Driving the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD Premier made me really ask myself why I’ve been playing it so safe with my vehicle color choices. If I think back across every car I’ve owned, I started with light blue, then faded yellow (hand-me-down Chevy Malibu. Thanks Dad!), then grey, gold, light blue, grey, blue, white, white. Yawwnnn. This Equinox cleary didn’t fit the mold in its bright and cheery Orange Burst Metallic which I renamed “burnt pumpkin” in honor of the autumn season. Indeed, it’s a just gorgeous color that looks quite at home amongst the changing leaves of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
A vehicle is much more than a paint job, however, as everyone who tries to drive a tie-dye VW van already knows! In this regard, the Equinox with its Premier packaging was a very interesting mix of tech smarts and some surprising lapses. But we’ll get to that. Let me start by talking about the front wheel drive, because that turned out to almost be a big problem with my weekend in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Breck is at 9,600 foot elevation and to get there from the Denver area, you have to cross over Loveland Pass, at just a bit over 11,000 foot elevation. That’s over 2 miles above sea level, kids, and the air’s thin up there! The weather’s also a bit unpredictable, but I had planned on driving up Sunday afternoon for my Monday morning conference in Breckenridge. Until the weather forecast had 8″-11″ of snow predicted in a fast moving and very cold storm Sunday night thru Monday evening. With AWD or a 4×4 I would have kept to my schedule, but front wheel drive? In ice and snow? Not so good.
As it turned out, heading up into the mountains the evening prior to the storm was a great decision. I know because I took the Equinox out for a little bit of driving Sunday afternoon during the worst of the storm and it was all over the road. Quite frightening to be on a road and realize you barely have any control over your vehicle as it spun and slid around. Definitely Colorado winters dictate all wheel drive or a 4×4 traction package. Or chains.
Fortunately, it was just that one day with terrible roads and crummy driving conditions. Otherwise, the car handled like a champ and the 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder engine was quite a surprise; peppy and full of power. Made merging onto the highway (or zipping down a country road) fun and easy. And oh, that color!
Turns out that as I said earlier, however, I found a curious mix of really smart tech and missing features in the Equinox as configured. Let’s start with the cool: vibrating seat sensors that offer collision alert feedback. Back out of a parking spot at the market and the seat will actually vibrate under your left or right thigh to warn you of a vehicle in that direction. Drive too close to someone ahead of you and the seat plus Forward Collision Alert will give you a buzz to warn you. Darn weird the first time it occurs, but it’s a neat feedback mechanism if you’re not otherwise paying attention to your driving.
The Equinox also features a Qi wireless phone charging system built into the front dashboard, as you can see:
Disappointingly I couldn’t get the wireless charging unit to work with my Apple iPhone X, either with or without the case, so if this is an important feature on your checklist, go into the dealership and confirm it’ll work with your wireless charging capable smartphone.
The sound system overall was very nice with its 7-speaker Bose premium package and HD radio. Radio? I listened to XM Radio and music from my iPhone streaming via Bluetooth. But I suppose the radio worked 🙂
You can tell the attention to detail with all the rear passenger controls and plugs. This is a lot of options!
Notice the bottommost plug: 110V is a joyous thing when you want to charge your computer en route or your kids have some gear they want to plug in and enjoy. A 12V AUX plug and two USB chargers complete the rear passenger power options along with rear seat warmers that support both the lower and back sections of the seat being heated. Very luxurious, for sure!
Chevrolet didn’t stint on the driver or front passenger experience and comfort either. Check out the dashboard cockpit design and features:
Lots of buttons everywhere. Still, a very functional design and it’s easy to get used to controls on your left hand, right hand and on the crossbar of the steering wheel (and behind the steering wheel too, for that matter). Cup holders are in a great spot, easily accessible, and you can see the wireless charging area just behind the shifter.
Check out the navigational system screen too. It has a local weather forecast. Still seems a bit weird to me that cars have all this supplemental information, their own apps, etc. Heck, there are apps for the Chevrolet MyLink Navigation System that show you the local Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds and much more. It’d be sure interesting what percentage of owners actually use these features!
In fact, let’s look just a bit more closely at the MyLink system:
As you can see, it shows traffic and route information in a cheery and colorful way (green for no traffic, magenta for driving route). As a random note the big yellow buildings to my right are the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado. Turns out it’s a big industrial plant, not two guys in a garage brewing up some beer. In terms of the nav system display, I particularly like the simplicity of the top portion, showing temperature, that the onboard Wi-Fi system is available, what direction I’m facing (NE), and the current time. Simple, easy.
Let’s go back to the driver’s door, however, because that did feel a bit overcomplicated:
When did the driver’s door become so cluttered with controls? Top to bottom, it’s door unlock/lock, then all the window controls (including side mirrors), memory for the driver’s seat positions and the circular knob? That’s the rear hatch controller, though I imagine it takes a while for new owners to realize that’s what it controls. Busy, busy, and more things to take your eyes off the road until you master the layout of your vehicle controls.
Speaking of controls, the main gauge display:
You can see the layout of the steering wheel buttons too. Look closely on the left side, because it’s where you control one of the most puzzling aspects of the vehicle: Cruise control. That’s pretty basic stuff – it was invented in 1948! – but here’s what’s confusing about the Equinox implementation: There’s a button that lets you set your preferred forward spacing for the vehicle in front, but that’s only for collision avoidance, not tied into the cruise control. Chevrolet calls this Forward Collision Alert and Following Distance Indicator, but I’m used to having adaptive cruise control where the vehicle will automatically slow to match the speed of the forward vehicle. It’s baffling that Chevy would implement the radar detection systems for collision avoidance and following distance, but not actually hook it into the cruise control, but I experimentally verified this more than once.
Still looking at the dash and gauges, I liked the Chevy approach to reporting fuel efficiency:
Before you get too excited about this amazing rating, realize it was me driving down from Breckenridge to Golden, a drop in elevation of almost a mile. Lots of coasting, lots of highly fuel efficient travel. Standard fuel rating from the EPA for this model Equinox is 22 city/29 highway for a combined 25mpg. If only it was 37.1 or even 47.7 mpg!
One last thing: comfort and space, both of which are excellent in the Equinox. As I said in the beginning, it’s a really delightful drive, with a great sound system and lots of creature comforts for driver and passengers alike. Toting up all my video gear and luggage to the mountains was a breeze too with the extra roomy rear cargo area:
Notice the 60/40 split rear seats too. One of my favorite features of modern cars from a storage and cargo perspective. How was it that early car designs had either the entire seat fold down or a 50/50 split? This is such a better design!
The 2018 Chevy Equinox is a pretty darn nice SUV at its price point. There’s lots to like about it – not the least of which is the great color – but a few oddities that one hopes Chevrolet will fix up in the 2019 model year. Would I drive this on a day to day basis? Definitely. And be able to find it in the parking lot easily enough too. 🙂
CONFIGURATION: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD Premier 2.0T in Orange Burst Metallic with Jet Black interior. Options: Sun, Sound and Navigation Package, Confidence and Convenience II Package. Base price: $33,600.00. As Driven: $39,505.00.
Disclosure: Chevrolet loaded me the Equinox for a week to drive and write about. Whcih was extraordinarily nice of ’em, really!