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2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT 2.0T

New Chevy Equinox shrinks, but that’s a good thing …2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Chevrolet updated the Equinox for 2018 by doing something carmakers rarely do these days, shrinking it.

Equinox is nearly 5 inches shorter than its predecessor, but it feels lighter and livelier to drive, another rare accomplishment. Usually carmakers add inches and weight to increase their appeal to a wider expanse of the buying public.

So for compact sport-utility and crossover buyers looking for something less trucky and more nimble like a car, Equinox becomes a solid choice along with Mazda’s CX-5.

In its base trim, the L model, Equinox is both inexpensive and mildly powered. It starts in front-drive mode at $25,525 including delivery fee, and its I4 is a 1.5-liter turbo that creates 170 horsepower. In the Equinox L the tranny is a six-speed automatic and that combo leads to an EPA rating of 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. Laudable!2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Ah, but the majority of buyers are likely to move up to the LT model, which is what I tested in its pumpkin spiced Orange Burst Metallic paint scheme. The OBM color gets your attention, and that of friends and co-workers, all for just $395 extra.

The LT is the first Equinox with Chevy’s new 2.0-liter I4 turbo that cranks 252 horsepower and is rated at 260 for torque. This creates a much speedier and more satisfying drive as the turbo spools up quickly to get the crossover up or down a highway entry ramp before a big 16-wheeler is breathing down your tailpipe.

The tested LT with just front-drive seemed light and lively on the weeklong drive. It cornered well and steering effort was light. Parking was simple. Continue reading 2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT 2.0T

2017 Cadillac XT5 Premium AWD

Cadillac XT5 long on style, short on details …2017 Cadillac XT5

Cadillac has mastered the styling, now it needs to work on the details.

The new Cadillac XT5 crossover continues Cadillac’s sharp chiseled styling with tall taillights and noteworthy nose and headlight stylings. Its interior is luxurious and attractive in a way most German makes have yet to figure out because of their love for black leather.

But the XT5’s seats are way too snug in the hip and the ride too firm for our crumbling Wisconsin roads that are cracked by time, winter and a lack of willingness to pay for improving them. Additionally its CUE audio screen is improved, but still not the easiest to master while driving.

2017 Cadillac XT5The XT5, which replaces the SRX and rides on what should be a smoothing 112.5-inch wheelbase delivers a firm ride that turns too sharp and bumpy on cracked streets and highways.

Yet like other Cadillac’s and GM products, the XT5 delivers ample power with a new 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 with variable valve timing. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 271 ft.-lbs. of torque, so it’ll scoot when required to. That happens best when in Sport mode which holds gears longer in the 8-speed automatic. In normal mode acceleration is moderate. Continue reading 2017 Cadillac XT5 Premium AWD

2015 Buick Encore AWD Premium

Buick Encore surprisingly nimble encore1

The Buick Encore and Chevy Trax are kissin’ cousins riding on the same platform with the same engine and transmission, but aimed at different markets.

Not surprisingly the Chevy aims at value-minded and younger buyers, while the Buick aims more upscale, at empty-nesters who demand luxury and feel they’ve hit a stage of life where they’ve moved beyond the Chevy brand. I like both the Trax and Encore. They’re fun to drive with nimble handling and good ride for a small sport-ute. Both deliver excellent fuel economy.

There’s no denying the Buick feels more upscale. It has a leather interior and is quieter inside. As an aging Boomer I like the quiet. Additional sound deadening, which Buick calls QuietTuning, helps ensure the quiet, along with a Bose Active Noise Cancellation system.

encore2That and the leather interior and more standard features helps explain the added cost compared with the Trax, which is a real bargain. The Trax LT AWD I tested previously started at $23,945 and with minor options was just $25,315. While the tested bright white Encore AWD Premium listed at $30,935 and after options and delivery charges hit $34,390. That’s pretty high considering how many fine mid-size utes and crossovers you can get for that, or less. Most offer AWD and are more spacious inside.

Naturally, if you want the Buick, but find yourself closer to a Chevy budget, a base Encore starts at $24,990, but that’s with two-wheel drive. I don’t want to dwell on price because the Encore is such fun to drive, and few utes or crossovers can say that. Continue reading 2015 Buick Encore AWD Premium

2015 Chevrolet Trax LT AWD

Trax AWD offers high value for young SUV buyerstrax

            As Millennials and Gen-Xers battle for jobs and income in a challenging work environment it seems natural that small cars and small sport-utility vehicle sales would blossom.

Affordability and a high degree of usability would seem to be just what the new car/ute buyer would crave. So it’s no surprise that a host of small utes are being launched this year, with Chevrolet decidedly in the hunt.

Chevy already had the Aveo and Sonic small cars, but for 2015 launches the Chevy Trax a small ute riding on a 100.6-inch wheelbase and extending a modest 168.4 inches. That’s just about four inches longer than the recently tested Nissan Juke and Trax has a 1-inch advantage in wheelbase.

Yet unlike Juke, the Trax makes a compelling argument for small utes or crossovers. It’s fun to drive with nimble handling and a pleasant ride. While obviously trim, with a modest rear overhang, it’s reasonably attractive in a fit-in-with-the-neighbors sort of way. Folks won’t laugh at you.

trax1And if they ride with you and know what you paid for a Trax, they may even envy you.

Here’s why! Consider this the facts on Trax.

Trax, which is sold as the Holden Trax in Australia and built by General Motors in South Korea, is useful, equipped well at a low price, is available with all-wheel-drive and delivers excellent fuel economy. Continue reading 2015 Chevrolet Trax LT AWD

2015 GMC Yukon 4WD SLT

GMC Yukon continues to go BIG!

            If you’re the type of driver that feels bigger is better you’d better hustle off to a GMC dealer and declare your love for the 2015 GMC Yukon.yukon1

This is a heavyweight that’ll pull at least 8,200 lbs., has room for 6 or 7 adults, rides high and commands the road like little else, except its bigger brother, the Yukon XL. Note that Chevrolet has its own versions of both, with Chevy’s Tahoe being a twin to Yukon, while the Suburban is comparable to the Yukon XL.

            Let’s be perfectly clear, you don’t need a Yukon, unless you tow a big boat, large trailer or happen to have a big-boned large family. But you may want one if even a bit of the aforementioned is true and you intend to tow something heavy.

Start with its dimensions. The tested Yukon rides on a 116-inch wheelbase and is 203.9 inches long. The XL expands the wheelbase to 130 inches and grows 21 inches in length. That’s a lot more cargo room. The XL also is the one you want if you need to carry 9 adults. There’s more legroom in the third row seats.

But legroom and headroom are decent in the second and third rows even in the Yukon. The downside with Yukon is that there’s precious little cargo room behind row three. In fact, grocery bags are about it, unless you strap some cargo to the roof. Continue reading 2015 GMC Yukon 4WD SLT