04-11-18

Silverado

By Jil McIntosh, Driving.ca - In the world of truck advertising, torque and towing are kings.  It's an all-out war and there are some pretty impressive numbers out there, but there's more to a truck than just pound-feet and how much it can pull.

Those biggest numbers belong to the heavy-duty trucks - three-quarter-ton (2500/250) and one-ton (3500/350) - and I had the Chevrolet Silverado 2500.  The heavy-duty Silverado models, and their mechanically-identical GMC Sierra siblings, start with a 6.0-litre V8 gasoline engine making 360 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.

My chariot carried the optional Duramax 6.6-L V8 turbodiesel engine, which ups the ante to 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque.  It's not a cheap upgrade; the engine is an additional $10,430 and it hooks exclusively to an Allison six-speed automatic transmission, priced separately at $1,445.  The Silverado 2500 starts at $42,070 for the Regular Cab 4x2 in Work Truck trim, while my Crew Cab 4x4 LTZ tester began at $63,065 with gas engine.

Adding the optional diesel engine and transmission, along with such options as a Midnight Edition black-out accent package, power sunroof and Z71 off-road package, brought it to $80,005 before freight and taxes.  In a nutshell, trucks ain't cheap anymore.

An all-new Silverado 1500 half-ton is coming for 2019, completely redone from the tires up.  The new heavy-duty versions usually lag at least a year or two behind, so expect the current-generation 2500 and 3500 to hang in for a while.

The Silverado's 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque slots in between archrivals Ford F-250, with a 6.7L Power Stroke diesel that makes 450 hp and 935 lb-ft of torque, and the Ram 2500, with a 6.7-L Cummins engine that cranks out 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque.  That's about it for your choices in this segment.  Toyota doesn't make a heavy-duty Tundra, while Nissan offers the Titan XD, a truck it says bridges the gap between half- and three-quarter-ton models, and with an available 5.0 L Cummins that makes 555 lb-ft of torque.

As for towing, turn off the TV when the oversized numbers start rolling up.  Tow ratings are a complicated science, and whenever an automaker promises you'll be able to haul an apartment building off its foundation, that's the very top number for specific truck configurations with a specific type of hitch.  It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Buy the truck that best matches your trailer.

I recently towed and hauled with all of the Detroit Three heavy-duty trucks in back-to-back testing, and all of them get the job done without fuss, but I give the nod ahead to the Chevy.  That Duramax-Allison combination is a match made in heaven; acceleration is smooth and linear with a heavy load, and braking is confidence inspiring.  The Silverado's exhaust brake sound is nowhere near as much fun as the Ram's booming hey-good-buddy-we-got-a-convoy blatt, but it does a good job of slowing everything down on deceleration.

All of these big trucks are meant to look intimidating, and the Silverado plays the part with its huge domed hood and squared-off styling (beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but I think the GMC Sierra is better looking).  At the back, GM uses a simple step into the bumper ends that's absolutely brilliant: Put your foot in, grab the handhold in the box side, and pull yourself up (and you need it, because trucks these days are needlessly oversized).  Ford gives you a tailgate-mounted step that works well, but requires you to pull it out and set it up, while Ram offers nothing more than a sliver of rubber-topped bumper when the tailgate's down, and I'm terrified that my toe will slip and my knee will slam into the edge on my way down.

Still, not everything on the Chevy seems as smart as its step.  The front bumper is cut out to provide airflow for the intercooler, but without a protective mesh over it, it looks vulnerable to stones and debris.  Meanwhile, the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank sits lot under the passenger-side rocker, waiting for a driver to bump over a tall curb.  The stock mirrors are also too small for the truck's size.  Why make a fuss over what it can pull, and then expect customers to pay $450 for optional towing mirrors?

The interior is a nice place to be, and the Silverado features supportive seats, a roomy second row with fold-up seats for extra storage, large centre storage console, and controls that are easy to use, even when you're wearing gloves.  And unfortunately you are likely to have them on in this truck.  While it sounds like a needless luxury, heated steering wheels are the new gotta-have-it feature, especially on a truck where the idea, at least in theory, involves some work outdoors in the cold.  The top-trim High Country has one, but not this LTZ tester, and it's a glaring omission on something that costs 80 grand.

Heavy-duty diesels are seldom an impulse buy, but if it's your first one, remember that in addition to the engine's initial stiff cost, it's also more expensive to service.  So ignore the big numbers in the ads and instead consider your needs, and buy appropriately.

Overview: Chevrolet's entry in the tow-and-torque wars

Pros: Impressive engine and transmission combination, simple box step, nice interior

Cons: A few missing items, considering its trim level

Value for money: Good

What I would change: Give it bigger mirrors

How I would spec it: LT trim; it is one step below, but still lots of stuff

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04-11-18

CHEVROLET BOLT EV WINS AJAC 2018 CANADIAN CREEN CAR OF THE YEAR

2018 Chevrolet Bolt

By General Motors of Canada, Toronto - The Chevrolet Bolt was named Overall Winner of the 2018 Canadian Green Car Award.  The Chevrolet Bolt was also named Overall Winner in 2017, marking the first time in the Award's six-year history that a vehicle has won back to back.  The Chevrolet Volt took home the award in 2016, making this the third consecutive win for the brand.

The Bolt EV, winner of this year's Zero Emission category, was selected by a panel of top Canadian automotive journalists from among six category winners as the vehicle that best combines environmental benefits and mass-market appeal.

The Canadian Green Car Awards recognizes vehicles, widely available in Canada, that combine impressive environmental attributes with strong mass-market appeal.  The assessments included criteria, such as fuel consumption, emissions and price, as well as the judges' evaluations of performance, driving experience, value, features and "green" qualities.

