Believe it or not, diesel cars and trucks are taking over. Okay, well maybe that’s a little too much. But, what used to be a motor choice that had been stigmatized with images of black-soot stained rear bumpers on old Mercedes diesels, or the painfully loud clattering of Volkswagens of yesteryear, is slowing becoming the choice of the very practical minded consumer. Thanks to some serious advances in clean technology and copious use of sound insulation, suddenly diesel engines are not just for semis anymore.
In 2014 Dodge introduced a new Eco V6 diesel that has dominated the fuel efficiency world of full sized pickups, and it’s not even close. Since then we have seen other companies starting to rediscover this once left-for-dead market. Which brings us to the 2018 Chevy Equinox Diesel. Sure, the Equinox doesn’t have the cache of a Tahoe, nor the long history of the Jurassic Era Suburban, but this little crossover is actually Chevy’s best selling SUV.
The 2018 model comes with basically a complete refresh of everything. There are a host of optional turbocharged gas engines, but the big news is the alternate fuel version. It should be noted that the diesel is only available on the top two trims by the way, which entitles you to fun options like a sunroof, remote start, dual-zone climate control, a power lift gage, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, a 120-volt AC power outlet and even two additional USB ports.
In terms of specific numbers, the diminutive 1.5-liter DOHC inline-4 comes all in aluminum and sports direct injection and makes a somewhat underwhelming 137-horsepower, but compensatory (and diesel-like) 240 lb-ft of torque. That low end grunt will foot your seat-of-the-pants feel off the line and make you think that your 3,769 pound Equinox is moving from 0-60 mph a lot faster than the posted 9.4 seconds or through the quarter mile in 17.2 seconds at a paltry 80 mph.
But, then again, the Equinox is not a drag racer, and the diesel specifically isn’t meant to perform anywhere except at the pump, which it does. At minimum the diesel option will cost you about $1300 over the next closest gas engine, but you may just make that up within a few solid road trips. Thanks to all the diesel torque, the Equinox-D can afford to go with an NBA tall 2.89:1 final-drive ratio, which translates into a slam dunk of an MPG rating. Even though it only has a 6-speed auto trans that has to power all four wheels, the Equinox pulls off an all-star 28/38/32 city/highway/combined mpg and has a highway range of a staggering 670 miles!
Now, while it won’t ever be confused with the cacophony of an 80’s Golf diesel, the Equinox-D is a bit noisier at start up when directly compared to its turbocharged gas siblings, but it is only a few decibels. The diesel version of the Equinox has one other major difference when compared to its brethren, and those would be the 225/65R-17 Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 all-season tires (try saying that three times fast). The other models use larger 19-inch rims shot with 235 series Hankooks. We can only presume that the Bridgestones help improve fuel mileage with less rotating mass to deal with. But, the big drawback and tradeoff for that extra few miles per gallon is that the diesel takes 15 feet longer to brake from 70-0 mph (182 feet), and posts a lower lateral grip of 0.77 g (versus 0.85) than the Hankook shod models.
But all in all, the Equinox diesel does what it sets out to do: be practical on a superior level. You will be hard pressed to find another SUV that you can drive in any road condition, at any time of the year, with five people from New York to Portland Maine and back, without stopping for gas once. So, is that level of pragmatism worth a base price of $33,385 — we’d say it’s … practically … a steal.