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Good afternoon.

Full Throttle is about to be complete. The 2004 Malibu has exceeded more than just the press's expectations, it's earned us new business, and so far that clientele has been fully satisfied in their Chevrolets. The Colorado hasn't been the outright hit that the Malibu has, at least not on our lot, but they're selling at a much better rate than the previous S-10. Still, our success with the Colorado has been limited by a dearth of 4x4 models, and by resistance from older customers not knowing what to think of a 5-cylinder engine.

Now, with the 2005 Equinox entering production, Chevrolet might have its best opportunity yet. I lucked out today, as a GM representative dropped by to pay our service department a visit, and he was driving a FWD 2005 Equinox LT. He mentioned that he was quite familiar with GMInsidenews.com, and he graciously allowed me to take the Equinox for a test drive.

What Chevrolet is bringing to market, in the 2005 Equinox, is an affordable, highly versatile vehicle with a pleasantly upscale look and feel. I think the exterior styling approaches a full-fledged coup in the compact SUV market, as it avoids the cuteness that tends to dominate, and yet it remains modern, stylish, and rugged.

The interior is, of course, where the biggest advances are made, and where the nit-pickers tend to focus on GM vehicles. There's not a lot to criticize here, since most of it not only looks "good," it looks great. All the controls feel as though a lot of thought went into their feel and functionality, and that's a good thing. So are the seats, especially if you're like most people, and you care more about ease of ingress/egress than lateral support. The leather looks and feels good, especially for a vehicle that will sell for around $24,000. The seats are firm, and they fit and support my tallish spine comfortably, with a seating position that clearly reminds the driver that they're in an SUV [crossover] and not a station wagon. If I were to pick out weak points in the interior, the shift selector is a good reach away, the dash itself has a low-glare texture that doesn't appeal to me much, and there is still some wind noise. The windiness will probably be smoothed out before the Equinox hits lots -en masse.-

The drivetrain is where the controversy remains, around here at least, with the 3400 sitting sideways under the hood. A lot of readers have questioned the exclusion of the 3500, and what improvements that engine might bring. Keep in mind that the 3400 is joined by the "High-Feature" 3.6L in the 2004 Buick Rendezvous, and yet their low-end responses are about the same. With only 5 more lb-ft of torque, one could expect similar results from the 3.5, were it used in the Equinox.

As it is, the Equinox is far from limited by its engine. The 3400 has its beef down low, and the Aisin 5-speed automatic, with adaptive shift logic, does a good job of turning that beef into pavement, with less of the gear-hunting that journalists have complained about in the larger 4-speed 3.4L Rendezvous. I put the well-broken in Equinox through its paces, and its performance is almost on line with the 275 hp/275 lb-ft TrailBlazer. The TrailBlazer goes from 0-60 in just under 8 seconds, and the Equinox feels like a solid 8.0-8.5 performer. Keeping in mind that the Dodge Durango, with its vaunted 5.7L "Hemi", hits 60 mph in a similar interval, the Equinox is no slouch when it comes to getting out of its own way.

On the road, the Equinox is taught and stable, and, again, reminiscent of the TrailBlazer. The Equinox's lower center of gravity makes if feel more agile than larger SUV's, and it's a ride/handling compromise that will draw few complaints. The electric power steering feels good enough, about the same as it feels in the Malibu, and the high boost at parking-lot speeds makes the Equinox really easy to move around. Since the Equinox is the least sporting of the "Full Throttle" lineup, EPS likely finds its best home here.

I didn't get to spend enough time in the Equinox, but it was all time well spent. With GM's winnowing of the quality gap to the insignificant, this should deliver its owners excellent service. It already has exterior and interior styling seemingly above its price, along with best-in-class versatility, in a high-value fun-to-drive package.

I like the Malibu MAXX a bit more, for its funk-factor, but the wagonnoid styling will put off a few people, and now we have an SUV-crossover, with a whole bunch of goodness, that they can get for the same price.

I think you guys are going to love it.

Regards,

Ghrankenstein
 

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Nicely done!

It's great to hear some early word, and it's even better that the word is positive. I'm glad the 3400 isn't a huge obstacle, and that they are moving rapidly in the right direction on interiors.

Thanks for the well-written post!
 