QUOTING:

"Chevrolet is honoured to accept the Canadian Green Car Award for the third consecutive year", said Ester Bucci, brand, product and technology communications manager at Chevrolet Canada.  "This award reinforces Chevrolet's commitment to offering an affordable, world-changing vehicle that delivers on the promise of an electric car for the masses.  Chevrolet is dedicated to continued innovation in electrification, that will bring the thrill of driving an electric vehicle to many more Canadians."

2018 BOLT EV BACKGROUND:

Chevrolet is proud to lead the market and sell more plug-in electric vehicles in Canada than any other brand.  The Chevrolet Bolt EV sets the range benchmark for an affordable EV capable of going the distance by delivering up to 383 kilometres on a full charge.  Bolt EV starts at a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $44,300 (plus $1,795 freight charge and $100 air conditioning tax).  In Ontario, pricing can be as low as $31,911 after the eligible Ontario provincial incentive of $12,389.

About the Canadian Green Car Award

The Canadian Green Car Award is Canada's premier award recognizing vehicles with the greatest potential for environmental benefits.  The Award is an independent program developed by automotive journalists Eric Novak, Michael Bettencourt and Peter Gorrie, who comprise its steering committee.  The Award recognizes vehicles, widely available in Canada, that offer both impressive environmental attributes and strong mass-market appeal, since any product can have a significant impact only if it sells in large numbers.

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01-25-18

CHEVY’S DIESEL-POWERED EQUINOX IS CERTAINLY EFFICIENT, BUT BE PREPARED FOR SOME STICKER SHOCK

Equinox DieselBy Jil McIntosh, Driving.ca - Diesel engines have been around for more than a century, but North Americans have never really flocked to it for light-duty use the way Europeans have.  That hasn't stopped automakers from trying, though, and with its all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, GM offers an equally-new diesel.

The 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbodiesel is offered alongside two four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engines: a 1.5-L unit making 170 horsepower and a 2.0-L engine producing 252 hp.  The diesel isn't the strongest of the three - its 240 pound-feet of torque sits between the two gas engines - but at a published combined city/highway fuel consumption of 7.4 L/100 kilometes, it's the most efficient.

Those fuel numbers are a big reason many automakers are sticking with diesel, especially a truck-heavy company like GM that needs to off-set thirstier members of the fleet.  As with all current diesels, you have to add diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF, which automatically squirts into the exhaust system to neutralize pollutants.  The company estimates about 8,000 to 9,000 kilometres between refills.  So for most drivers, it'll probably be replenished during the oil change.

The engine is a clean-sheet design, engineered by GM in Italy and built in Hungary, and it's pretty heavy on tech.  The injection system can deliver fuel ridiculously fast - up to 10 times per ignition cycle - for quieter operation, and it has an intake port with a butterfly valve to swirl the air for better combustion.  The timing chain is on the back of the engine to further reduce noise.  I don't know if I'd quite call it a "whisper diesel" as GM does, but it's definitely nothing like the clattery versions of days gone by.

Pricing depends on the trim and driveline.  The Equinox starts at $25,445, which gets you the 1.5-litre gas engine and front-wheel drive; for all-wheel drive, it's $27,845.  The 2.0-L turbo-four runs from $34,020 to $37,445.  The diesel versions are the priciest, starting at $34,120 for front-drive models and at $36,520 for AWD versions, while my Premier Diesel tester was the chart-topper of the entire Equinox range, at $37,945.  Mine was then further equipped with the True North package, which adds such items as a power sunroof, navigation, ventilated seats and such electronic safety nannies as lane keeping and emergency braking, which took it to $41,945.

Overall, this new Equinox is impressive.  I like the size and the styling, and the new cabin is handsome and roomy.  The seats are supportive both front and rear, and the rears fold down easily to provide an almost-flat cargo floor.  There are dials and buttons for most of the controls, so changing the temperature or the radio volume should always be quick and straightforward, and the icons on the infotainment screen are large and simple to use.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported, and there's an integrated Wi-Fi hot spot that can handle as many as seven devices, but you have to buy a subscription to stay connected once the trial period is up.

The driving experience is a typical commuter vehicle done well.  Handling is predictable, and steering is just light enough to be easy without feeling vague.  The ride is equally smooth and well planted, and you have to hit a pretty big pothole before you start to hear any bumps.  The all-wheel system runs primarily in front-wheel drive until the back wheels need power.  It can be disconnected via a button on the console, ostensibly for better fuel economy, although I'd rather spend whatever small amount of fuel it saves to have that all-wheel drive on tap should the conditions warrant it.

The engine gets the job done, but it's no powerhouse.  Don't expect the torque-rich, low-end power that you'd get out of a diesel-equipped sports model or truck.  For that matter, don't expect it to have superior towing capacity; both the 1.5-L and the diesel are rated for 1,500 pounds, while the 2.0-L can pull 3,500 pounds.

In my week with the diesel Equinox, I averaged 9.7 L/100 kilometres; that's well over the official number, although I'll cut it some slack because it was brutally cold weather.  All engines have an automatic start/stop feature that shuts them off at idle, intended to improve consumption and emissions.  What I really hate is that GM has ditched the over-ride button, so you can't disable this feature if you don't want the engine shutting itself off.

All Equinox models include such safety features as a rear-view camera, a rear-seat reminder, and a Teen Driver program that tattles if young driver's don't wear seatbelts, or if they speed or set off the safety nannies.  Still, forward-collision alert, emergency braking, bird's-eye camera, and lane-keep assist are only available as options on the top-line Premier models.  In a vehicle intended for families, why not offer them across the board?

Offering three engines provides lots of choice, although each has its pros and cons.  The 1.5-L costs the least, but it works hard; the 2.0-L is powerful, but it's the thirstiest and prefers premium gas.  The diesel is efficient, but the most expensive.  Overall, though, for ride, comfort, practicality and good looks, this newest Equinox is a really good machine.

