A Sunnier Disposition
GM removed the "all-new" 2010 Equinox's front-fender mark of excellence. In exchange, it remodeled this formerly drab Chevy with a higher quality materials. A good swap! You'll notice the change when they hand you the key. The fob is similar to Audi's switchblade affair; its key deployment is satisfying, its buttons stiff.
Mechanically, the Equinox incorporates several noteworthy modifications: a 185-hp, direct-injection, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission now motivate the entry and mid-tier models. A V6 is optional. The four's transmission is economy geared; the vehicle shudders at 1,200-1,800 rpm in sixth. You can lockout top gear. Shifts: smooth but tardy. The selectable Eco mode blunts performance in order to wring out more mpg. GM includes active noise cancellation. Result: a competitively quiet compact crossover.
In the style department, GM's body snatchers poached the Mercedes' M-Class. Wraparound black-rear glass suggests good viewing, but side windows are small. My LT2 tester included a backup camera screen built into the rear-view mirror.
The inside makeover is impressive. For instance, pebble-grained plastics, firm seats, finished seat tracks and glossy appliance-like platinum dash inserts impart an upscale look and feel. Switchgear is inclined for easy operation. Some buttons are oddly shaped or placed. The dash-top compartment has sharp edges. Otherwise, GM's designers achieved a soothing Euro-chic effect.
Fashion sometimes impedes function: the inside door releases pinch fingers; the 1960's Impala-like instrument cluster is a daytime experience with Dark Shadows. A meaty steering wheel obscures gauges. The rev counter's redline: missing.
The spacious split-fold rear seat (two fixed head restraints) slides and reclines. Its center armrest is an articulated comfort zone. While courtesy lighting is useful, neither middle nor back overheads have point-of-use switches.
Ride quality is resilient. The motor-assisted steering lacks feel-like you're driving on marbles. The V6 version has hydraulic power steering with better feedback. Nonetheless, the Equinox, which has stability control, is road worthy. Grip is adequate.
The spongy brake pedal mimics punching dough. The antilock binders work without drama. Although GM doesn't say so, the Equinox incorporates a fail-safe brake override.
EPA numbers: 22 mpg city, 32 highway. The trip computer indicated 24. I measured 21 overall. Price: $23,000 base, $26,500 as tested.
Other than minor body alignment goofs and ragged center console seam, the Equinox presents itself as nicely finished, roomy and comfortable-whatever the season.