2008 Chevrolet Equinox
2008 Chevrolet Equinox Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Improved and expanded lineup.
The 2008 Chevy Equinox offers improved ride and handling over last year's model, benefits of revised chassis settings. OnStar has been added as standard equipment. And an anti-trailer sway function has been incorporated into the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system for more secure towing. These changes come on the heels of cabin improvements that began with the 2007 models, along with improved safety features. The Equinox has been improving since its introduction as a 2005 model.
The lineup has been expanded for 2008 with the addition of two new models: the luxury-oriented Equinox LTZ and the performance-oriented Equinox Sport.
A 3.4-liter V6 is the standard engine, paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, which get an EPA-rated 17/24 miles per gallon City/Highway. Equinox Sport gets a 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission and gets an EPA-rated 16/24 mpg.
All Equinox models are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models cost about $1600 more and have smaller gas tanks, by nearly four gallons, cutting their cruising range by 20 percent. On the other hand, all-wheel drive makes the Equinox perform better on snow and ice.
The Equinox LTZ features leather-trimmed seats with seat heaters. A navigation system is optional.
The Sport model is a different kind of Equinox, with a more aggressive look and sporting cabin. It gets an 80-horsepower boost from GM's high-feature, aluminum four-cam V6 and six-speed automatic. The Sport also gets hydraulic (as opposed to electric) power steering, a tighter suspension, 18x8-inch polished, forged alloy wheels with 50-series tires, aerodynamic spoilers and rocker moldings, dual chrome exhaust tips, gauge package, and sport seats.
The Equinox is Chevy Truck's answer to the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 compact SUVs. However, Equinox is bigger and roomier than any of these competitors. Equinox is big enough that its dimensions blur the line between compact and midsize sport utilities. It's nearly 14 inches longer than Ford Escape and just three inches shorter than a Chevy TrailBlazer. Its long wheelbase gives the Equinox good stability and ride quality. However, Equinox seats only five, because it does not offer a hopelessly cramped third row, as does the Toyota RAV4. Like Escape, CR-V, and RAV4, the Equinox is based on a passenger-car design but has an interior like a traditional SUV. Therefore, industry observers and other car crazies call the Equinox a crossover utility because it crosses over the line from truck to car.
This is a versatile vehicle when it comes to moving people and cargo. The back seats are mounted on tracks and slide fore and aft: Slide forward and you have more cargo space, slide rearward for more rear legroom. The rear seatbacks recline for additional comfort. Fold the rear seats down, then fold down the front passenger seatback, and you can load eight-foot objects inside.
The 2008 Chevy Equinox comes in four trim levels: the basic LS, the better-appointed LT, top-line LTZ, and Sport.
Equinox LS FWD ($23,035) and AWD ($24,660) come with cloth upholstery; air conditioning; cruise control; tilt steering; a fold-flat front passenger seat; a Multi-Flex 60/40 split rear bench seat that folds, slides, and reclines; six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio; power windows, power mirrors, power locks with remote keyless entry, and OnStar. Tires are Bridgestone P235/65 all-season radials on 16-inch alloy wheels. A driver information center comes standard. Options for LS include an upgraded audio system with MP3 capability ($135), engine block heater ($75), carpeted floor mats ($40) and side curtain airbags ($395).
LT FWD ($23,905) and AWD ($25,550) add carpeted floor mats, deep tinted glass, power mirrors, leather-wrap steering wheel, and iPod/MP3/RDS audio system. Door handles and roof-rack side rails are body-color rather than charcoal or black. Option Package 2LT ($1,325) adds fog lights, auto-dimming interior rearview mirror with temperature display and compass, six-way power driver seat adjuster with manual lumbar adjustment and map pocket, remote start, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Options for LT include a 6CD audio system upgrade ($435), XM Satellite Radio ($200), a tilt-and-slide sunroof ($695), a remote starter ($190), luggage rack crossbars ($150), 17-inch chromed aluminum wheels, and Pioneer sound system ($1200).
LTZ FWD ($27,810) and AWD ($29,435) add leather seats, front-seat heaters, chrome-clad aluminum wheels, Pioneer seven-speaker sound system with subwoofer, body-color bumpers with charcoal trim and chrome inserts on the roof rails, body-color mirrors, side-curtain airbags, XM radio. Options include a tow package ($350) navigation/radio upgrade ($2,145), DVD rear-seat entertainment system ($995), and sunroof ($695).