Overview:  An excellent makeover of a practical sport use

Pros:  Quiet ride, comfortable seats, handsome styling

Cons:  Costly diesel option, safety features should be available on lower trims

Value for money:  Good

What I would change:  Let me shut off the idle-stop if I choose

How I would spec it:  The diesel in LT trim

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01-23-18

CHEVY’S NEW CRUZE DIESEL COULD BE THE SALVE FOR THOSE MOURNING THE DEMISE OF VW’S TDIS

Cruze DieselBy Peter Bleakney, Driving.ca - Just when you thought the diesel-powered compact car was dead in the water, GM comes rattling to the rescue.  The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, available in both sedan and hatchback, could very well be a salve for those who mourn the tragic demise of Volkswagen's cruelly deceptive yet otherwise excellent TDIs.

Up until that VW's emissions scandal blew up real good, the diesel-powered Golf and Jetta enjoyed cult status here in Canada, accounting for a sizable percentage of those compact car's sales.  Canucks have a penchant for diesels, and really, what's not to like?  Amazing fuel mileage along with gobs of relaxed torque is hard to dispute.

So, can this diesel Cruze pick up where the compact VWs left off?  Will it ever garner the kind of love and emotion the TDI faithful still harbor in their hearts?  Will it spawn a new crowd, proudly willing to wield their stinky yellow pump handle?

I will say this: after a week in the saddle of the 2018 Cruze Diesel sedan, the on-board computer showed a heart-warming fuel consumption rating of 5.4 L/100 kilometres, and with diesel currently cheaper than regular gasoline, that's a sweet thing.  So yes, this diesel sedan delivers hybrid-baiting economy without the attendant weight and complexity of battery packs, electric motors and mega computing power.

However, pricing is an issue that weighs down the Cruze Diesel.  It's only available in the second-from-top tier LT trim, with the six-speed manual sedan starting at $24,395.  Add another 41,500 for the six-speed automatic in this tester, and that represents a $3,250 hike over the comparable gas models that run with a 1.4-L turbo-four making 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

The heart of the matter here is an all-new 1.,6-L turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, with a variable-vane turbocharger, and aluminum block and heads.  This Hungarian-built oil-burner is 20 kilograms lighter and a claimed 68 per cent quieter than the 2.0-L turbodiesel it replaces.  The engine is also available in the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers, so yes, GM seems serious about this diesel business.

While this new diesel's 137 hp might sound a bit paltry, it's the robust 240 lb-ft of torque available from 2,000 rpm that does the talking.  hooked to an excellent nine-speed automatic transmission that expertly slurs the gears while keeping the little oil-burner in the meat of its torque band, the Cruze Diesel never feels flat-footed.  There's always a big slug of torque at the ready to urge you forward from just about any speed.  It certainly feels more fleet than the gasoline car.

In Europe, this engine gets the nickname "fluster-diesel" - fluster is German for whisper.  indeed, once warmed up, it is a civilized unit.  Sure, there's an earnest - some might find it endearing - grumble emanating from under the hood when accelerating, but when cruising, it's as quiet as a church.  And with the necessary down-stream urea-injection exhaust scrubbing, it meets all North American emission regulations.  You'll need to top up the DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) every 8,000 to 10,000 km.

There are a few reasons diesel engines are so much more efficient than gas engines.  Diesel fuel is more energy-dense, containing about ten per cent more bang-power per litre.  Additionally, parasitic pumping losses are reduced in a diesel engine because engine speed is dictated by fuel supply; it doesn't have to work to suck air through a restrictive opening (the "throttle", get it?)  And finally, the super high-compression ratio, needed to ignite the fuel because there are no spark plugs, contributes to more efficient combustion.

As for the higher price compared to gas-powered vehicles, chalk that up to robust construction and the extremely precise, high-pressure fuel-delivery systems.

In all other aspects, the Cruze Diesel lines up with the gas model.  It's an agreeable compact sedan with fine road manners that lean more toward comfort than sport.  however, its numb on-centre steering feel won't win over any Volkswagen fans.  Likewise, the interior quality trails the VW's, but you can say that about most competitors in this segment.

In the plus ledger, the Cruze's ergonomics are good in LT trim with an intuitive, seven-inch touch screen-based MyLink infotainment system featuring Bluetooth, USB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, plus SiriusXM satellite radio.  you also get six months of free, full-service OnStar that spoils with turn-by-turn GPS navigation, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot-spot connectivity, and more.

This tester had the $3,200 True North Edition Package that adds leather seating, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot and lane-change alerts, rear park assist and rear cross-traffic alert, a sunroof, ambient lighting, a colour screen in the gauge cluster, a pretty decent nine-speaker Bose audio system, and the touch screen is bumped up in size to eight inches.  spicing up the exterior is the RS body package ($795) and Cajun red paint ($595).

All in, we're looking at a pretty pricey Cruze; just north of $30,000 before freight and taxes.  I would also posit it is the best-driving Cruze, because the 1.6-L turbodiesel and the slick nine-speed transmission give this little sedan a relaxed, V6-like urge from step-off to highway cruise.

There's no arguing its parsimonious fuel sippage.  One could, however, argue-with the financial hit this 'fluster-diesel" inflicts on the Cruze's bottom line.  Justifying the cost would require driving it around the globe a few times.  We will accept fanatical, flag-waving, diesel enthusiasm as well.

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01-23-18

THIS ALL-NEW SUV PACKS SOPHISTICATED TECH IN A MORE ‘MASCULINE’ PACKAGE

2018 TraverseBy Jil McIntosh, Driving.ca - My Chevy traverse has a rattle in it.  It's a brand-new vehicle and it shouldn't have a rattle, but there it is.  Over a rutted road, there's an annoying, plasticky, nasty rattle that won't go away.  I touch parts and panels, trying to figure out what's making the noise.  And after all that, it turns out to be a loose cap on my water bottle.

