Duke’s Drive is all about my experiences with driving new vehicles. It truly is a privilege to be able to drive a brand new vehicle for a week and share my thoughts with you. It is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly, or for granted. I know the pains of wanting to test-drive a vehicle you’re interested in buying, and it’s not an enjoyable experience. These are the stories of my experiences.
When it comes to reviewing cars, there are those you can’t wait to get your hands on (looking at you, Camaro), and those the average enthusiast probably doesn’t spend much time considering. My most recent Duke’s Drive, a 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, definitely fell into the latter group. Is this Chevy SUV a decent but somewhat ordinary choice, or something worth more than just a second glance? I spent some quality time behind the wheel to find out.
First things first – the Equinox has come a very long way in the looks department. When it first came out, it wasn’t exactly a thing of great beauty. Fast forward to 2017, and GM’s new design language has provided a massive improvement. It doesn’t struggle to stand out in a sea of mid-size SUVs. Not exactly an easy task.
That same sentiment continues through the interior. GM has done a pretty phenomenal job fighting back against the “only European cars have nice interiors” stereotype, and the Equinox is no exception. The seats are comfortable (heated and cooled), along with a heated steering wheel, lane keep assist with lane departure warning and more.
One particularly cool feature on my tester was something called “haptic seat”, part of the $1,895 Confidence & Convenience II Package (side note: hugely worth the money. Wouldn’t buy without). In essence, when the vehicle detects an object in your path to the left or right, the seat bottom vibrates on the corresponding side. Interesting feature, and one I’m surprised hasn’t been used before.
Like in my 2017 Chevy Camaro review, the Equinox is available with on-board WiFi. That’s both handy for general use and provides additional peace of mind. In an accident and don’t have cell phone service? Thanks to the WiFi connectivity, the vehicle can still connect to OnStar whenever needed. Unlike the Camaro, wireless charging is available directly under the dash. Very convenient.
Plus, much like the F-150 I test drove, “surround cameras” are available, giving an unobstructed, 360-degree view around you. I’ve looked fairly hard, and it’s still difficult to find where all the cameras are hidden. Great tech and a big help in the right situations.
And then we get to the engine. Being honest, it’s hard to take a 1.5L, 170 hp turbo four seriously, particularly in a 3,646 lb. SUV. Yes, it runs out of breath at freeway speeds. However, it’s surprisingly capable around town. I was genuinely impressed with how responsive and fun the little turbo four was when off the highway.
So far, there’s a lot to like about the Equinox, and not very many marks against it. Then we get to the price. Ready for some sticker shock in reverse? My tester, with all of the features listed above, came to a grand total of $34,575. That’s crazy value for money. The base price barely even cracked the 30s at $30,970. I feel like the word “bargain” is wildly overused when it comes to car pricing, but if it doesn’t apply here, then I have no idea when it does.
Absolutely, positively, without hesitation spring for the 2.0L turbo. An engine swap would probably cost way more than just opting for the bigger power plant out of the box, so go for the factory option. It’ll give you the same responsiveness around town, without the dead spot when speeds hit 65+. The bigger engine is worth the premium and I promise you won’t regret spending the extra cash.
Cosmetically, I’d go for all-around tint to match the rear privacy glass provided by the factory. Additionally, some sharper wheels could also go a long way with further accentuating the already attractive lines.
While I love testing cars I know I’ll enjoy, there’s a thrill all its own when a car I typically wouldn’t give a second thought completely changes my mind. The 2018 Chevy Equinox did just that and did not let up. From looks to tech, and ride comfort to around-town engine response, this is a great mid-size SUV. And for barely more than $30k? That’s a deal seriously worth considering.