Sport FWD ($28,115) and AWD ($29,740) gets the bigger V6 and six-speed automatic, a sports suspension, 18-inch forged alloy wheels with 50-series tires, aerodynamic spoilers and rocker moldings, dual chrome exhaust tips, gauge package, and sport seats. Options include the tow package, audio upgrades, side curtain airbags, and sunroof.
Safety features include antilock brakes, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, tire pressure monitor; dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags. Side-impact and head-curtain airbags are optional ($395) and come with a rollover sensor, so they can provide head and torso protection in a rollover as well as a side impact; they come standard on the LTZ model.
The Chevy Equinox is aerodynamically smooth, thanks to a subtle shaping of front and rear fascias as well as the rear spoiler. From the front, Equinox still looks the part of a Chevy truck, with its requisite single-bar grille sporting a large gold Chevrolet bow-tie emblem.
Sport models have a more menacing look akin to SS versions of the TrailBlazer and 2006 Silverado.
In the broadside view, Equinox looks different from the rest of the Chevy Truck family. The roof pillars and the sheetmetal above the windows but below the roof seem to be extra-thick, imparting a feeling of extra solidity and strength, important for a truck made on a car platform. When you shut the doors, the sound is more like the muted mating of plastic than the hollow clang of sheetmetal. It's a sound that no other Chevy truck makes.
The doors open wide for easy entry and exit, and the rear gate goes up and out of the way, allowing you to stand fully upright for easy loading of groceries, camping equipment, or dogs.
The Equinox looks solidly planted on its wheels. Equinox is based on a car-type platform, with unit-body construction rather than body on frame for better ride and handling.
With lower stance, low-profile rubber and deeper bodywork the Sport reinforces that notion, but it is more likely to drag the front on something if you take your Equinox off the pavement or barrel into steep driveways at speed.
The Chevy Equinox cabin is a clean and functional design. The quality of some of the materials and control interfaces in the 2006 Equinox was disappointing. Chevrolet addressed some of our concerns for '07 with a new instrument cluster, center stack, shift knob, steering wheel, and heater and ventilation (HVAC) controls.
For 2008, window switches are lighted and the compass has moved from the mirror to the Driver Information Center that includes more than 20 personalization and vehicle information features, such as trip odometer, fuel range, outside temperature display and door locking programs. The 2008 Equinox Sport gets new gauges.
Rear-passenger legroom is excellent. The rear seat rides on a track that allows it to slide back and forth up to eight inches, to bring kids or briefcases closer to the front, or to provide extra legroom for tall second-row passengers. With both front and rear seats in the full rearward positions, there's more rear-passenger legroom in the Equinox than you'll found in many larger SUVs: a full 40.2 inches. With the rear seat completely forward, there's 35.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind it. But even with the seat pushed back into limousine position, there's still plenty of room for your stuff. GM calls this innovative feature the Multi-Flex rear seat.
Because the rear seatback is split 60/40, Equinox can transport two rear passengers along with long cargo items. The front passenger seat folds flat, further extending cargo room length, so you can lay a ladder or other objects inside. When folded, the hard front seatback can be used as a table or desktop.
Rear passengers enjoy a 12-volt power outlet and a fold-down center armrest with two additional cupholders.
Cubby storage: Up front, Equinox carries flexible net storage pockets on both sides of the center tunnel. The center console/armrest has a small storage cubby and a coin holder for toll money. Dual cupholders pop out of the end of it, but they're flimsy and get in the way of the handbrake. The armrest flips up, providing better access to an open floor console that's a perfect place for a purse, briefcase or tote bag. The floor-mounted cupholder works well, while slots farther to the rear holds CDs angled forward for easy selection.
The Sport interior is trimmed in dark ebony, with the requisite leather-wrapped steering wheel and more heavily bolstered front seats. All the practical flexibility of the regular Equinox remains, however.
The 3.4-liter V6 used by the Chevy Equinox delivers good acceleration under most circumstances, and it's smooth enough. It feels strained when pushed at high rpm, however. When loaded down with people, you'll need to stand on the gas and rev it to merge onto the freeway or tow a trailer. The Equinox is a big box for 210 pound-feet of torque.