I remember when SUVs were just trucky boxes of noise on wheels.  They've all been getting more car-like for quite a while, but it's still impressive when one's quiet enough inside that I can hear a wobbly lid.

The Traverse is all new for 2018, starting with a stiff new platform that gives it a comfortable and - as I discovered - very quiet ride.  The vehicle's overall length remains virtually the same from the last-generation model, but the wheelbase is longer, which provides more interior space.  The third-row cushions are still uncomfortably hard and flat, but there's now enough legroom there for most adults, and of course children will love being back there.  There's also an impressive amount of cargo space, even when the back seats are up, which is often a weak point for many three-row vehicles.

Naturally, the styling also morphs with this new model, with a more angular design that gives it a bigger-than-it-is look that GM's rep described as "more masculine" (although I'm not quite sure what made the last one apparently more feminine-looking).  in any case, it's a handsome beast.  The large windows provide good visibility, and while slightly bigger mirrors would improve that even more, all models come with a standard rear-view camera, and mid-level trims and up add a 360-degree view.

The new 3.6-litre V6 engine is the usual more-power-less-fuel improvement over the old Traverse, making 310 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.  Eventually it will be joined by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, which will come solely in the new RS trim level, and only in front-wheel drive.  It's mostly aimed at urban drivers who don't want a bigger engine, although the fuel savings will be minimal.  The V6 with FWD is rated at a combined city-highway rating of 11.0 L/100 km, the four-cylinder at 10.5.  Even the all-wheel V6 isn't that huge a jump over the front-wheel model, with a combined rating of 11.8 L/100 km.

The V6 Traverse comes in five trim levels, starting at $34,895 for the LS and climbing to an eye-watering $58,495 for the top-line High Country.  The two lowest levels come in FWD or AWD, while everything else is all-wheel.  Even so, the all-wheel can be switched into front-wheel only through a dial on the console.  I'd leave it in all-wheel anyway, because the Traverse runs primarily in front-wheel, but distributes power to the back whenever needed to maintain traction, giving peace of mind with a very small difference in fuel economy.

The High Country exclusively includes a more sophisticated all-wheel system with torque  vectoring, which gives it more stability on sharp curves.  It may eventually find its way into lower trims, but for now it's kept at the higher level primarily because it's a costlier system to build.

There's a lot of technology in this new model, but one feature that grabbed my attention is a program in the electric power steering.  Turning the steering wheel the right way in a skid can help get you safely back on track.  if the Traverse detects it's going sideways, it will make the wheel easier to turn in the correct direction, and harder if your wrong move will make the skid worse.

The V6 is a smooth performer, as is the nine-speed transmission that's mated to it.  It includes start-stop, which shuts the engine off at idle to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, but while most manufacturers give you the option of temporarily disabling it, GM doesn't.  I much prefer having the choice.

My noise bottle cap aside, the traverse is a pleasant driver.  It feels smaller than it is, helped by the responsive steering and tight turning radius.  The seats are supportive, both on the leather- clad High Country and cloth-upholstered LT trim levels that I drove.

The wide centre console makes the front foot wells a bit tight, but there's good legroom for second-row passengers.  One middle seat can be slid forward while upright, so a child seat can remain in place while providing third-row access, and it's a relatively wide opening to get back there.

Connectivity is the big deal these days, and all models come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, seven- or eight-inch infotainment screen, Wi-Fi hot spot and a rear-seat reminder lest a child be forgotten back there.  The screen itself slides up to reveal a hidden storage cubby, and you can set a PIN to lock it.

Canadians have consistently been buying more SUVs than cars, and so automakers have been putting their efforts into making their people-movers better.  There are a few minor flaws, but overall, this Traverse revamp is pretty impressive.  It's roomy, it looks good, and it drives well, and that's what most people prioritize in a family vehicle.  Just be sure to secure all drink-container lids before driving.

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01-10-18

THIS HIGH-PERFORMANCE SPECIAL EDITION IS THE MOST POWERFUL TAHOE EVER

2018 tahoeBy Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - Enormous size, stump-pulling power and comfortable trappings used to be enough for fans of these rolling behemoths.  Who knew that a full-size SUV that sprints from 0-to-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds while still maintaining the ability to tow up to 8,400 pounds was what they really wanted?

Introduced at the New York Auto Show earlier this year, the Chevrolet Tahoe RST - which stands for Rally Sport Truck - starts with an appearance package and builds all the way up to a bad-ass performance truck with powertrain and suspension components borrowed from the Camaro ZL1.

With 49.3 per cent of the market share, the full-size SUV segment is an important market for GM: one out of every two sold is either a Tahoe or Suburban.  A three-row, eight-passenger, body-on-frame vehicle available in either rear- or all-wheel drive, the Tahoe competes against the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia, sister vehicle GMC Yukon and its biggest rival, the Ford Expedition.  Tahoe sales are nearly double that of the Expedition's in the U.S., but in Canada it trails the Ford by a few hundred vehicles.  While the rest of the segment is powered by big V8 engines, the Expedition has a twin-turbo V6, and near-premium luxury features.

For 2017, the Tahoe lineup received more equipment and interior features, and a Premier model to replace the LTZ as the top trim level.  New standard equipment includes the Teen Driver System (allowing parents to monitor their youngster's driving habits), back-seat reminder, active grille shutters and an updated MyLink infotainment system.  The options list was also expanded, with an upgraded rear entertainment system, more USB ports, automated emergency braking, the illuminated bow-tie grille emblem from its pickup siblings, new 22-inch rims and a Midnight Edition appearance package.

And now the most powerful Tahoe ever: the RST.

