New Equinox leads Chevy into trusted future

John Gilbert

Either I’m going soft or Chevrolet is becoming far more acceptable for mainstream  consumers.        

For a lot of years, I had evolved to becoming a cynic about some of what I considered   the planned obsolescence that made vehicles that were less-suited to being as trouble-free and durable as may vehicles from Japan, Germany, and more recently South Korea. In the process, the only thing that seemed to be growing at Chevrolet was the proliferation of new models on the SUV side.        

We have Suburbans, Those, Blazers, Trailblazers, Traverses, Traxes, and Equinoxes, ranging from enormous to full-size, mid-size, compact, and even subcompact. The reason I left the Equinox for last on my list is that the 2023 Equinox is the most recent one I’ve had for a week-long road test at my Duluth-area, North Shore residence.        

Timing was perfect to put the bright, “Radiant Red Tintcoat” Equinox Premier through its paces in the throes of February’s mid-winter vagaries. We had subzero nights, subfreezing days, a few days in the 40s, and a couple of snowstorms — including a 5-inch snowfall that caused Duluth area school officials to close down schools for three days of ridiculous overkill, followed up by a 10-inch overnight deposit that sent everyone scurrying for plowing help.        

Through the various hot and cold flashes, the Equinox performed very well and earned our complete trust and admiration. Many vehicles do that in mild weather, but  the Equinox Premier got off to a strong start with the key-fob remote start that worked perfectly and easily. Push the lock button then hold the start button and you see the lights flash and blink, and it’s running. The seat heaters for the front buckets and the outside seats of the split-bench rear seats also come on where you had left them, as does the steering wheel heater. If it’s zero out, those are true assets.        

The leather interior and all the latest technology features and layout controls boost the esteem of the Equinox above and beyond the range of normal compact SUVs. Apparently Chevy calls the Equinox compact to station it above the subcompact Trax and Trailblazer and just below the midsize Traverse. We found it roomy in front and rear, and while the Traverse is a three-row vehicle, the Equinox has two rows but a surprisingly large storage space behind the second row as well.        

The other key asset is that the larger Traverse needs the big V6 while the Equinox we tested ran very well with the comparatively tiny 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts and a turbocharger. It revs eagerly and puts the power down through all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. There also is a mode switch that you can click to get a screen note that you can engage all-wheel drive, although I’m not sure if it drops off to front-wheel drive otherwise.        

The only criticism we found amid the numerous creature features is that in its quest to put upgraded tires on the vehicle, Chevrolet mounted flashy 18-inch alloy wheels and on them mounted Michelin “Primacy Tour” tires. Michelin has made its name by using hard tread compounds for long wear and travel at high speeds, such as on the German autobahns. Unfortunately, except for a couple if high-end mud-and-snow tires, that also equates to wheelspin tendences on ice and snow.        

I needed the aid of our neighbor who had come to plow out our driveway for help shi shoveling the wheels clear and pushing a bit on the front end to let me free the Equinox from a snow pile that had tried to trap us, because the wheels just wanted to spin. There was a cautioning point that said, “Stuck? Do you want to disable traction control?” Very impressive.        

At $39,395 total sticker price, the Equinox Premium had StbiliTrak with traction control,  lane-change alert and lane-departure warning, blindside alert and rear cross-traffic alert, plus such neat features as LED headlights, power seats with lumbar control, and a 7-speaker Bose Premium audio.        

Chevrolet and General Motors are building vehicles all over the world these days, and the Equinox was assembled in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, with Mexico also listed as the source for the engine and transmission. Its size and light weight help the Equinox handle  with agility and get mileage that we clocked as 24 miles per gallon in city driving with warm-up time in the cold, up to 30 miles per gallon on a freeway trip from Duluth to Minneapolis to watch the Women’s WCHA tournament at Ridder Arena.        

That 30 mpg is exactly what the EPA highway mileage estimate reads, which makes that — along with virtually all other features — live Equinox is helping carry the Chevrolet torch into the future.    ·  ·  ·