In more than 30 years of working and playing in, around, and under cars, I can only remember two door slams that I thought were worth a mention.

The first is the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and the second is the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. If you've ever been so fortunate as to slam the door on a G wagon, you're already familiar with that thunk. Bank vaults slam shut like a G, not the other way around.

As for the Equinox I spent the week with, let's just say it wasn't at the same level. In fact, it was about as far in the other direction as I've ever experienced. So my question was this: will the rest of the new 'Nox win me over, or will the rest of the experience live up to that first impression?

Chevrolet made huge changes when they redesigned the Equinox for 2018. Out with the old model that was the biggest and most outdated in class, and in with a compact SUV that is actually compact. Around 5 inches shorter, but more importantly, a massive 400 lbs lighter than before.



The new 'Nox looks much more premium on the outside. It's not the Teutonic rock that is Volkswagen's new Tiguan--which steals the Equinox's former biggest-in-class moniker--nor is it the overstyled futuristic Blade Runner that is Honda's latest CRV. The Equinox has flowing curves and well-executed details, well, except for the cheap looking chrome mirror caps on top trim trucks. A piece of fake chrome that large shouldn't be allowed on anything that isn't capable of towing 20,000 lbs.

I happened to have the Equinox the same day that my little brother was getting married. That meant that it was pressed into service as the official "bride and groom support vehicle." Anyone who has been involved with a family-planned wedding probably knows just how many little trips between house, hall, church, venue, and almost every store in town can be involved with making the day seamless for the happy couple.

The trip from church to the photo venue and then the reception was easy. Even though it's smaller, the Equinox still has a massive amount of legroom and elbow space for rear passengers. Its stiffer chassis gets a vastly improved suspension bolted on, giving it a ride that is composed and comfortable, ensuring nothing disturbs the happy couple.

Once the bride and groom have settled down to greet and eat, I get to test out the performance of the new 2.0-liter turbo that's under the hood this year. The engine makes a class-leading 252 hp and a whopping 260 lb-ft of torque.

I'm now running later than last minute errands--to their house to get paperwork, to the store for more cups, and back to the house to look for lost items--which means I'm going to need that power.



I'm in one of the twistiest and most roundabout friendly towns in New Brunswick, and the Equinox is getting a workout. The engine is powerful. Almost too powerful. I know that's blasphemy, but the power overwhelms the front wheels.

It torque steers until one of the front wheels breaks traction with heavy applications of the right pedal. Even with the all-wheel-drive system engaged, there is wheelspin before power moves rearward. It's best to keep full-throttle reserved for the highway in the Equinox, where it is impressively quick.

The chassis, however, is ready to play. Quick transitions as I cycle from one roundabout to the next fail to unnerve the suspension. There is some body roll, but this is a high-riding crossover, what did you expect? The challenge is how it deals with the roll, and the Equinox does well to stay controlled, moving smoothly from side to side, instead of wallowing as the weight moves around. It's better than the Tiguan at driving like a European crossover.



The big engine (a 1.5-liter turbo four is standard, and the 1.6-liter diesel is arriving as we speak) is quiet. At least from in the cabin. It growls from the exhaust, especially when cold, but you'll be hard-pressed to hear it inside. The cabin stays quiet too, even at full throttle. Not that you'll be keeping the pedal pinned for long with 252 ponies on tap. The nine-speed is just about transparent in operation. It drops gears quickly, holds them for almost exactly the right amount of time, and doesn't get confused in quick stop-start maneuvers. The only shortcoming is that it doesn't like to let the engine rev, but with the flat torque curve, it doesn't need to hit the redline for motivation. The tach is missing a redline anyway.

Despite heavy use of the "loud" pedal, I averaged 27 mpg, according to the computer.

Inside, the Equinox looks like every other current Chevrolet. No, really. Chevrolet is banking big on the love it or hate it design, hoping you'll be happy with the tradeoff they've made: sacrificing a high-tech futuristic look - like the CRV and Escape - for one that's plainer, but more user-friendly. The Equinox is full of big buttons and knobs that will still work with your thickest February mittens.

Chevy also gives you the choice of not just one, but TWO interiors that shun the current all-black look that's common throughout the segment. Sure you can have the Model T option, but pick the right trim level, and there is a light grey interior or the brandy dash and seats that make the cabin look warm and inviting instead of dark and foreboding.



Once inside the Equinox, I forget all about that door slam. The interior is well put together, and the only place I found cheap-looking plastic was in places that owners will probably never look. It feels as well put together as just about anything in the class.

The rear bench is one of the few misses in the Equinox's cabin. The rear seat is leaned way back by default. Probably to make sure that back seat passengers have enough headroom with the panoramic roof intruding. And you can recline the seat - after you check the owner's manual to find the handle - but it returns to that uncomfortable position whenever you re-fold it. Either storing the position or making the default more upright would improve comfort and convenience. Dropping the seats flat is easy, with two levers at the back of the cargo area.



The 8.0-inch touchscreen uses Chevrolet's MyLink system. It's smooth, clear, and easy to use. It used to be one of my favourite infotainment systems. Until I drove the also-new Terrain. The GMC gets the latest version of MyLink/Intellilink, and it's an improvement over the old one. It's faster and even more intuitive. Which brings me to what might be the biggest problems with the Equinox. It's not that there are problems, it's that GM has made siblings that are even better.

The Buick Envision takes this platform and makes it ultra quiet. Not that the Equinox is loud, it was actually impressively quiet on the highway once I removed the ski-rack, but the Envision is practically a tomb inside. It has a trick all-wheel drive system as well, but it's stuck with the old 2.5L four in lower trims. The GMC Terrain gets the same engines as the Equinox plus it uses a new electronic button-shifter that frees up a surprising amount of usable center console space. Both of those have the in-dash passenger cell phone holder that is missing from the Chevy.

If you get past that door slam, the Equinox is a winner. The stiffish chassis, planted suspension, roomy interior, and playful powertrain aren't just better than before, they're near the top of the class. But the side-by-side cup holders of the Terrain are calling...