We are driving the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier 2.0T AWD on the super smooth Natchez Trace Parkway. This road is perfect for the compact crossover and makes us appreciate the sedate, friendly ride and comfortably capable handling.
The 2.0T designates the third-generation Equinox’s new optional engine, a 2.0-liter turbo-four that makes 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. But before catching our flight to the Music City, we had the opportunity to drive an Equinox FWD Premier with the base 1.5-liter turbo-four, an engine good for 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque.
Mated to a six-speed automatic, it will get to 60 mph in an eventual 9.2 seconds. Gas misers will be happy to know that the six-speed is tuned with fuel economy in mind and it upshifts to its highest gear regularly. Back home in Los Angeles, it did the job comfortably during rush hour traffic and around town hauling groceries.
The 2.0-liter is considerably quicker, getting the Equinox to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. It was noticeably quicker than the 1.5T on the backroads of Tennessee, displaying decent passing power. Pound the accelerator hard enough and its nine-speed automatic will skip a few gears to help get you down the road. The first five ratios are close together and the powertrain gets the job done with minimal lag, at least with two adults and no cargo in the SUV. The bigger engine can also tow up to 3,500 pounds, according to the latest Chevy spec sheets.
Jill Dennis, Equinox lead development engineer, tells us its efficient performance inspires confidence as well as a safe and comfortable driving experience. We shared some fried pickles with her during our lunch break at The Country Boy diner in Leipers Fork and enjoyed some tasty southern cooking that included chicken fried steak, mac & cheese, and spicy collard greens.
“The Equinox drives lighter and offers a greater feeling of precision,” Dennis says. “It’s a dynamic, agile driving experience rooted in the solidity of the all-new body structure.”
Chevy says we can also expect to see a 1.6-liter four-cylinder diesel version late in the year. Bow Tie brass expects that 75% of its buyers will opt for the 1.5T, 20% will choose the 2.0T, and another 5% will wait for the upcoming 1.6-liter turbo-diesel variant.
Fuel wise the 1.5L FWD gets an EPA rating of 26/32 mpg (city/highway), while the AWD 2.0L gets 22/28 mpg. GM claims the 1.6L diesel engine will deliver 40 mpg on the highway, but we’ll have to get back to you on that.
Later in the afternoon, we stop by Castle Recording Studios in Franklin, Tennessee for a tour of the facilities. Everybody from Alabama to Neil Young has recorded here in this former Al Capone home and casino that is located halfway between Chicago and New Orleans.
From the roof of the studio, we were able to capture our shot of the Equinox from above, which showcases its large sunroof (it’s spectacular and part of the recommended Sun, Sound, and Navigation package).
Our major gripe with the Equinox is the inability to turn off its automatic start/stop function with either engine. Most manufacturers allow drivers to do so, which will make for a frustrating experience for those that dislike the feature. Additionally, the steering offers a bland and lifeless experience on winding country and city roads. On the plus side, the cabin is really quiet and visibility is good from the front and rear.
Both Equinoxes we drove wore Orange Burst Metallic paint with the highly recommended Jet Black/Brandy leather that really showcases the interior. The look is pleasing to the eyes and to touch. Definitely skip the sad-looking black cloth interior if you have kids and/or pets.
Both engines are available in L, LS, LT, and Premier trims, with optional AWD. There are nearly three dozen package and build combinations, so it’s best to keep it simple if you are looking for a small SUV closer to $30,000, as the price tag can easily be pushed north of $40,000 if you are the type of person who likes to add options.
All models offer the latest optional safety and security features from Chevrolet as well as an 8-inch touch screen and a MyLink infotainment system that is Android and Apple friendly.
The 1.5T Premier starts at $31,685, while the 2.0T Premier begins at $38,125. The 1.5T is available now, but the 2.0T doesn’t go on sale until later in the summer.
If you are looking for a family hauler that is good on gas and need it today, the 1.5L is a sensible option. Those who like to tow small toys or want a little more oomph in their ride should wait for the 2.0T, or maybe even the diesel. Whatever flavor you choose, be sure to get one with a sunroof. You will thank us for it later.
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