Test Drive: 2018 Chevy Equinox LT Diesel
Until this year, if you wanted a diesel-powered SUV, your choices have been limited to just a few models from BMW, Jeep, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz. And, since Volkswagen stopped selling diesels after its emissions scandal, most of the choices are expensive luxury vehicles.
But now, in one of the most surprising production decisions in recent memory, Chevy is offering a turbocharged1.6-liter inline four cylinder engine in its 2018 Equinox. The decision is surprising because the completely redesigned Equinox is one of the most popular crossover SUVs on the market, while diesels have always been a tough sale in America, except in heavy duty work trucks, where their superior torque and mileage counts.
Perhaps Chevy is betting that, despite the VW scandal that has also affected its Audi brand, diesels still have a cult following in this country that appreciates their benefits — and even enjoy the little more noise and occassional refills of an additive that reduces their emissions to federally-required levels (something VW tried to avoid, requiring software changes to pass emission tests that eventually caught up to them).
In fact, General Motors, which owns Chevy, is offering the same diesel engine in the 2018 GMC Terrain, which is mechanically similar to the Equinox. It is also offering it in the 2018 Chevy Cruise compact, and even making a sporty RS package available to highlight the addional low end boost over the other, gas-powered engines.
Although the Equinox Diesel is not available with a sport package, it can be ordered with either front- or all-wheel-drive. Our test model had FWD, but AWD would be a better choice for those living in the rainy (and occassionally snowy) Pacific Northwest. And the mileage difference is very small.
And although the engine is only available in the two top trim lines, the 2018 Equinox and Terrain diesels are the least expensive diesel-powered SUVs on the market, even when equipped with all-wheel -drive.
The only area where they don't compete is towing capacity. Apparently because of cooling issues, the maximum load is limited to 1,500 pounds. But if you need to tow more, Chevy and GMC will be glad to sell you a serious truck.
In daily driving, I was always amused by the slight pause between pressing the start button and the diesel engine coming to life after the glow plugs warmed up. The characteristic engine rattle was much less than earlier diesels. And there was never any visible smoke from the exhaust, one thing that soured buyers on diesels years ago. The additional torque was also appreciated from stops and when speeding up to merge into freeway traffic, aided by the well programmed standard six-speed automatic transmission.
Chevy has completely redesigned the Equinox for 2018. Originally sold as a slightly bulky mid-size crossover, it is now a trim compact, incorporating the company's exterior design touches that also make the Cruise one of the best looking compact cars for sale today.
The interior design is not quite as successful, although most potential buyers might not notice. That dash and display screen is more functional that stylish. Though hardly drab, it looks less sophisticated than those found in most competitors.
But that's small complaint for a good-looking and driving SUV that consistently returned over 30 miles per gallon — and better than the EPA-estimated 39 miles per gallon during a lengthy freeway trip. If you like diesels and want an affordable SUV, this is the one for you.
2018 Chevy Equinox LT Diesel
Base price: $30,490
Price as tested: $33,880
Style: Compact crossover SUV
Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter diesel 4 (137 hp, 240 lbs-ft).
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 28/39 (as tested)
Length: 165.4 inches
Weight: 3,693 (as tested)
Final assembly point: Luis Potosi, Mexico