While the base RST starts as a dechromed appearance package available on mid-level LT trims, retaining the standard 5.3-L V8 and six-speed powertrain and adding blacked-out grille and 22-inch rims, the top-spec Premier model can add the 6.2-L Performance Package, available on both rear- and all-wheel-drive Tahoes.  The package consists of the L86 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque mated to the same 10-speed automatic transmission found in the Camaro ZL1.  Available are six-piston Brembo brakes, and the Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system, which can assess road conditions and respond within milliseconds.

A 30-mile loop of not-very-inspiring Fort Worth suburban landscape is all we've got to evaluate our fully loaded Tahoe RST.  There's no RST badging anywhere on the vehicle: a glimpse of red Brembo calipers peeping from behind the spokes of the blacked out, 22-inch wheels, and two steely black tips from the optional Borla exhaust (which reportedly offers a 28 per cent improvement in flow) are the biggest visual clues.

Inside is a low-key leather interior: functional, comfortable but not particularly memorable.  There are other colours available that are more striking than our tester's black.  The infotainment screen is somewhat small in these days of panoramic display.

Seating is comfy, with room for seven or eight, depending on whether you opt for a second-row bench or available captain's chairs.  Our tester features the optional power release that easily drops the second-row seat for easier access to the third row, a rather cramped but admittedly useful space.  In all, there is a maximum of 2,681L of cargo space.

Despite its bulk, the Tahoe has very good road manners.  It is quiet and composed over bumps, without allowing any disturbances to enter the cabin.  It's fairly quiet until you tromp the gas pedal, when the small-block EcoTec3 V8 roars to life and the Borla exhaust answers with a deep-throated rumble.  This is the first time this engine has been available in the Tahoe, and if it doesn't quite offer Corvette-style performance, it does move the nearly 6,000-lb (2,720-kg) vehicle along with surprising swiftness.

We weren't able to confirm the sub-six second 0-to-100 km/hr sprint time, but suffice it to say the RST is pretty quick.

The Brembo brakes do a great job of reining it back in.  Once off the freeway, we travelled over some rather ratty pavement.  Although the big rims were wrapped in performance rubber, the suspension absorbed most of it without any harshness, yet at the same time the vehicle felt nicely planted without exhibiting any wallow.

Our U.S.-spec vehicles were rated at 17 mpg city/22 highway (13.8L/100 km city/10.7 highway) but featured active cylinder management, shutting down half the cylinders when not under heavy load and effectively converting it into a more efficient four-cylinder.

So, is there really a demand for such a special-edition, high-performance utility vehicle?  Well, in addition to the Tahoe RST we just tested, and its sibling the Suburban RST, Mercedes has been relentlessly churning out new AMG-badged crossovers, Chrysler has a 700-hp Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk powered by a Hellicat engine, and its new Dodge Durango boasts 475 hp, launch control - and a towing capacity of 8,600 lbs.  Suddenly the Tahoe RST sounds almost reasonable.

Available now in Canadian dealerships, the 2018 Tahoe starts at $64,045 for the LT 2WD, $67,345 for LT 4WD and $75,070 for the Premier 4WD ($1,795 destination/freight charge included).  The RST appearance package is $2,995.  The RST 6.2-L Performance Package is an additional $3,395, for a total of $6,390.  Add $4,130 for the Brembo Brake Package, and $1,620 for the Borla Exhaust.

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2018 EquinoxBy Brian Harper, Driving.ca - Yes, General Motors is a King Kong-sized global manufacturer, and its Chevrolet brand as American as baseball, apple pie and all that other stuff, but the Equinox is still built in Ontario - at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll - so I look beyond any obvious flaws in my argument to consider the crossover to be at least quasi-Canadian and, therefore, worth rooting for.  (And, yes, I maintain a certain amount of pride for all vehicles assembled in our nation, regardless of the automaker's origin.)

It's not as though this particular Chevy is an underdog; though it isn't the top seller in the ultracompetitive compact crossover segment - that would currently be the also-built-in-Ontario Toyota RAV4 - it is definitely a player.  Within the Chevy model range, the Equinox is the third in sales in Canada, behind the Silverado pickup and Cruze sedan/hatchback.  And it will likely surpass the Cruze within a few months.

The 2018 model year sees a new, third-generation version, one that sheds a considerable amount of weight - about 180 kilograms - to become leaner and more responsive in comparison with the previous model.  But, more importantly, the new Equinox sets aside its traditional engine lineup - normally aspirated four-cylinders and V6s - for a trio of turbocharged four-cylinder powertrains, including a diesel.

There are LS, LT and Premier trim levels to choose from; the tester was a high-level Premier 1LZ with the base 1.5-litre turbo four and a six-speed automatic transmission.  Putting out a reasonable 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque, the small four is impressively smooth and lively, not just when puttering about town, but also on the highway.  For comparison, the same-sized engine in the Honda CR-V delivers 190 hp but only 179 lb-ft of torque.  Oh, it's not going to win any stoplight drag races (zero to 100 km/h in about 9.5 seconds(, but the all-wheel-drive Equinox tips the scales at a trim 1,605 kg, so it's not overly burdened, feeling quite nimble when turning corners and such.  Plus, the AWD system is disconnected from the rear axle when not in use, improving efficiency.

Initially, though, I felt that were the Equinox to be loaded up with people and luggage - or perhaps towing a small trailer - ticking the box for the 2.0-L turbo (with a far more substantial 252 hp/260 lb-ft, plus a nine-speed automatic) or the 136-hp 1.6-L diesel (236 lb-ft) would be more prudent.  Yet, after putting some 700 km on the odometer with a quick trip to visit friends, I might reconsider.  The crossover handled four adults aboard without missing a beat, and delivered a parsimonious 7.8 L per 100 km - primarily at highway speeds - fuel economy to boot.  Unless you get aggressive on the throttle, the six-speed shifts up early to promote efficiency.  Mind you, southwest Ontario is mostly pancake-flat terrain; the 2.0 L or diesel would probably be a better bet if higher elevations or more varied topography was involved.

