Test Drive: 2010 Chevrolet Equinox

General Motors does this thing where every branch of the company shares a common platform and puts out pretty similar vehicles. Sometimes this is a strength ?? because customers are irrational and some of them just don?t like Chevy, but they liked the same car when it was made by Pontiac or Buick. Sometimes, though, it just meant that the available market was split between brands. I have no data, but if you could tell difference between a Saturn Sky and a? Pontiac Solstice at 50 feet, you?re more discerning than me.

Right now, you?ve got the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain made from the same basic parts. The Cadillac SRX is based on the same platform, but there?s enough difference there to take it out of the equation. What these vehicles are is a set of basic, low-cost crossover SUV family wagons. The GMC Terrain is designed to look more macho inside and out ? for the family man who still dreams of rolling in a Hummer. The Chevy Equinox, on the other hand, is for the family man who has come to terms with his fate vis-?-vis the family wagon.

The Equinox is a very nice crossover at a very good price. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Equinox, much as I enjoyed the GMC Terrain a few weeks ago and the Cadillac SRX a few months ago. Of the three, the Chevy is the least expensive, coming in a couple thousand dollars less than the GMC, and quite a bit less than the Cadillac. The Caddie is much more richly decked out, has a more powerful engine, and is generally, well, a Cadillac. So the comparison really comes down to the GMC Terrain and the Chevy Equinox.

Of the two, I prefer the Equinox ? mostly because the Equinox is just as nice at a lower price point. The GMC interior and exterior is more masculine, but that?s not to say the Equinox is womanly ? it?s just a crossover SUV. Where the GMC has bold squared-off fender lines, the Equinox is friendlier-looking. The Equinox is less striking, but not at all bad looking. Not everyone wants to stand out from the pack.

What is impressive about the Equinox is that such a spacious SUV can be powered by a 2.4-liter engine. Historically, automatic transmissions mated to 4-bangers feel like the engine is straining at redline just to get the vehicle moving. Not so with the Equinox. You get basic V6 performance from the 182-horsepower DOHC engine and the SUV moves out quite nicely. You?re rewarded for that 4-cylinder engine with EPA fuel economy of 20 in the city and 29 on the highway. That matches my actual fuel economy in a long week of driving.

One thing to point out about the Equinox as a family hauler is that you get a 100,000 mile ? 5 year warranty, and a year?s worth of OnStar with the option of signing up for turn-by-turn destination instructions from the service. I?ve used it and it works a treat ? like having your own personal assistant in the car.

You also get everything you want in an SUV ? All Wheel Drive, remote keyless entry, automatic hatch open and close, backup camera, nice stereo with satellite radio, heated leather seats, air, cruise, hands-free phone support, and backup parking radar. You also get every form of traction and stability control known to man ? GM knows this is a family wagon, so safety is paramount.

The price for the Equinox AWD LTZ is $29,795. The test car came with no extra-price options, and that?s a very good price for all the features and utility you get. The bottom line on the 2010 Chevy Equinox is that if you?re shopping crossovers at or below $30,000, you need to stop by the Chevy dealer. Or the GMC dealer. Or the Cadillac dealer. Take your pick, they?re all good.


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