First, since everybody could use a little good news these days, we'll tell you the positives first. The new Equinox has two new engines, and both of them feature efficient direct injection technology. The smaller is a four-cylinder that displaces 2.4-liters and produces 182 horsepower. This engine is the first four-cylinder available in the Equinox, and is yet another member of the Ecotec family of four-bangers. It features a new head (among other components) that utilizes direct injection, a fuel delivery system where the fuel injector is actually in the combustion chamber instead of being in a less efficient location somewhere upstream of the intake valve.
With the 2.4, Chevy claims the 2010 Equinox will deliver expected best-in-segment estimated highway fuel economy of 30 mpg (EPA certification pending) – a 25-percent improvement over the base pushrod 3.4-liter V-6 from 2009 that produced nearly the same power (185 horsepower). Chevrolet expects nearly two-thirds of customers will choose the efficient, 2.4L engine. (A valid comparison is the 2009 Ford Escape with a 171-horsepower 2.5-liter engine that without direct-injection achieves 28 mpg with a six-speed automatic.)
A V-6 engine is still available in the 2010 Equinox, and it's a good one. Instead of the 3.6-liter V-6 that was available in 2009, the re-done crossover gets this engine's little brother that displaces 3.0-liter. This smaller version of GM's high-feature V-6 is so good that you'll find the same engine powering Cadillac's new, smaller SRX for 2010. GM estimates that the new 3.0-liter V-6 will produce 255 horsepower, and 25 mpg highway, 18 mpg city.
Both engines will direct their power to six-speed automatic transmissions, and coupled with a large fuel tank (approximately 20 gallons on front-wheel drive miles), cruising range should be a camel-like 500 miles.
Some other good news about the 2010 Equinox include that the airbag count is now at six, with these being standard; dual frontal air bags; head curtain side air bags and pelvic/thorax seat-mounted side air bags. Those looking for safety will also like having standard four-wheel disc brakes with StabiliTrak electronic stability control and traction control. OnStar is also standard.
New interior features include XM Satellite Radio, a “Smart” remote starting system that also activates the HVAC system and optional heated seats depending on the outside temperature, and a new interior with rear seats that adjust fore and aft a full eight inches. Engineers from Chevy say the new interior not only looks better but is also quieter. They pointed to things we could see (triple door seals) and things we couldn't (the new windshield that has a layer that deadens sound).
According to Chevrolet, the new Equinox draws its exterior design inspiration from the Chevrolet Traverse full-size crossover. Well, we did notice that the grille looks like the Traverse, but thankfully the new sheet metal that wraps around the Equinox is much better looking than its bland stable mate. We particularly like the bold wheel arches and the strong character line that begins ahead of the front door and continues straight off the end of the hatch.
Now for the bad news. While GM is presenting the Equinox as all-new, it isn't. The truth is that the 2010 Equinox is only mostly-new. The vehicle still rides on what engineers call the Theta platform, the same as the previous Equinox. This has not been a chassis that we've generally enjoyed driving.
While the platform has been stiffened, one engineer admitted that not much was done to improve ride dynamics. This makes us worry about squeaks and rattles, a problem with several Theta vehicles we've driven. Our engineer did note that the standard suspension calibrations are soft enough that this shouldn't be an issue. We'll let you know about ride and handling after we drive one.
The 2010 Equinox goes on sale in mid-2009 and will be available in the standard Chevy trim levels; LS, LT and LTZ trim. Front- and all-wheel-drive configurations will be available.