Though decidedly fresher in appearance than its doughy predecessor, the new Equinox still blends in with the bulk of the models in the compact crossover segment, rather than standing out.  Design cues for the vehicle came from the aerodynamically shaped Cruze, Malibu and Volt, stalwart Chevy models all, but not known for their drop-dead gorgeous exteriors.  Chevrolet debuted a particularly striking crossover concept called the FNR-X at the Shanghai Auto Show in April; the new Equinox would have made much more of a statement if it had borrowed some of the concept's styling.

But whatever disappointment there might be with its outward appearance - and I will be the first to say that looks are purely subjective - was mitigated by the Equinox's bright and cheerful cabin, highlighted by the tester's two-tone black and tan seats and dash area.  However, the dashboard itself was not the better soft-touch plastic, which, considering the crossover's nearly $39,000 price tag, smacked of unnecessary cost cutting.

The instrument cluster is first rate, with a configurable information display front and centre.  The same goes for the eight-inch centre console touch screen, with clearly marked icons for a variety of functions.  These include the latest connectivity technologies, such as MyLink infotainment systems designed to support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an available OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot.

Heated seats and a remote starter are standard on all trims.  The Premier is highly contented and includes such features as dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, power windows, door locks and liftgate, power heated outside mirrors, rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-zone alert and rear-view camera.

As for cargo capacity, the Chevy's "kneeling" rear seats - the bottom cushions tilt forward when the split-folding seatbacks are lowered - enables a flat rear load floor for easy loading and up to 1,798 L of space, including 846L behind the back seat.

There's much to like about the redesigned Equinox: fuel efficiency, and impressively smooth ride, good handling characteristics, up-level interior and competitive pricing.  Still, the compact segment is crazy competitive, and the Chevy has to contend with something like 16 rivals, including such heavyweights as the RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape.  Whether the Chevy can elevate its status is up for debate, though it's not for a lack of trying.  The 1.5-L engine might not be to everyone's tastes, but the Equinox's ace in the hole is the fact that there are alternatives.

Overview:  Five-passenger compact crossover

Pros:  Roomy for its size, multiple engine choices, made in Canada

Cons:  Mainstream styling, AWD must be engaged

Value for money:  Good

What I would change:  AWD should activate automatically

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06-12-17

CHEVROLET’S COMFORTABLE AND GROWN-UP EQUINOX NOW PACKS A SURPRISING PUNCH UNDER THE HOOD

2018 Equinox

By Peter Bleakney, Driving .ca - Originally launched in 2005, the Cambridge-built Chevrolet Equinox compact crossover became a cash cow for General Motors thanks to the segment's ascendancy to North America's vehicle of choice.  The first-gen Equinox found more than 2 million homes, and in Canada it was Chevy's second-best seller behind the Silverado pickup.

Ah, but time waits for no crossover mired in the past.  To keep up with the raging tide of competitive iron, the Equinox now moves into its third generation for the 2018 model year, getting an all-new structure, tidier dimensions, sharper looks, updated tech and a new base engine - a 1.5-litre turbo-four putting out 170 horsepower 203 lb.-ft. of torque - mated six-speed automatic transmission.  It also sheds up to 180 kilograms, depending on the trim.

The 1.5L engine in the Equinox, which we sampled earlier this year, is smooth and reasonably fuel efficient.  But for those seeking more punch, Chevrolet answers the call with this 2.0L turbo-four that makes 252 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,500 rpm.  It works in tandem with a nine-speed auto.  The Equinox now leaps to the head of the class when it comes to segment power, edging out the speedy Subaru Forester XT with its 250 horsepower, the 245-horsepower Ford Escape and the Kia Sportage, which develops 237 HP from its 2.0L turbo-four.

We sampled the top tier-Premier AWD which layers on such goodies as two-tone leather, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, memory settings for driver's seat radio and mirrors, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a hands-free powered lift gate and rear park assist, plus 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a few chrome bits on the exterior, and more.

Escaping the confines of congested Nashville, the 2.0L Equinox feels relaxed and certainly more fleet than the base 1.5L engine.  With it's stiff structure, targeted sound insulation and standard noise cancelling, Chevy has fashioned one of the more serene and comfortable riding vehicles in the segment.  Ride quality is excellent, and while handling might be not as sharp as the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5, the Equinox cuts a clean and controlled path on these undulating roads in rural Tennessee.

The nine-speed automatic was developed by GM in-house, reflecting an industry trend to get a wide ratio spread while also keeping engines within a fuel efficient rev range.  Hats off to GM for tuning this transmission to avoid unwanted ratio "hunting" and excessive lag when calling for acceleration.  The first five gears are closely stacked and slur between each other mostly unnoticed.  Under light throttle loads, the nine-speed wants to keep the 2.0L turbo just under 1,500 rpm, but unlike some others with multi-gear transmissions - the new Jeep Compass comes to mind - there's no pathological aversion to downshifting here.

As these were U.S.-spec Equinoxes, we observed 24 MPG on this mix of highway and winding two-lane roads.  Plus, not only does the Equinox run on regular grade fuel, an auto start/stop system is standard across the line.

The first stop is the hamlet of Leipers Fork, about an hour outside of Nashville.  If you're looking for a killer fried chicken sandwich and some fried green tomatoes, drop in on the friendly folks at The Country Boy diner.  And if you're looking to jam on some funky vintage instruments, wander two doors down to Serenite Maison.  There's an old Kay standup bass leaning in the corner - been there for decades, they say - along with a selection of Gibson and Martin guitars hanging on the wall.  No, they're not for sale - I asked - they're purely for the pleasure of anyone who wants to play them.

