all trim levels of the model -- which starts at about $24,000 for the base version - are equipped with a 1.5-lite, four-cylinder gasoline engine and a six-speed engine. The 170 horsepower and 203 foot-pounds of torque with front-wheel-drive felt no better than adequate. (For pokey drivers like me, power and acceleration felt fine on the flat roads around Detroit; hilly terrain might strain a fully loaded Equinox). A more powerful, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and a 1.6-liter diesel will be available soon, GM said.
As with most vehicle models, the difference in price between a base and fully equipped version can be substantial. In the $32,000 Equinox that I tested, equipment included remote rear lift gate, leather upholstery, seat warmers and a variety of safety equipment, including blind-spot detection. But you have to spend about $40,000 to get all the safety and other equipment Equinox offers, including the automatic forward emergency braking system, which can prevent many frontal collisions at low speeds.
The cabin felt spacious with plenty of room for storage of phone cables, sunglasses, purses and the like. Visibility in all directions was fine. The driver's seat seemed mercifully comfortable with good support of on aging lower spine. Controls were intuitive and the Bluetooth connection for my phone was exceptionally easy to execute. I'm also happy to report that the voice recognition system operated flawlessly.
Equinox should sell well for GM against its main competition, Ford's (F - Get Report) Escape, another crossover that has improved continuously through three generations since its initial appearance in 2001. But the red-hot category remains dominated by Honda's (HMC - Get Report) CR-V, Toyota's (TM - Get Report) RAV4 and the top-selling Nissan (NSANY) Rogue.
Comparative EPA fuel efficiency ratings:
Chevrolet Equinox Premier AWD: 24 mpg city/30 highway/26 combined. Regular gasoline.
Ford Escape Titanium 1.5L AWD: 22/28/24. Regular gasoline.
Honda CR-V 1.5L Touring 4WD: 27/33/29. Regular gasoline.
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate AWD: 19/24/21. Regular gasoline.
Kia Sportage EX AWD: 25/32/2. Regular gasoline.
Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD: 23/29/26. Regular gasoline.
Driving performance, according to Car & Driver:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.3-8.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 15.7-25.0 sec
Standing 1/4-mile: 14.9-16.9 sec
Top speed: 115 mph