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The 2018 Equinox is 400 lb lighter and Chevrolet claims class-leading aerodynamics (image: Chevrolet).

Loss leader: 2018 Chevy Equinox gets smaller, lighter, tidier

General Motors has made vehicle weight reduction something of a mission for all its brands and as with every other example we’ve seen to date, the weight chopped from the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox delivers nothing (well, almost nothing) but good tidings.

Nothing all that radical happened: most of the 2018 Equinox’s approximate 400-lb (181-kg) weight loss came from adopting the new D2XX vehicle architecture (also see GMC Terrain and Buick Envision) that brought a hefty 5.2-in (132-mm) wheelbase reduction from the former 112.5 in (2858 cm) and a 4.7-in (119-cm) clip from the overall length. Engineers also credit the use of a full lineup of downsized turbocharged engines (the first-ever Chevy vehicle to feature all turbocharged engine choices), considerably more use of high-strength steels and an aluminium hood.

The previous Equinox definitely was sized as a “tweener” model—something of a GM penchant—so the size reduction brings the new 2018 model more in line with its rivals. And the tidier dimensions also help the Equinox feel pleasantly nimble on the narrow and twisting two-lane roads on and around the Blue Ridge Parkway where Automotive Engineering sampled the new-generation model. It doesn’t hurt that the electric power steering’s sublime state of tune is one of the best we’ve lately tried in any crossover.

The new wheelbase still is 2.5 in (66 mm) longer than the class-benchmark Honda CR-V and the 2018 Equinox’s overall length of 183.1 in (4651 mm) reflects just about that same difference. In front-drive layout, the newly-lightened Equinox weighs 3327 lb, Chevy said—20 lb (kg) more than a base CR-V. Those numbers indicate the Equinox is a plump-ish tweener no more.

All turbos—including a diesel

There’s satisfying if not scorching shove available from the turbocharged 1.5L launch engine that develops 170 hp and 203 lb·ft (203 N·m) and pushes exclusively through a 6-speed automatic transmission (CR-V’s turbo 1.5L: 190 hp/179 lb·ft). This setup would be plenty adequate for the around-the-‘burbs duty that comprises the bulk of many compact-crossovers’ duty cycle, while the estimated 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km) highway fuel economy is another strong inducement to consider this smallish powerplant.

To sample GM’s new 9-speed automatic, customers will have to plump for the pluckier turbocharged 2L four-cylinder and its 252 hp and 260 lb·ft (353 N·m). The Equinox’s market differentiator (at least we’ll see if customers see it that way) is the fall arrival of a GM’s “whisper” 1.6L turbodiesel four-cylinder that’s slated to generate 136 hp and 236 lb·ft (320 N·m); it’ll be backed by GM’s higher-capacity six-speed automatic. A unique switchable all-wheel-drive system enables selectable decoupling of the rear axle when AWD capability isn’t desired.

One teasing diesel thought-starter presented by Steve Majoris, Chevy’s marketing boss: some 33,000 people who own a diesel-engine Chevrolet pickup also own a diesel-engine Volkswagen model. As we know, there will no longer be any diesel-powered light-duty vehicles from VW, so where might those Chevy pickup owners turn?

Engineers said some 600 hours of wind-tunnel tweaking went into the new Equinox’s smooth, Chevy-familiar shape, paying off in what the company said is a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.336. We can attest to hushed wind-noise levels in the cabin, while the presumably smaller interior doesn’t seem that way at all, possibly thanks to the lower windshield and generally more-open cabin design; Chevy backs up this impression by saying measured interior volume is almost the same. Most of the plastics and other interior materials are a noticeable step up from the previous Equinox.

The only cabin compliant we can lodge is with the rear seat. Bravo to engineers for eliminating the fore-aft sliding function, which research determined was virtually unknown and unused by owners and shaved some 50 lb (23 kg) from the crossover’s curb weight. And further kudos for the seat’s cleverly simply seatback-recline mechanism. But we found the seat bottom to be hard as a parson’s pew, a inflexibility that cannot be construed as “support.” Weight savings gone too far?

With three attractive engine choices and a new, wieldier size that makes it more dynamically satisfying, the 2018 Equinox is a formidable effort in a segment that, along with fullsize crossovers, now accounts for one of every four light vehicles sold in the U.S. The former Equinox already was GM’s second best-selling model, trailing only the Silverado pickup line, and Majoris is understandably confident the all-new 2018 Equinox can do better.

“We’re here to gain share,” Majoris asserted. “We plan to sell more Equinoxes than ever.”

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