Chevy hits the mark with its third-gen Equinox

I don’t need to remind anyone just how explosive the crossover market is these days. The competition is growing evermore fierce as automakers fight for consumer dollars as sales of sedans plummet and traditional body-on-frame SUVs crawl up-market toward the luxury segment. That’s why the Equinox is so important for Chevrolet. It splits the difference. And having spent a week driving the all-new, 2018 Equinox, it’s clear Chevy sharpened its knife before redesigning this two-row crossover.

The new, third generation Equinox gains fresh (though arguably bland) styling for 2018, along with a far more modern interior with tons of in-demand active safety and tech features. Available attractions include a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, six USB ports, wireless phone charging, heated and vented front seats, lane keep assist, forward collision alert, and a 360-degree camera system. Chevy improved the ride, too, with a stiffer and lighter chassis, four-wheel independent suspension, and three engine choices that include a turbodiesel estimated to achieve 40 mpg highway. Even as a jaded journalist used to driving high-end products, I found myself deeply impressed by the 2018 Equinox. Keep ready to see why.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

  • 2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    Six-speed Automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    170
  • MPG(Cty):
    26
  • MPG(Hwy):
    32
  • Torque @ RPM:
    203
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Displacement:
    1.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    8.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    115 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, FWD
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.2/10

Video Review

The Back Story

2006 Chevrolet Equinox
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2010 Chevrolet Equinox High Resolution Exterior
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First (left photo) and second (right photo) generation Equinox.

The Equinox has enjoyed tremendous success since its launch for the 2005 model year. Sales for the first generation peaked at 130,500, while the second generation peaked at 277,500 examples sold in a single year inside the U.S. The two-row crossover originally rode on General Motors’ Theta platform, which also underpinned the GMC Terrain, Saturn Vue, and Pontiac Torrent. Power came from a 3.4-liter and a 3.6-liter V-6. Both five- and six-speed automatic transmissions were used and AWD was an option.

The second-generation Equinox debuted for the 2010 model year. Its Theta underpinnings were stiffed and its powertrain choices were updated to include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V-6. A 3.6-liter V-6 replaced the smaller six in 2013 and all second-generation Equinox came with a six-speed automatic transmission. A mid-cycle refresh in 2016 kept the Equinox fresh while Chevy was busy designing its replacement.

Exterior

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2018 Chevrolet Traverse High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Chevrolet Equinox Chevrolet Traverse
The styling resembles that of the Volt, Malibu, Cruze, and the new 2018 Chevy Traverse, the Equinox’s three-row big brother.

The third generation Equinox is clearly washed in the Chevy bloodline. The styling resembles that of the Volt, Malibu, Cruze, and the new 2018 Chevy Traverse, the Equinox’s three-row big brother. While not the most expressive, sporty, or creatively distinct crossover on the market, the Equinox has plenty of details worth noting. The chrome grille, like the other Chevy’s mentioned, is integrated nicely into the headlights. LED headlights and daytime running lights bring a modern look, while traditional incandescent bulbs are used in the fog lights and turn signals integrated into the bumper. And because the turn signals are far away from the LED daytime running lights, the Equinox doesn’t get squinty-eyed when signaling a turn. Thank the DOT for that regulation.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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My tester came in the range-topping Premier trim level. This brought chrome inserts on the grille, chrome roof rails, and chrome door handles. The LT trim misses these add-ons, but still gets chrome around the C-pillar and on the mirror caps. Moving down to the LS or the base L trims strips all chrome but the outline around the grille. Chrome aside, my tester also came fitted with the $3,320 Sun, Sound &, Navigation package. While pricey, it does include a laundry list of high-end features, including the attractive, 19-inch alloy wheels. The massive panoramic moonroof is also grouped in this package; it’s also one of the largest opening examples I’ve seen.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
- image 720258

Around back, the Equinox’s anonymity grows. The non-descript design doesn’t call attention to itself, but rather follows the traditional crossover design. A spoiler hangs over the rear glass, the blacked-out B-pillar and D-pillars highlight the thick C-pillar, the taillights are mostly forgettable, and the bumper features acres of shapeless of black plastic. Perhaps that’s best since it’s devoid of faux exhaust tips or diffuser panels.

The Equinox won’t break necks of gawking onlookers, and I’ve harped on its plain styling, but I still find the new Chevy attractive. The Equinox is like a significant other that’s marriage material rather than an Abercrombie or Playboy model. It might not be as exciting at first, but it’s more practical and won’t look prematurely dated after the shiny wears off. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Competing Looks

2017 Honda CR-V – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Honda CR-V – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Perhaps the most prolific compact crossover on the market today is the Honda CR-V. It’s been around for decades, but this two-row crossover underwent a full redesign for the 2017 model year. Outside, it features a funky design with plenty of detail happening in the chrome grille. The alloy wheels are equally detailed, as are the Volvo-like taillights. The CR-V is 2.5 inches shorter than the Equinox, and its wheelbase is 2.6 inches shorter. As such, the Honda has slightly less interior volume than the Chevy, but only by 2.2 cubic feet. Stick around for more details on the CR-V’s interior.

