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Sunday, December 21, 2008

2010 Chevrolet : Equinox debuts with direct injection

by Sam Abuelsamid

Now that General Motors will be getting a cash infusion to stay in business at least through January, the automaker plans to unveil some new products at next month's Detroit Auto Show. The first one we can show you is the second-generation 2010 Chevy Equinox. You might recognize the greenhouse from spy photos we published earlier this year in which which the CUV was misidentified as the Cadillac BRX. While the Equinox gets a complete re-skin for 2010, the new CUV's dimensions are within an inch of the current model in all directions.

The Equinox remains a unibody crossover with either front- or all-wheel drive and the same basic suspension layout as before. The platform is an evolution of the current Theta architecture shared with the Saturn Vue. The Equinox's new styling looks more contemporary with prominent wheel arches and the obligatory Chevy twin-port grille. Inside, a new dual cockpit setup looks very similar to the one in the larger Traverse. As expected of any new model these days, the full array of USB audio, Bluetooth and DVD entertainment systems are also now available. Read about the new engines powering the Equinox after the jump.

The center console bin in the new 2010 Equinox is exceptionally deep, being able to swallow a 15-inch laptop with ease. While the new cockpit layout is attractive with fewer visible seams than the larger Traverse, the pre-production model was saw in person had cheap-looking hard plastics covering the dash. Chevrolet officials promised that production models coming in May would look much better, although hard plastic will apparently still be the order of the day.

A more robust body structure along with a number of other enhancements should make the cabin a quieter place. Triple-sealed doors, laminated acoustical glass and a drag coefficient reduced from 0.42 to 0.36 should make wind noise significantly lower than before. The doors now extend down into the rocker panels (just like the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKS) making step-in easier. The kids in back can also slide their seat fore and aft up to eight inches and recline their seatbacks, as well. An optional DVD entertainment system incorporates two screens that flip up from the seatbacks. In addition, these can be individually controlled so one kid can watch DVDs and the other can play video games.

The current Equinox had an all V6 engine lineup including a pushrod 3.4L that traces its lineage back to the original 1980 Chevy Citation. Existing Equinox Sport models use the 3.6L twin-cam "high-feature" V6 that appears in so many GM products today. Both of these engines have been replaced with new engines that have similar power but are considerably more fuel efficient.

The entry engine for the 2010 Equinox is a 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder now offered for the first time in normally aspirated and direct-injected form. With 182 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque running through a new 6-speed automatic transaxle, this model will be the fuel efficiency champ of the lineup.The front-drive four-banger should get 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. That's a huge increase over the 17/24 mpg values of the old engine. Unfortunately, while the new base engine's power output virtually matches the old 3.4L, torque is down significantly so towing capacity has dropped from 3,500 lbs to just 1,500 lbs.

Those who need the full 3,500 lbs of towing grunt will opt for the new 3.0L V6. Like the four-cylinder, this one is direct-injected to the tune of 255 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque. Those figures are down a bit from the 264/250 of the old 3.6L, but again the payoff is improved fuel efficiency. Also helping efficiency on both models is electric power steering that no longer saps engine power.

No word yet from GM on whether or when either a mild or two-mode hybrid system might be stuffed in the new Equinox to improve mileage further. The new DI four and six-speed automatic combined with the second-generation lithium battery mild hybrid system might even approach the mileage of the Ford Escape hybrid, but hybrids were the one subject no one at GM wanted to officially comment on.

The Equinox shares its platform with the Saturn Vue. With the distinct possibility that Saturn could be euthanized, the two-mode hybrid system from that model would need a new home. Judging by the "no comment on future products" responses that were accompanied by smiles, it seems likely that a hybrid (either next-gen mild or two-mode) will join the Equinox lineup sooner rather than later.

2 comments:

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