It is, without a doubt, one of the strangest variants of a high-volume vehicle on sale in the U.S. right now: the 2018 Chevy Equinox fitted with the company’s 1.6-liter EcoTec turbodiesel. That’s right, one of the most typically American platforms fitted with an engine type that, especially given the Volkswagen Group’s recent difficulties, has never been more than a niche player on these shores. Shrouded in scandal and old prejudices, it’s hard to imagine many Equinox buyers checking the expensive option box to fit the oil-burner to their crossover. At least, on paper.
That’s why we spent a week in one, schlepping all around town and with plenty of freeway time, to figure out if this thing makes any sense given the deck seemingly stacked against it. That’s not a declaration of anti-diesel bias, it’s just a reality check given the headwinds this type of engine faces in the U.S. — and actually, even in Europe in recent years. Diesel has a lot going for it, even if the relative brilliance of the TDI was a sick joke at everyone’s expense. Diesel engines provide torque and excellent economy, at the expense of potentially higher fuel costs and a powertrain that is more expensive to produce.
This is a lot of preamble before getting to how it drives, of course, but it’s important to set the stage. The Equinox itself isn’t much different than the 2.0T-equipped crossover we drove earlier this year, so we’ll focus on the aspects that are divergent or especially notable.
It’s also got punch, if not pizzaz. The turbodiesel makes a modest 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, but the important thing is that the torque is easily accessible and readily appreciable. This is not a fast vehicle by any stretch, taking a long time to build up speed, but it pulls away from a stoplight or up a ramp with initial authority.
But so it is with every other Equinox. The real question is, should a buyer fork over the $1,345 more for a noisy diesel with a minimal tow rating? If there’s a lot of freeway in your Equinox’s future, or if you relish the idea of using the least fuel possible to travel an absurd distance between refueling, that’s a yes.
For us, having something relatively unique hidden inside a handsome but nondescript form is a bit of a thrill. The fact that it’s a fuel miser but also a comfortable (and somehow, enjoyable) runabout takes it over the top. You’d have to be just a bit unconventional to own an Equinox turbodiesel. If that strikes you as a compliment rather than a jab, this crossover might be for you.