Drive the 2018 Equinox like most of its owners will -- as a suburban commuter -- and you’ll be as pleased as can be. In fact, drive one back-to-back with the previous generation Equinox, and you’ll wonder how Chevy managed to sell almost 250,000 of the old buggers last year.

Chevy's finally dropped the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder into the new Equinox after the popular crossover initially debuted with a 1.5-liter turbo. The power bump is substantial: Now making 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0-liter Equinox produces 82 hp and 57 lb-ft more than the 1.5-liter. The extra power scoots the Equinox around at a respectable pace for a grocery-getter, reaching 60 in a Chevy-estimated 7.2 seconds.

Front-wheel-drive models are straightforward enough, but all-wheel drive is integrated a bit differently here: Instead of automatically transferring power to the rear when the system senses it needs it, the Equinox remains in front-wheel-drive mode until a button by the gearshift is pressed, activating all-wheel drive. Once activated, it remains in all-wheel drive until it’s deselected, even after you shut the car off. 

Chevy's rationale is simple. Most of the time all-wheel drive isn’t necessary, and fuel economy is enhanced when the rear wheels aren’t being powered. The assumption here is that most owners will leave the Equinox in front-wheel drive until inclement weather presents itself, and they’ll get better mileage because of it. In theory, it should work, but if an ill-informed owner activates all-wheel drive, they’re sending some percentage of the power to the rear wheels at all times, hurting the EPA-rated 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway fuel economy.

One area where the 2.0-liter Equinox outshines its 1.5-liter sibling is the standard nine-speed automatic transmission. GM introduced the 9T50 auto with the 2017 Malibu, and the smooth-shifting gearbox does a wonderful job in most situations. Shifts come when you expect them to, and acceleration is seamless even when you mat it. There’s no abrupt gear wandering around town, and the only time I was able to catch it off-guard was diving in and out of corners through some technical Tennessee twisties. Compared to other nine-speed offerings out there, this transmission is way more smooth and predictable. Sport mode is nonexistent in the Equinox, so unless you put the transmission in low, it tries to shift up if you let off the throttle momentarily. That’s OK, though, because this car isn’t meant to compete with the Porsche Macan and its ilk.

Weight reduction has been a theme for Chevy as of late, and the Equinox also goes on a diet for 2018. In front-wheel-drive form, it’s 386 pounds lighter than last year’s Equinox, and the all-wheel-drive version shaves 304 pounds. The weight savings are certainly felt when compared to the previous generation, but the structure and suspension changes we applauded on the 1.5-liter make a huge difference in the handling and composure of the more powerful Equinox too.

You’ll be able to get the 2.0-liter turbo Equinox in one of two trim levels: LT and Premier. We drove an LT with all-wheel drive, along with a sunroof that felt as big as the actual roof.

The Execution

The 2.0-liter turbo Equinox made for pleasant driving on the twisty back roads outside of Nashville. Inside, a clean, airy cabin presents itself with swaths of leather in the Premier trim. Functionality, comfort and visibility are improved over the previous generation, but competitors like the Escape will still give you a better view of the road ahead. Pull onto the pavement slowly -- or with gusto -- and the Equinox is happy to oblige. It never feels like a fast car, but it’s quick enough for a crossover. Due to the addition of three more gears, shifts come faster with the nine-speed as the small SUV picks up steam.

Expectations for handling ability were low going in, but the Equinox impresses. Body roll is minimal -- and narrow, winding roads can’t seem to shake it. All-wheel drive works wonders when powering out of corners, too. Instead of tire squeal and front-end shove in the middle of corners like the front-wheel-drive version, the rear wheels come to the rescue and allow you to power through and out. If the tires didn’t start protesting at the littlest provocation, it'd be more impressive.

Zero feedback from the road is transmitted to the steering wheel, but most buyers will see that as a plus in this category. More than likely, Equinox buyers won’t be too concerned about how it goes around a corner and will worry about ride comfort instead. In a word, it's outstanding, but the smooth country roads surrounding Nashville don’t seem to house a single pothole, so it’s tough to say how the new suspension will handle rough roads till we get one in Detroit.

The new Equinox is leagues quieter than the previous generation too. Active-noise cancellation on the interior makes it a pleasant place to eat up highway miles, and Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system continues to impress with clean graphics and responsive touch sensitivity. Back-seat passengers won’t be missing the old sliding second row much, either -- Chevy has freed up a boatload of extra space everywhere on the interior. All the trim levels feature a good amount of plastic that feels a little chintzy for a $30,000-plus vehicle, but at least all the normal touch points have been outfitted in soft touch materials.

Fuel mileage on our route was close to the EPA-rated average, with a best stint of 23 mpg on the computer; considering the hill country and enthusiastic throttle application, a lighter foot should yield even better day-to-day mileage.

The roomy Equinox SUV has always been a solid seller for Chevrolet, but it’s not a benchmark for either sales or execution. Last year, in the heart of a tremendous bull market for compact ...

The Takeaway

With the peppier engine, it’s safe to say Chevy has a winner on its hands. Other vehicles in the segment also have above average handling like the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V, but the Chevy offers up a much beefier engine to complement it. Only the Ford Escape’s 2.0-liter turbo can compete when it comes to horsepower and torque. If the big turbo Equinox falls short anywhere, it’s probably gas mileage, but there’s the 1.5-liter for the more fuel conscientious buyer. Soon the Equinox will be available with Chevy’s 1.6-liter turbodiesel as a third powertrain option too, showing Chevy's dedication to keeping its second best-selling vehicle on shoppers' lists.

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