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that's looking like one sexy little SUV... at least what i can see of it with smiley dude in the way! hope they sell well... it'd probably beat the tracker without an engine! any thoughts on how capable this thing'll be if one does try to take it offroad? not rubicon trail... just a little off the beaten path? is it 4x4 or AWD (i mean can you switch the system on and off?)?
 

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Wow,

I like this little SUV. I may recommend it for my wife (not quite manly enough for me, but i wouldn't mind carting the family around in it).

Ghrank,

Do know anything about possible entertainment options (rear seat video, etc) ?
 

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Originally posted by jckjds@Feb 26 2004, 09:25 PM
(not quite manly enough for me, but i wouldn't mind carting the family around in it).
oh no! don't toss it into the girlie pile! i think it's just muscular enough to avoid being cute, and aggressive enough to avoid being an estrogenUV. maybe if they add a plaid seat fabric option it'll be manly enough...

as much as i try to disapprove of SUV's, i'd buy this as my next car in a second. and as common as the "wish it had a 5-speed (manual)" comment is, i wish it had a 5-speed (manual).
 

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I wish it had the 250hp the Saturn Vue has. If it did, I'd buy it in a second. Right now, I'm heading towards the Vue.
 

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Originally posted by Rex Raider@Feb 26 2004, 05:29 PM
I wish it had the 250hp the Saturn Vue has. If it did, I'd buy it in a second. Right now, I'm heading towards the Vue.
Maybe they will shove a supercharged series II 3800 in there 280HP :mf_boff:
 

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I'm glad to hear that this SUV is well liked so far, but I'm wondering how big is it exactly, is it bigger than a Tracker, the size of a CRV? I like it's looks and it looks more appeling to me than any of it's competitors (CRV, Rav-4, Escape?). I can't wait to see it in person.
 

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That really sounds great. My only quibble with the engine is that GM's own PR goes on and on about the reliability / cooling improvements in the 3.5 .... the natural conclusion is that the 3.4 is less reliable than the 3.5. The average buyer may not care, but knowing this, I'd opt for a Malibu MAXX instead.
 

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The Equinox is much larger than the Tracker, I am 6' 3", and I can sit in the rear seat, comfortably, with the front in its most rearward position.

The Equinox is currently coming off the line at about 300 per day, so it may be a little wait before they fill dealer lots.
 

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Maybe they will shove a supercharged series II 3800 in there 280HP
The 3.8 is a 90 degree V, if I'm not mistaken, and the 3.4 and 3.5 are 60 degree V6's. I've heard that the 3.8 wouldn't fit in the Aztec/REndezvous for that reason, so I wouldn't expect the 3.8. However, the DOHC VVT 3.6 is a 60 degree V. That would be a fantastic engine for the equinox, but probably too expensive.

For the life of me, i don't understand why the 3.5 isn't being used. It is essentially an upgraded 3.4, so why use the old 3.4? Is there a union contract in the way or what? At that, the 3.5 is a fine base engine, as opposed to an I4, but where is the upgrade?

After thinking about that question for a while, I thought of two possible reasons. (1), the 3.9 isn't quite ready, but will be introduced as an upgrade next year, or (2) the 3.4 is squarely in the hunt in terms of the horsepower in this class (I believe the touted Ford Escape and clones have a 174 HP 2.5L V6) and GM can build the 3.4 for far less than any of the competitors build their engines. Furthermore, GM has upgrades ready in case anyone starts in with the HP wars. I'm not sure I like this strategy, but I understand it (especially with CAFE regs, etc).
 

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This is a nice looking SUV. It will probably be a good seller if production quaity is there. Last year I read an article (it may have been in Popular Mechanics) that the Equinox was going to use an engine that is made in China. Is this true?
(Odd question? Just curious.)
 

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Grank, you are looking very pimp-ish! Where are you from?
The more I hear your review, the more I wana get a job as a car salesman. Im kinda job-less right now, and I love cars... and driving new cars... it would just be a no-brainer to be a car salesmen, at least to me. I just dont like the evil part.

anyway, this car looks awesome, and IMO this looks like the best platform for a hybrid car. Small SUV with stylish accents for a cheap price... I mean this could be the car for GM to show off the hybrid technology along with the GM trucks.
 
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