The 3.4-liter V6 is an old, iron-block, pushrod-overhead-valve design that lacks modern features such as variable valve timing and variable-length intake runners, though it does feature hydraulic roller lifters, just like a Corvette. It's paired with a wide-ratio five-speed automatic that uses a direct 1:1 fifth gear for efficiency.
Fuel economy for 2008 is rated by EPA at 17/24 mpg City/Highway.
The standard 3.4-liter V6 engine is aided considerably by the five-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet says the Equinox can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds, which should be adequate performance for most families. And while it may not excel at acceleration, Equinox is rated to pull a 3500-pound trailer, the same as the more powerful Escape and RAV4 V6s.
The Sport model's 3.6-liter V6 is a modern, all-aluminum engine with double overhead cams and variable valve timing. It's smooth enough to drop in a Cadillac. With 264 horsepower it outmuscles the 3.4-liter by 80 horsepower and makes 40 lb-ft more torque and much earlier in the rev band.
You don't have to rev the 3.6-liter up as much to get going, but if you do, hold on. Coupled with a more advanced six-speed automatic the Sport is significantly quicker, smoother than the standard Equinox. And realistically, it's no harder on gasoline consumption. However, the more advanced powertrain isn't cheap and plays a big part in the Sport's price premium over an LT.
The ride quality in the Equinox models is decent, a benefit of its long wheelbase and 3800-pound heft. This makes the Equinox a suitable companion for long trips. Its handling is responsive and it's easy to modulate the brakes for smooth stops.
The Sport model rides more firmly but reacts quicker and more precisely because of its firmer suspension and wider tires, but using forged alloy wheels minimizes the detraction from a smooth ride. The Sport seems a bit happier as people are added because the heavier engine and transmission add a few percentage points to the front of a car already nose-heavy and more people balance that out.
The Equinox has good road feel in highway driving, yet steering effort is lighter at low speeds for easier maneuvering in tight parking lots. The steering ratio is variable, and the Equinox uses electric, rather than hydraulic, power steering. We don't think the average driver will feel the difference between this system and more conventional hydraulics, and that's a good thing. Unlike a hydraulic servo, the electric booster doesn't use engine power, resulting in slightly better fuel economy.
Sport models, more inclined to be driven by people who will notice a difference in steering systems, do use hydraulic assist for the rack-and-pinion steering. It delivers better feel than the regular Equinox (no doubt aided by the suspension and tires as well) and needs just 2.5 turns from full left to full right where the standard car needs almost four steering wheel rotations. Both models need nearly 42 feet to affect a U-turn.
StabiliTrak electronic stability control helps drivers maintain control during sudden maneuvers or in low-traction conditions by using a comprehensive series of sensors to measure acceleration, deceleration, steering angle and yaw rate. The system steps in when the Equinox doesn't seem to be going where the driver intended. When that happens, StabiliTrak regains control by regulating acceleration or applying the brakes at individual wheels, a feat no driver can perform. For 2008, a function has been added that applies the same logic to a trailer sway.
The Chevy Equinox is larger than other compact SUVs. Its flexible interior design provides room for five full-size people and their gear, featuring a sliding second-row seat. Equinox comes standard with a V6 and, with an ongoing set of improvements, offers good value. The Equinox Sport is more responsive and more fun to drive with little impact to fuel economy.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Detroit, with G.R. Whale in Los Angeles.
Chevrolet Equinox LS FWD ($23,035); LS AWD ($24,660); LT FWD ($23,905); LT AWD ($25,550); LTZ FWD ($27,810); LTZ AWD ($29,435); Sport FWD ($28,115); Sport AWD ($29,470).
Options As Tested
Package 2LT ($1,325) includes auto-dimming inside mirror w/temp and compass, 6-way power driver's seat w/manual lumbar and map pocket, fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, P235/60R17 all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels; sunroof ($695); 6CD changer with MP3 ($435); 7-speaker premium sound system w/subwoofer and amp ($325); XM Satellite Radio ($200); towing package ($350).
Chevrolet Equinox LT FWD ($23,905).
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