Chevrolet has the 2018 Equinox armed for connectivity.  Standard is Chevy MyLink infotainment system with wireless audio streaming, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and one year of OnStar that bestows, among other services, a 4G LTE wireless hotspot.

The Equinox's dash looks to be lifted right out of the Malibu, which is no bad thing as all the controls, major gauges and menu structure are clear and logical.  The cabin looks good dressed up in this two-tone tan-and-black combo, but lesser trim models in all black are a bit dour.  The quality of materials is not up to class leaders like the CX-5 and the Sportage, and some of that faux-chrome trim hints of an old-school GM hangover.

The front seats are comfortable, and rear passengers are not left out here, getting plenty of headroom and legroom, two USBs, a power adapter, a 110-volt outlet and heated seats.  It doesn't stop there - rear seat riders can actually choose whether they want warm butts and/or backs.

2018-chev-equinox-2-0-4

A raft of new radar and camera-based safety kit is on the menu, including surround vision, forward collision alert and automatic braking, plus lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist systems.  Additionally, the standard Rear Seat Reminder warns if a child or dog is left in the second row.

There's plenty of functionality in the 2018 Equinox.  The 60/40 split second row easily folds forward with a low-effort fluid motion, creating a flat and smartly configured load space.  There is a decently sized hidden compartment under the floor.  The hatch opening is large too, although you'll find more cargo room in a CR-V, Forester or Toyota RAV4.  With the 2.0L turbo engine, the Equinox's tow rating leaps to 3,500 pounds.

Landing in dealerships now, this accomplished crossover with its bigger engine, grown-up comfy road manners and class-leading technology is the second prong in the Equinox's assault on the compact crossover segment.  Later this year, the Equinos will get a 1.6L turbodiesel engine with 136 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque.

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2018 EquinoxBy Pedro Arrais, Times Colonist - If there was a list of desirable features people usually look for when buying a compact SUV, the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox would surely hit all the boxes.

This market segment is the largest and has seen the most intense competition for consumers' attention.  General Motors has stopped at nothing to make sure its new entrant stands head and shoulders above the crowd.

First off, GM put the Equinox on the automotive equivalent of an extreme diet.  It shrunk by 118 millimetres in length.

While it used to be almost stuck in the grey zone, caught between compact and mid-sized SUVs, it is now firmly a compact - in the same segment as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and others.

In the process, the Equinox has shed close to 300 kilograms (it's now even lighter than the Honda CR-v).

But this is a formidable crowd and, if the changes are not done right, it runs the risk of taking the Equinox out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The base front-wheel-drive Equinox starts out at $25,195, and trim levels include LT and Premier. Canadians would likely opt for an all-wheel-drive vehicle instead, which drives up the cost by $2,400.  There are more trim levels for the AWD line, with the top being the Premier 2LZ at $37,195.

I drove a Premier 1LZ, which starts at $34,195.

My first impression on getting in the driver's seat was "Wow!"

The previous-generation Equinox was a vehicle that tried hard, but was utterly outclassed by its competitors.  It featured acres of hard plastic and reeked of a design by committee.

The pendulum has swung completely in the opposite direction with the 2018 edition.  The new model reeks of quality and attention to detail.  Any interior designer would be proud to look around and appreciate the carefully laid-out cabin (in two-tone leather on some models).

Not only is the interior welcoming, the materials used have similarly received a substantive boost.  As my hand rested on the steering wheel, I noticed that even the spokes of the wheel are covered in a supple material that was pleasing to the touch.

The equipment kit reflects GM's desire to elevate the Equinox into territory it could never had imagined before.  My tester boasted a large panorama roof, 19-inch wheels, a Bose sound system, low-speed auto braking, forward collision alert, lane departure, lane-keep assist and auto high beam, surround cameras, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats, eight-way power front and passenger seats, and wireless cellphone charging - and that's only the highlights.

For the infotainment system, the Equinox features an eight-inch colour touchscreen with MyLink, Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Sirius satellite radio.  The system is also a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot, so that passengers can connect their tablets wirelessly on the road.  Buyers will also get an OnStar five-year basic plan.

Engineers tossed out the old V-6 and replaced it with a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines - a 1.5- and a 2.0-litre.  I drove the 1.5-litre mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The engine may be smaller, but I daresay the Equinox feels more spirited, with 300 kilograms less to push.  The 1.5-litre produces 170 horsepower, about average in this segment.  But the kicker is the 203 foot-pounds of torque, which comes on as low as 2,500 rpm.  It is the most torque produced in the segment.  By comparison, the Ford's turbocharged 1.5-litre four produces 185 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,320 rpm.

The new engine is also much more fuel-efficient than the V-6 it replaces.  While it is not the segment leader, it still bests similar offerings, such as the above-mentioned 1.5-litre from Ford.  Technology in the form of a gas-saving stop/start function helps lower consumption.

The 1.5-litre will soon be joined by a more-powerful 2.0-litre and a more frugal 1.6-litre diesel in the months ahead.  The latter would be of interest for people who tow or for those looking for the best fuel economy.

The Equinox is quiet on the road, with a compliant ride and predictable handling.

