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I’ve been driving a 2008 Ford Escape for almost four years now. Before that, I drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’ve also had a Pontiac, a Plymouth, a Dodge and an Oldsmobile. I absolutely have a thing for American cars. So when GM Northeast offered TheCelebrityCafe.com a week with a Chevy Equinox, I was truly excited to try another American car.
My ideal car would have bucket seats and a Hemi. However, I’m a mom of two girls in booster seats, so that dream is on hold.
As Senior Editor, I primarily work remotely so commuting isn’t a big deal, and while miles per gallon don’t add up as fast, I still need to watch my budget – and the environment for future generations.
I’ve been driving an SUV for a long time now, and have been very resistant to crossovers. As a child of the (late) seventies I grew up with station wagons – you know, before third row seats when you got to ride backwards in the trunk – so to me crossovers were simply prettied up versions of my mom’s generation of station wagons.
Not the Equinox.
When the Chevy pulled into my driveway, I would have whistled if I could. My girls, who were waiting as anxiously to try a new car as I was, shrieked instead. The Equinox LTZ has a sleek exterior design that certainly does not say mom-mobile. I wasn’t going to have to be someone else for the week, I could be each version of me – editor, mom, ME – and just enjoy.
For our first ride, I grabbed the booster seats and the girls and took a run through Dairy Barn for milk. We then took a trip down to the beach. A few days before Memorial Day, it was still quiet.
The seats were ridiculously comfortable. You can adjust the driver’s seat so it literally cradles your body. The positioning of the gas and brake pedals was comfortable too, and neither was too hard or soft to the touch, which meant no whiplash.
The control panel was a bit awkward. I tend to have issues with cars, being above average height, so it is very possible a shorter person would have less trouble, but I was not comfortable adjusting temperature or working the radio. Some of the issues were fixed with the steering wheel controls. For me, this was the biggest drawback to the car.
The odometer and speedometer were clear and easy to read. There was also the option of a digital display of your speed if you wanted. The controls also let you check tire pressure for each tire, measure gas mileage based on your personal driving habits, and more.
The Equinox brought us to my sister’s house for her birthday. A multi-highway trip, it took 45 minutes to get there. Within 15 minutes, all my passengers were fast asleep. I just enjoyed the sweet ride with an amazing sound system. The XM stereo (subscription sold separately) and USB port where I plugged in my iPod are a great complement to the eight-speaker, premium sound system with amplifier and equalizer.
The next day, we were at the local VA parade where the girls walked right behind the lead banner. Hot, tired and cranky afterwards, we needed a cool and fast way home. The 6-cylinder engine provided great pickup, even while the AC was on max.
My impression of the car was that it was heavy. It’s a luxury car, it’s not meant to zip from place to place, you’re supposed to relax and enjoy the ride. And on a long weekend, I was absolutely able to appreciate that quality.
Once the weekend was over, my regular mom-duties kicked in. Soccer, baseball and gymnastics combined with grocery shopping has me working on the road via my phone quite often. This is where the extras in a car come in handy and the Equinox was well fitted for my life.
First, I learned how to pair my phone with the car's internal Bluetooth system, which made it much easier to manage incoming calls. The only thing is, with the kids in the car, there’s no privacy when the call goes through the speakers.
I then learned how to use the auto-start, but never got the hang of it. Mostly it was me forgetting I could start the car before I got in.
The extra that won me over the most was the little button to close the trunk. I absolutely hated it at first. Then I realized I didn’t have to wait for the trunk to close, I could just move on – into the car to leave, into the house with groceries. By the end of the week, this feature was top of my list. It’s amazing how such a little thing saves so much time.
For the girls, they loved the back-up camera video monitor showing what was behind us as we reversed. I found that it was necessary to use with the length of the car. Since it sits lower than my Escape, and is a bigger car, I still did my 5-point check as I reversed.
While the car made my life easier with the little things, this is the point where the luxury of the car, the slow steady nature of it, didn’t help. The stop and go with local traffic became tedious with the amount of energy it took for the car to gain momentum. The gas mileage bottomed out with these activities. The AWD model gets 16 MPG city and 23 MPG highway, so it’s not the best on gas. The FWD model does much better with 22/32 MPG.
For me, a car isn’t just about its pretty features, or how fast it can go. I also can get under the hood of a car and do some decent work. As a broke college student, you learn to fix almost anything, and being my father’s daughter that didn’t mean with duct tape. As with my other American cars, I had expectations of being able to work on a car, not just drop it off at a mechanic. After popping the hood, I was honestly disappointed. Everything was well covered. There was no way I was going to get under the hood of this car to fiddle. Even the battery was behind the wall, so offering a jump-start would be a project. But with an electronically cooled transmission and an Ecotec 2.4L I-4 direct injection engine, I would say mechanics will have to start getting engineering degrees if cars go any more high-tech.
The trunk space is wonderful, and with a sliding back seat, you can give your passengers plenty of room to stretch their legs or move the seat up for a Home Depot run. It’s a 60/40 slit seat that also has a three position recline.
The spare tire and tools were very accessible. And there were some nice sized side pockets, which is where I keep my spare first-aid kit and wipes. After changing countless diapers and bandaging many scrapes in the back of an SUV, I will say this car has a great spot for it. Plus, the spare cover comes out of the car, so you can wash it after spills of any sort.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Chevy Equinox. With a base price of $29,380 for the high-end model, it’s a great deal. I'd pick it over the comparable Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sorento any day.
I can't say the Chevy Equinox was a "perfect" fit for me, but it came close. After my week with this car I wouldn't hesitate to go with the Chevy brand, I just may have to check out some of the other models.