Simple facelifts don't cut it in today's sports utility market. Hence the new Chevrolet Equinox Sport.
There has to be substantial upgrading for aging vehicles. It didn't used to be that way. Slap on a few badges, a new paint job and moniker--"Grosse Pointe Edition" that was it.
The Equinox Sport takes things a great deal further. And shorter. The compact SUV Equinox Sport has been lowered an inch.
And more powerful. The Sport engine is a 3.6L V-6 of 264 horsepower--a 42 percent power hike over the regular Equinox LT and its 3.4L V-6 of 185 horsepower. The Sport gets to 60 mph in a brisk 6.9 seconds.
Add to that a six speed automatic transmission (the extra gear does make a difference.) Acceleration is improved and so is fuel economy. The 3.4L V-6 is rated at 17 mpg city and 24 highway and the 3.6L V-6 at 16 city and the same 24 highway.
Tires are 18 inches on the Sport up from 16 inch base rubber. The suspension has been stiffend up. Every Equinox comes with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The fwd is the mark of a car-based sports utility.
Of course, there are appearance changes. Body-colored front and rear facias and a body-color grille crossbar are added. There are silver-painted trapezoidal front air inlets and chrome trapezoidal exhaust outlets. Wow. Tilted rectangles.
The roof rack is eliminated (although it's available) for a smoother appearance.
Inside, the Sport produces an ebony trim; new heated seats; a leather wrapped, four-spoke steering wheel; and a 140 mph speedometer (another triumph of hope over experience.) More practically is a j-gate automatic transmission shifter for a manual tap-up/tap-down operation.
There's the StabilTrak electronic stability program, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-locking. An electronic trailer sway control is part of StabilTrak. When a trailer starts to sway, brakes are applied automatically and the vehicle speed reduced.
All of this translates into an Equinox Sport that tracks nicely around high-speed expressway sweepers. There's plenty of understeer to tell drivers to crank in more turn. The stiffer suspension cuts down lean on shorter, fast curves. A fairly long wheelbase of 112.5 inches irons out a lot of bumps and contributes to a pretty wide turning circle.
The driving position is mostly good. Although the steering wheel feels a little close, legroom is fine. The top of the instrument panel has a matte finish to cut down reflections. The radio thankfully has a knob for volume and one for tuning. Side mirrors are large enough.
The backseat is roomy and can be slid eight inches back and forth. The backseat also reclines.
All in all, not bad for a "facelift."
| Chevrolet Equinox Sport
•Engine: 3.6L V-8
•Dimensions: 112.5" wheelbase; 189.6" length.
•Base price: $27,820/tested $31,550.
•Fuel economy: 16/24 mpg.