Did General Motors produce a winner this time?  If you compare it to last year's model, there is no doubt this year's vehicle is superior.  But most importantly, the 2018 Equinox's blend of functionality, features and performance now makes it competitive against the best in the segment for the first time.  It is the best contender GM has fielded for a shot at the top.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type:  Compact SUV, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine:  Turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, 170 hp at 5,600 rpm, 203 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,500 to 4,500 rpm

Transmission:  Six-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm):  Length, 4,652; width, 1,843; height, 1,661; wheelbase, 2,725

Curb weight (kg):  1,580

Price (base/as tested):  $34,195/$40,740 (includes $1,700 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Tires:  225/60 R18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type:  Regular

Fuel economy (L/100km):  9.8 city/7.9 highway

Warranty:  Three years/60,000 km new car, five years/100,000 km powertrain and roadside assistance

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Equinox

By Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - We're more than 3,800 feet above the Pisgah National Forest, where mist envelops the shoulders of the Appalachian Mountains.  Below us lies the Pink Beds Valley, a swath of lush growth tinted by the blush of blooming rhododendrons.

We'd been given the option of making our own way across the Carolinas, the only caveat being that we arrive intact by dinner.  My driving partner had a hankering to experience the Tail of the Dragon, 18 kilometres of serpentine road that's virtually a rite of passage for any driving enthusiast.  I pointed out that our trip gave us a chance to visit one of the remove, mountainous creeks where we could search for the elusive Hellbender, an exceedingly rare giant salamander, charmingly dubbed the "Snot Otter."

The Blue Ridge Parkway proved an acceptable compromise, though its abundance of looping curves had us yearning for a nimble two-seater instead of the crossover we're piloting.  To be fair, our Chevrolet Equinox handled the hairpin twists quite admirably, with none of the lumbering wallow once characteristic of this segment.

Completely revised for 2018, the third-gen Equinox returns with a shorter, stiffer platform, an available nine-speed automatic transmission and the choice of three engines.  Based on the same D2 architecture underpinning the Buick Envision, the Equinox sheds 400 pounds (180 kilograms) - a 10 per cent weight reduction - over the previous platform.

As with nearly every other vehicle in the industry-wide quest for better fuel economy, the chassis has been lightened by using high-strength and hot stamped steel, fewer welds and more industrial adhesives.  This gives the new Equinox an added bonus of great torsional rigidity and less flex, meaning a more stable ride.  The smaller body, shorter wheelbase and slightly lower ride height not only aid in the Equinox's stability, but also improve aerodynamics.  Visually, the Equinox isn't as compelling as the Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape, but it is neat and tidy, if rather unremarkable.

In this segment, space and utility are paramount.  Despite its compact size, the Equinox's cabin space remains virtually the same as the outgoing model.  The rear seats have given up their ability to slide fore and aft, providing a more usable and flatter floor when folded.  Maximum cargo space increases to 1,798 litres, including a hidden compartment beneath the trunk floor.

The cabin's overhaul follows the same conservative yet functional design principles as the Cruze.  Premier models feature more soft-touch materials and leather, but cheaper plastics creep into use as you move down through the trim levels.  The Equinox follows Chevrolet's familiar packaging strategy by offering three models (LS, LT and Premier) and two packages (Confidence and Convenience, and True North) are available on the LT and Premier.

All trims are available in front- or all-wheel drive, but it seems Canadians prefer AWD, which accounts for 80 per cent of all Equinoxes sold here.  New for 2018, the AWD system can help conserve more fuel by directing power to just the front wheels when extra traction isn't needed, or torque to all four wheels can be manually locked in by the driver.

The mid-range LT AWD is predicted to be the volume seller, but even the base LS has a good level of standard features.  They include keyless entry with push-button start, Chevrolet's MyLink Infotainment system, rear-vision camera, Teen Driver (which lets you restrict and monitor driving habits), one-touch folding second-row seats, heated front seats and heated rear-view mirrors, a remote starter, start/stop technology and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Moving up through the trim lines adds extra goodies, such as a heated steering wheel and rear seats, HID headlights, a hands-free power liftgate, an eight-inch in-dash touch screen and 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, and wireless charging.  The Premier trim gets rear park assist, plus side blind-zone and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Available packages add forward-collision alert, 360-degree surround vision, low-speed automatic braking, safety-alert seat and lane-departure warning.  Only the True North package includes GPS navigation, which leaves the rest of the model lineup to rely on either OnStar's turn-by-turn navigation services, or Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which rely on the user's own data plan.

Unfortunately, the new 2.0-litre turbo-four and the 1.6L four-cylinder turbodiesel engines weren't available yet and probably won't arrive until summer.  The diesel, producing 136 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, is rated to deliver 6.9L/100 km in combined city and highway driving for FWD models, or 7.4 with AWD.  The larger 2.0L turbo-four, producing 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, will be the only one paired with the new nine-speed automatic transmission.  It will deliver 8.7 L/100 km combined on FWD Equinoxes and 9.4 with AWD.  It will also offer a maximum towing capability of 3,500 lbs (1,588 kg), compared with 1,500 lbs (680 kg) for the other powertrains.

"There are advantages to using the nine-speed, from a fuel economy and from a performance standpoint," says Larry Mihalko, engineer and performance manager for Chevrolet's crossovers.  "But this segment is also price-sensitive, so if you want the nine-speed you've got to check the box and get the bigger motor.  But we've got pretty good fuel economy with the six-speed, and quite frankly, the diesel is the true fuel economy play on this vehicle."

Our sole available choice was the base 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic.  It seemed quiet enough on the highway, thanks to noise cancellation provided by the audio system and an abundance of sound-deadening material.  But it was slow to respond after braking through the tight turns, which was probably a combination of the engine's modest 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque, the transmission's limitations and perhaps the altitude's effect on the power output.

Given the Equinox's nicely controlled handling and the suspension's ability to soak up the bumps and potholes we encountered, the power output was rather disappointing.  Although it was possible to awkwardly induce shifts with the gear lever, I couldn't help wishing for paddle shifters in the corners.

While we'll have to wait to see if the Equinox's new powertrains match the impressive handling, the more compact size and better manoeuvrability should help it chase down segment leaders.  And with its all-in base price of $26,995, including PDI, is should finally be able to succeed.

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