A Family Fuel Miser That’s Rich In Torque
All-new for 2018, the Chevrolet Equinox crossover SUV is Chevy’s second best-selling model after the Silverado pickup, which reflects its importance to General Motors. GM went to work on its bread-and-butter crossover to make it a more efficient driver. The result? A 400-pound weight reduction and the first-ever Equinox Diesel, with output of 137 horsepower and 240 pounds-feet of torque.
The EcoTec 1.6-liter turbocharged-diesel is the third 2018 Chevrolet Equinox power plant, following a gasoline turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four making just 170 horsepower and a more-livelier 2.0-liter turbo making 250 ponies.
The diesel’s EPA fuel economy numbers are worth shouting about. The front-wheel drive version is rated at 28 mpg city/39 highway/32 combined. Our all-wheel drive test driver knocks the highway figure down to 38 mpg, but the others stay the same. Those numbers qualify the 2018 Equinox Diesel for entry into Clean Fleet Report’s All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. Those highway numbers are the best among compact SUVs, while the city figure is exceeded only by hybrid versions of the Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Rogue.
(Editor’s Note: The same diesel powertrain is offered in the Equinox’s platform-mate, the 2018 GMC Terrain with identical EPA fuel economy ratings.)
Shrouded in Volkswagen Group’s diesel scandal, it might seem that placing a diesel engine in the Equinox doesn’t make sense. But diesel engines provide tons of torque and excellent fuel economy. It’s that thrift that will attract the astute buyer.
Driving the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel
Unless I was standing standing next to the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel when the engine cranks or the window was down at stop sign, the expectected diesel clatter is barely heard, and then it is muted and short-lived. Cruising at highway speeds, the engine was virtually silent—indistinguishable from a gasoline four. If you haven’t experienced a modern small diesel vehicle, that is likely a surprise.
Visibility out of the diesel-powered Equinox was excellent, thanks to its large windows and low beltline. The generous glass area also gave the crossover’s cabin an airy feel, making it less claustrophobic.
This was not a quick vehicle by any stretch—it takes nine seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop. But it did pull away from a stoplight with initial authority; it was the 240 pounds-feet of torque I felt when launched. In-town merging was a breeze with that much twist on tap, and it was delivered without the typical turbo lag expected from a small-displacement turbodiesel. A mild prod of the pedal brought plenty of shove at around town speeds. The six-speed automatic transmission upshifted smoothly, and the start-stop system was unobtrusive.
Highway and freeway cruising was a delight. Steering was excellent. I didn’t have to pay extra attention to keep the Equinox diesel from wandering about, even on rutted pavement and grating. That lead to a sense of security and stability that’s impressive for a vehicle of this size.
The ride was also top notch. The suspension is tuned for comfort. It enabled the diesel Equinox to negotiate rough or broken pavement without sending shock waves through the cabin, yet still remain reasonably level during mildly aggressive directional changes as well as on long, sweeping freeway ramps. However, our Equinox wasn’t the most agile crossover and can’t match the likes of the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5 when the road starts twisting. Although the Equinox TD does feel secure through turns, it is happier cruising on a long stretch of highway or on city streets.
When it came to stopping, the brakes felt a bit grabby at first but they were easy to acclimate to and our Equinox Diesel always halted promptly.
Diesel devotees will be disappointed to learn that the Equinox diesel is rated to tow just 1,500 pounds, but the allure of extracting every possible mile from each gallon of dinosaur juice far outweighs that metric. Our 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel turned in a solid 42.5 combined mpg after driving 310 miles; 70 percent highway/30 percent city.
New Looks In and Out
Chevrolet’s designers had a tall order to reinvent the aging Equinox body and cabin into something stylish and competitive, and the results are solidly above average. Designers upped the 2018 Equinox’s exterior design game by bringing a fresh take to the same two-box layout that is slightly smaller and lighter for the same two-box layout that’s made the Equinox such a hit with younger families.
The new crossover’s sculpted headlights and hood work wonderfully to frame its new trapezoidal grille, which brings a dose of the Cruze and Malibu to the Equinox’s face. In profile, the Equinox retains its signature angled C-pillar, though it’s now better blended into the crossover’s beltline. The rear D-pillar now has an aggressive forward rake while the rear side glass wraps into the back pane. At the rear, its body squares at the corners to give it a flatter, more masculine rear surface.
The cabin has a familiar feel, though new curves and softly rounded corners dress up the dashboard. The steering wheel is perfectly sized and placed and the front seats are actually supportive on long drives. Last year’s trapezoidal touchscreen is replaced by a 7.0-inch tablet-style display flanked by a pair of teardrop-shaped vents. A set of redundant audio and climate control knobs provide a simple and user-friendly alternative to the touchscreen controls.
Front and rear accommodations are generous, with the latter being notable, thanks to its flat floor. There’s 29.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row that can be expanded to 63.5 cubic feet—those numbers are decent, but fall short of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V.
Our test car was an LT trim—one of two that’s available with the diesel engine—and it came with a host of features. Standard were HID headlights, remote keyless entry, push-button start, heated front seats, active noise-cancellation, Teen Driver technology and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Chevy’s MyLink Radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were also included.
On the safety side, a rear view camera, rear parking sensors, lane change assist and blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert were standard. Available options included low-speed automatic braking, Surround Vision and adaptive cruise control.
The Crossover SUV For You?
The diesel engine’s fuel economy, impressive though it may be, comes at a price. Our 2018 Chevrolet Equinox AWD LT has a sticker price of $33,630 which included $395 for Cajun Red paint color and $995 destination charge. That’s $3,700 more than an LT gasoline AWD Equinox, but our test driver had more features.
The bottom line is, if you drive a lot of freeway or highway miles, or if you relish the idea of using the least fuel possible to travel an absurd distance between refueling, then you need to have the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel at the top of your shopping list.
A Second Report Opinion
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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