Chevy proves diesel isn’t dead

The Chevrolet Equinox underwent a complete transformation for the 2018 model year. It received a handsome new exterior, a vastly improve and more tech-savvy interior, and a few new choices under the hood. The most surprising engine inclusion is GM’s 1.6-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder. It’s the same turbodiesel available in the Chevy Cruze sedan and comes with the same 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. In the Cruze, the engine returns an impressive 47 mpg highway when mated to the nine-speed automatic transmission. The question now, though, is how well the turbodiesel performs in the larger Equinox.

To find out, I spent a week behind the wheel of a 2018 Equinox in the mid-range LT trim and the standard front-wheel drive.

Now, I’ve already tested the new 2018 Equinox in its range-topping Premier trim and found it to be a fantastic two-row crossover with plenty of room for four people and their belongings. Its swanky interior offered features like an 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotpot. Dual zone climate controls with heated and vented front seats kept me comfortable while its large greenhouse provided great views outside. All told, the Equinox was great, but I still wondered how it would behave with the turbodiesel. Thankfully, I don’t have to wonder any longer. Here are my thoughts on the turbodiesel-equipped 2018 Chevy Equinox.

Continue reading for more information.

Torque to the Rescue

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Turbodiesel – Driven Drivetrain
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Peak torque for the Equinox’s 1.6-liter turbodiesel comes at only 2,000 rpm, and peak horsepower isn’t far behind at 3,750 rpm

Engines spend the vast majority of their life spinning slowly as they mender through traffic or barrel down the highway in overdrive. Most gasoline engines are fine doing this, but require more revs and a downshift before making any substantial power. However, low revs are nirvana for a turbodiesel. Torque generally peaks at a very low engine speeds, making it a perfect engine for city commuting and highway cruising.

Peak torque for the Equinox’s 1.6-liter turbodiesel comes at only 2,000 rpm, and peak horsepower isn’t far behind at 3,750 rpm. Combined with a six-speed automatic transmission, the engine is able to lug along at low revs while making at or around its peak power.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Turbodiesel – Driven Exterior
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The Equinox turbodiesel felt very peppy around town, with power to spare and the throttle not having to find the floor at all

In practice, the Equinox turbodiesel felt very peppy around town, with power to spare and the throttle not having to find the floor at all. The turbodiesel is surprisingly smooth and rattle-free. It’s impressive how automakers have all but killed any extra vibrations and clattering noise that plagued diesels of yesteryear. In fact, the common passerby wouldn’t even notice the difference in engine tone. I might even go so far as to say an unknowing driver might not even realized he’s driving a turbodiesel.

When it comes to highway merging or passing, the little 1.6-liter does a decent job, but definitely loses steam in its upper register. Most folks will find it does an acceptable job, especially for the trade-off in fuel economy. But again, spinning just off idle, the engine feels more than adequate. The sprint to 60 mph happens in roughly 10 seconds and its top speed is 115 mph. But hot-rodding the Equinox diesel isn’t the point; its sipping dino-juice as slow as possible.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Turbodiesel – Driven Exterior
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I averaged 32.9 mpg over 115 miles of mixed driving.

The EPA estimates the 2018 Equinox turbodiesel will achieve 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined. Like with many diesels, it’s very easy to outdo the EPA’s estimates. During the first day or two of my evaluations, I drove the Equinox reasonably conservatively and managed 44.9 mpg over a 50-mile distance. After the week was done and I’d accrued 115 miles on the clock, my average was 32.9 mpg. That’s very impressive for a high-riding crossover being driven by a jaded automotive journalist who’s not Wayne Gerdes.

Compare that to the other 2018 Equinox I tested, which was equipped with the base 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and the mileage difference is noticeable. The EPA rates that FWD model at 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined. During my 335-mile stint in that model, I averaged 26.9 mpg combined. That mean the turbodiesel averaged 6.0 mpg better than the 1.5-liter gasoline engine.

Money Talks

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Turbodiesel – Driven Interior
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Depending on the trim level, the diesel option adds either $2,195 or $3,890

Of course, that brings up the question of value and return on investment. Depending on the trim level, the diesel option adds either $2,195 or $3,890, with the Premier trim getting the better value over the LT in terms of diesel upgrade costs. Then factor in the likelihood of higher service and maintenance costs associated with a diesel (like oil changes and DEF fluid refills) and the slightly higher cost of diesel fuel, and that fuel savings advantage seems hard to justify. It would likely take some serious highway miles to make the diesel pay for itself within the lifetime of the car.

Sadly, the turbodiesel isn’t any better at towing, either. It’s rated to pull just 1,500 pounds, while the 2.0-liter gasoline turbocharged four-cylinder can pull 3,500 pounds. Chevy is quoted by Car & Driver saying it’s due to the turbodiesel’s lack of a heavy-duty cooling system.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Turbodiesel – Driven Exterior
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Okay, so the turbodiesel might not be the silver bullet to all our crossover problems, but for those who enjoy the gratification of getting nearly 45 mpg in something that’s not a Prius while having tons of low-end torque, the Equinox turbodiesel is a fantastic choice.

For my thoughts on the rest of the 2018 Equinox, check out my full review of the Equinox FWD Premier 1.5-liter turbo.

  • Leave it
    • * Extra cost for turbodiesel option
    • * Slowest performer of Equinox’s engine trio
    • * Where’s the nine-speed automatic?

References

Chevrolet Equinox

2018 Chevrolet Equinox High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Read our full driven review on the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD Premier 1.5-liter turbo.

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