When an automobile is extensively redesigned and or updated for the new model year, it really makes you wonder if it can indeed be better than the model it replaced? That question compelled us to take a closer look at one of Chevrolet’s strongest selling crossover entries, the venerable Chevrolet Equinox. When the second generation model was introduced in time for the 2010 model year, it proved to be popular with a wide swath of buyers, and as a result, they are a common sight on the roads of Metro Detroit. The 2018 model aims to continue this tradition of success, but can it truly go above the tire tracks of its predecessor? or is the old adage of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”still strong for this popular CUV.
To find out we gathered one Equinox from each generation at our Metro Detroit outpost. Representing the 2018 camp was a very handsome Ivy Green Metallic Premier model, while the 2017 Equinox was championed by our resident example (a 2017 LT model in a very sleek shade of red,) A key aspect of any automobile is its exterior styling, and while the Chevrolet Equinox was never known for its bold or elegant styling, it did have a distinct look that drew buyers in. On that front, we actually prefer the 2017 in this regard. While the 2018 Equinox is supposed to be more muscular and channel its inner Camaro to a degree, it can look downright awkward from certain angles and the front grille looks too small. The 2017 has a more distinctive face, but does lose out in tail light design to its newer counterpart. These particular Equinoxes were updated with tweaked tail lights before the 2018 model arrived, but they look tacked on, and serve as an unintentional glimpse into that generation’s age.
The interiors of both Equinoxes were designed to cater to young families, and both the 2018 Equinox and its 2017 counterpart certainly do a good job in this regard. Both offer family friendly features, ample storage spaces, as well as balanced levels of technology. Our range topping Premier tester came loaded with goodies and opulence to spare, which should please budget oriented families. In addition to blurring the line between it and its corporate stablemate the Buick Envision, it also served as an example of how far upscale Chevrolet’s cabin technology has gone in recent years. In addition to having the latest iteration of MyLink, our tester also featured GM’s mobile wireless hot spot technology, which helped put GM ahead of many established segment rivals when it made its debut several years ago on the previous generation Equinox. Along with the WiFi, our tester also featured comfortable heated and cooled leather seats and these thrones even came equipped with GM’s Safety Alert Seat system that triggers haptic alerts on all sides of the seat bottom to warn drivers of lane wandering and imminent crash threats.
Speaking of the previous generation Equinox, it also has a relatively upscale interior that still holds up well when viewed against its modern LT grade replacement. The dash design is still crisp, and while it is handicapped by cheap looking plastics, our 2017’s cabin can still hold its own against many modern CUV entries. One particular area where the 2018 walks all over its predecessor is in a relatively obscure area, seat material. When the previous generation made its debut back in 2010, lower trim models were equipped with seats that were covered in a mesh like cloth material that stuck around until the 2017 versions were replaced. This material was comfy, but the numerous holes made the seats prime targets for rogue blue jean buttons, coat snaps, as well as accelerated wear and tear. Thankfully, GM designers learned from this mistake, and have replaced the odd material with a more conventional cloth covering that still retains its high degree of comfort, while enhancing material durability at the same time.
It’s no secret that GM has doubled down on a turbocharged future for its products and the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is the latest example of this recent trend. Unlike its predecessor, all three of its engines are motivated by turbochargers, and all of them are four cylinders (diesel included.) The 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder in our tester is the spiritual successor to the old 3.0 liter V6, and while its 250 horsepower does give up ground to the old V6’s 306 horsepower, the turbocharger helps the engine have more low end grunt and it allows the Equinox to be surprisingly energetic in freeway driving as well as stoplight sprints. However, the transmission is geared towards fuel economy and as a result the nine speed in our tester sometimes had a tendency to climb for higher gears versus staying in lower gears when accelerating. Annoyingly, the 2018 Equinox still does not have a proper manual shift mode, with GM engineers still clinging to a toggle style switch instead of a formal manual gate for do it yourself shifting.
Our 2017 Equinox is powered by the 2.4 liter four cylinder engine which is mirrored in its entry level role by the 1.5 liter turbocharged four cylinder. Like before, the turbocharged four gives up some ground to its predecessor (170 vs 184) but its 203 lb-ft of torque is higher than two of its key rivals the Honda CR-V and the Ford Escape which make 24 lb-ft less. Meanwhile the Toyota Rav4 and Nissan Rogue make similar power, but lower torque that comes from naturally aspirated four cylinder engines. Unlike the 2.0 liter four cylinder, the 1.5 liter is actually hampered by its fuel conscious six speed automatic gearbox, and as a result, we would actually pick the coarser sounding 2.4 liter liter over it in everyday driving situations. That’s mainly due to our older example having an easier way to turn the traction control on and off as well, as its better mid range punch.
Buyers looking for good value here will be pleased to know that the Equinox’s pricing ladder did not stray too far away from what was seen in 2017, with the base LS model starting at $24,575 with LT models starting at $27,745 and $30,290 for the LT 2.0 liter. Step up to the range topping Premier model, and you will not only be rewarded with more equipment, but also a $31,785 base price, with 2.0 liter models like our tester starting at a slightly higher $34,580. Our green hued tester had a final MSRP of $39,680 thanks to its $2,620 Sun Sound & Navigation package, as well as the $1,895 Confidence & Convenience II Package. This pricing puts it in prime contention with the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, as well as the Nissan Rouge, and while we think the Equinox needs a bit more polish before it can truly claim the gold, it does do a good job of picking up where its predecessor left off.
On that note, which version is indeed the best? The answer to that question entirely depends on what kind of family hauler you need. If you want the latest in technology, fuel economy, and styling look no further than the 2018 Equinox. But if your willing to embrace a budget focused alternative that can still be an excellent all rounder even in the pre-owned vehicle market, then give the 2017 Equinox and its take on practicality a closer look.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.