Compact crossovers are key to the family vehicle business. GM isn’t leaving anything to chance with the all-new 2018 Chevy Equinox.
Setting aside the trucks that GM builds, the Chevy Equinox is its most important vehicle. “Why?”, you might ask. Simply put, cars are declining in popularity, and Chevy hasn’t been a leader in cars for a generation. Or two. Or three. Sure, GM can build a heck of a 500-hp, 200-mph luxury sedan, and both of the owners love theirs. The problem is that cars like the Corvette, Camaro, CTS- V and other GM go-fast specialty cars don’t pay the bills. GM needs to have a solid crossover line heading into the coming decade, and the Equinox is the cornerstone of GM’s new lineup.
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The outgoing Equinox is a fine automobile, and it was selling pretty well up until recently. In August, the Equinox’s sales fell off a cliff. A year ago Chevy sold about 25,000 Equnioxi in August, a respectable number on par with the number three and four vehicles in the class, but not far off the leader board. In fact, back then, the Equinox outsold all of Buick and also all of Cadillac. This August, GM sold just 15,000 Equinox crossovers, about half of what Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Ford sold. Given that compact crossovers are the new family car and now the largest sales segment outside of trucks, that is a bad trend.
The Equinox was never really a compact crossover like the rest of the field. Being different can be good in a family vehicle, but not when it means you don’t earn top safety scores and are not on par with the fuel economy of the segment. But enough of how GM got here, let’s take a look at where the new 2018 Equinox is headed, starting in the spring of 2017 when it arrives.
2018 Chevy Equinox – Body, Chassis, Design
The first thing Chevy is doing with the Equinox, it seems to be doing with many of its existing non-truck nameplates. It’s making them smaller. The new Equinox is about a half inch skinnier and five inches shorter than the vehicle it is replacing. Does that mean it will have less usable space? Probably not. Chevy has a new flat-floor cargo area it is very proud of, and interior packaging gets better on most new vehicles designs, so let’s assume it is about the same size inside. The big news is the Equinox loses 400 pounds.
Importantly, the 2018 Equinox will be more akin to the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V when it arrives. It is now sleeker, and in a way it looks like the larger Chevy Traverse has for some time.
2018 Equinox Drivetrains
Rather than just one four-cylinder engine, Chevy will offer three. The base engine will be a 1.5-liter turbo with 170 hp and about 200 ft-lbs of torque. The step up is a 2.0-liter turbo with 252 hp and about 260 ft-lbs of torque. That is way more than this vehicle needs.
Interestingly, Chevy is planning a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel engine as well. Don’t expect a towing rig. It has less torque than the 2.0-liter engine. Instead, the diesel will serve two main purposes. First, when coupled with front wheel drive (only) it will allow GM to publish a zinger of an MPG number and say “Best In Class.” When equipped with all-wheel drive will its combined MPG top Honda’s CR-V and Subaru’s Forester? Maybe by a smidge. Will it have a lower cost per mile? Very doubtful. The second reason Chevy will offer a diesel is that it will get headlines. Many autowriters are convinced (mistakenly) that diesel engines in affordable family cars have some special magic. They’re nuts.
GM will also offer multiple transmissions. In the base Equinox and the 1.6-liter diesel, a six-speed auto is the only option. The 2.o-liter gets a nine-speed auto. GM is not jumping into the CVT pool yet, and we think it will be a mistake. This industry are about 15 minutes away from the public realizing that a nine-speed auto hunting for gears and shifting up and down is not as smooth or fuel efficient as the many good CVTs this segment now offers. By 2018 it will be old news.
2018 Equinox Safety
The current Equinox does splendidly on crash tests, and we suspect this new one will ace all the IIHS crash tests. Forward collision prevention with automatic braking is available. Note that it is not standard on all trims, like Toyota’s RAV4. Why any automaker would launch a new family-targeted vehicle without making FCP standard is a real head scratcher.
2018 Equinox Infotainment
One way the 2018 Equinox will rise above the fray is infotainment. Chevy is well on its way to having the best system in the industry, in a tie with the Hellcat maker formerly known as Chrysler and Ford. Amazingly, the premium brands continue to screw this up. It is almost comical to get out of a $35K Chevy with a fantastic system and then into a $75K (fill in your Euro-lux name here) and be confronted with a system that isn’t as good, but we autowriters do it all the time. The ’18 Equinox will have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You won’t find that in a RAV4 or Mazda CX-5, unless those two see the light, and fast.
The real test of the Equinox will be how it drives and feels over a full test cycle. A week-long test in a RAV4, CR-V, CX-5, Focus, Rogue, or Forester is all it takes to tell that those models were given their maker’s full attention when they were designed and built. They are nearly flaw-free. We look forward to a full, week-long test of the new 2018 Chevy Equinox. Until we drive it, we can’t say how well it will stack up to the competitors that are presently outselling it by more than two to one.
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