Chevrolet Equinox wagon functions like a family-friendly car
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
BEE CAVE, Tex. -- West of Austin on washboard hills littered with limestone slabs and evergreen groves of live oaks, we're following two-laner Texas 620 from Buffalo Gap at Lake Travis into the crossroads community of Bee Cave to log time behind the wheel of yet another all-new vehicle from Chevrolet, the most prolific of brands at General Motors.
This one, wrapped in tautly drawn sheetmetal with muscular bulges but rather elegant decorative appointments, looks like a sport-utility wagon set on a stretched platform with two doors on each flank of the elongated cabin and a hatchback lid at the rear.
A satin-silver badge on the tail marks this new vehicle as the Equinox, a word referring to the time in spring and fall when day and night are equal and the world is in perfect balance.
This theme of equilibrium applies to Equinox the new Chevy because it strikes a balance as a car-based vehicle in the compact segment that resembles a sleek sport-utility wagon but functions like a family-friendly minivan and drives like an easy-riding sedan.
It blends the best traits of a traditional SUV -- such as the tall stance and spacious cabin with flexible seating and generous cargo capacity -- with favored traits of a tightly constructed sedan, as it's easy to enter the low-rise cabin, easy to maneuver the vehicle around town in traffic and easy to park it on a crowded lot.
Crafted with a rigid unit-body monocoque structure typically used for cars rather than trucks, Equinox is new from every aspect and innovative in design and construction with features not found on any other vehicle in the compact-class of sport-utility wagons.
Actually, it's bigger than other SUVs in the class, with a broad track and the longest wheelbase.
The wide and long platform sets up a passenger compartment that seems as spacious as a mid-size wagon.
Plan for the five-seat cabin pitches a pair of comfortable bucket seats on the cockpit row separated by a flip-up or flip-down console.
A bench seat on the second row splits and folds and also slides fore and aft by eight inches to vary the legroom as well as space for the rear cargo bay.
Chevy dubs this bench as a Multi-Flex seat. In the rear-most position it shows legroom of more than 40 inches, by far the best in this class and even exceeding the legroom of larger SUVs.
But the bench also scoots way forward.
With a child's safety seat in place and the bench moved to the maximum front position, a parent riding in the front seat can easily reach the infant strapped in back.
And this is the only three-place bench for a wagon that will carry three custom-designed infant and toddler seats.
The bench's seatback, pared to two sections divided 60/40 percent, reclines to two different positions and each side folds down separately to make room for cargo.
The back of the right front bucket also folds forward to form a flat horizontal surface composed of hard plastic. Long cargo items like lumber or snowboards may be stacked on top of these folded seats and extended from the dashboard rearward to the hatchback door.
With the rear bench folded, cargo room amounts to 68 cubic feet.
In the back bay Equinox has a power outlet and a multi-functional panel that fits in three different positions for stacking cargo in tiers. The panel also serves as a tabletop that's handy at tailgate picnics.
Hooks are provided for cinching small articles in the bay, with bins on side walls to corral more small stuff.
Up front, the driver sits in a form-fitting bucket with all instruments and controls within easy reach and view.
Large round analog gauges dot the dashboard instrument cluster with trimmings in low-gloss satin nickel finish.
The center console in clever cantilever scheme shows an armrest and storage bin hinged at the rear. It has dual slide-out cupholders in front and back plus power points and space beneath that's large enough to park a laptop computer, gear bag or purse.
Exterior styling for Equinox seems rugged and strong but also contemporary and sophisticated.
It reveals the familiar proportions of a sport-utility wagon with the erect stance and boxy cabin but also clean lines of an industrial design.
The monocoque structure of Equinox is rigid and stiff and the wheelbase stretches long to kindle a smooth ride quality and superior handling traits.
Suspension consists of independent MacPherson struts up front with a four-link independent unit at the rear.
The rack and pinion steering system employs electric power with variable assist.
Brakes include front discs with drums in back plus an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
In the power department, Equinox feels frisky, thanks to a 3.4-liter V6 engine that produces up to 185 hp at 5200 rpm and 210 lb-ft of torque at 3800 rpm.
The plant ties to an electronic automatic five-speed transmission, a smooth and quiet shifter by Aisin.
Equinox comes to market as a 2005 model in two trims -- LS and LT -- with front-wheel-drive (FWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) options for each.
The AWD device normally runs in FWD mode for driving on dry pavement. When front wheels begin to slip in wet or icy weather, however, a viscous coupling automatically shifts power to the rear wheels temporarily to keep the wagon moving forward safely on a non-skid trajectory.
We steer both FWD and AWD versions of Equinox on twisty roads winding through the Texas hills and find sure-footed traction along with a comfortable ride quality.
Equinox LS brings a long list of standard equipment extending to a steering wheel with tilt/telescope movement, power windows and locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry system plus air conditioning and a stereo AM-FM audio package with CD player. The LT trim skews upscale with luxury gear and there are packages of accessories offered like leather seat upholstery and a deluxe audio kit with six-disc CD deck, OnStar telecommunications or XM satellite radio.
Chevrolet sets price points for Equinox as low as $20,995 for the LS FWD model, with AWD adding $1,975.
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 2005 CHEVROLET EQUINOX Specs
||Compact 4-door SUV
| Model Options:
||Compact 4-door SUV
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||OHV 3.4-L V6
||Auto/5 Aisin AF33-5
||FWD, AWD on-demand
||Power disc/drum, LS FWD: opt. ABS/TCS, LS AWD: ABS, LT FWD: ABS/TCS, LS AWD: ABS
||2 (front) plus opt. 4 (side curtain)
| Gross Weight:
||FWD: 5070 pounds, AWD: 5070 pounds
| Towing Capacity:
||FWD: 3500 pounds, AWD: 3500 pounds
| Gas Mileage:
||FWD: 19/25 mpg, AWD: 19/25 mpg
||LS FWD: $ 20,995, LS AWD: $ 22,970, LT FWD: $ 22,710, LT AWD: $ 24,335