Exterior Dimensions

Honda CR-V Chevrolet Equinox
Wheelbase (Inches) 104.7 112.5
Length (Inches) 180.6 187.8
Height (Inches) 66.1 66.3
Width (Inches) 73.0 72.5
Track front/rear (Inches) 63.0/63.7 62.9/62.1

Interior

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2016 Chevrolet Malibu
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Dashboard of the Chevrolet Equinox Dashboard of the Chevrolet Malibu
The dashboard layout is similar to the 2018 Volt, Malibu, and Cruze, but isn’t directly shared so it maintains a certain level of separation.

The 2018 Chevy Equinox adopts a much more modern interior compared to the last generation. The dashboard layout is similar to the 2018 Volt, Malibu, and Cruze, but isn’t directly shared so it maintains a certain level of separation. The materials are a bit on the plasticky side, but aren’t poor. The Premier trim adds leather seats, along with padded leather trim on the dash and door panels.

And like the exterior, buyers must step up to the Premier trim to get most of the advertised and attractive features. The L, LS, and LT trims all come with the same, ho-hum interior with the base, 7.0-inch MyLink infotainment system, plastic dash, single-zone HVAC, and base driver information screen. The LT trim does have access to the $1,995 Sun & Infotainment Package, which brings the 8.0-inch MyLink system, the panoramic roof, more 12-volt power outlets and USB ports, a 120-volt household power outlet, and dual-zone climate controls. These features are standard in the Premier.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Interior High Resolution
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The second row is a 60/40-split bench that easily folds flat for expanding the cargo area. Chevy provides easy pull-levers in the cargo area that release the seats.

As before, the 2018 Equinox is a two-row crossover offering room for five passengers. The second row is a 60/40-split bench that easily folds flat for expanding the cargo area. Chevy provides easy pull-levers in the cargo area that release the seats. There’s also release levers mounted to the seats. With the seats in place, the Equinox has 29.9 cubic feet of cargo room. That expands to an impressive 63.5 cubic feet when the seats are folded.

Comfort in both first and second-row seats is very good. The driver’s seat boasts power adjustments with memory settings in my Premier test model. The front passenger seat is power-operated, too, but lacks memory settings. Rear passengers get an impressive amount of legroom – 39.7 inches, to be exact. The seatbacks also recline slightly. A folding center armrest with two cup holders adds functionality, while HVAC vents keep rear passengers comfortable. Rear passengers also enjoy heated seats, two USB ports, a 12-volt power outlet, and a standard household plug with 120 volts.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Interior High Resolution
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Chevy didn’t only improve the interior for looks and comfort, but also jammed in tons of in-dash technology demanded by current trends. The standard infotainment system is Chevy’s 7.0-inch MyLink system. It provides more-than-basic levels of functionality, but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as the larger system or the pretty interface. It does, thankfully, offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The premium system, the 8.0-inch MyLink, offers navigation and a far better graphical interface. OnStar, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, and an AUX input, round out the features list. My Premier trimmed tester also came with a 360-degree camera system, accessible through an icon on the MyLink screen and when the transmission is placed in reverse. And since MyLink allows the user to rearrange icons much like an Apple iPhone, the camera icon can be placed within easy reach of the driver.

Inside the Competition

2017 Honda CR-V – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Honda CR-V – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Honda CR-V – Driven High Resolution Interior
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The 2017 Honda CR-V’s interior is an interesting mix of materials, angles, and storage compartments mixed together. The dash takes a second to soak in, but once learned, has intuitive controls within easy reach. Honda thankfully includes a volume knob over the ill-received volume slider. Still, a tuning knob would be great. The gauge cluster offers all the customary information, but in an interesting layout. Seating positions for all five occupants are high and upright, though reclining seatbacks for all positions makes getting comfortable easy. Interestingly enough, the CR-V somehow boasts more cargo room than the Equinox, mostly thanks to the extra vertical height afforded by the CR-V’s lower rear floor area. It has 39.2 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split bench and 75.8 cubic feet with it folded flat. Creature comforts include four USB ports, rear air vents, and tons of cubby holes.

Interior Dimensions

Honda CR-V Chevrolet Equinox
Headroom front/rear (Inches) 40.1/39.2 40.9/39.2
Legroom front/rear (Inches) 41.3/40.4 41.2/39.9
Cargo volume seats up/down (cu ft) 39.2/75.8 31.5/63.7

Drivetrain

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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The 2018 Chevy Equinox is available with three engines: the standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-four, and the 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel. Two transmissions are present: a six-speed automatic for the 1.5-liter and 1.6-liter turbodiesel and a nine-speed automatic for the 2.0-liter. Since the 2.0-liter and 1.6-liter won’t be available until later in 2017, my tester came with the 1.5-liter.

The 1.5-liter uses turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and variable valve timing to generate 170 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque while achieving an EPA-estimated 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined in the FWD Equinox. And though 170 horses don’t seem like much, the 2018 Equinox only weights 3,327 pounds in this configuration – a full 400 pounds lighter than a comparable Equinox from the previous generation. The Equinox is no Corvette, but the small turbo-four does a decent job at moving the crossover. Just don’t expect much passing power for two-lane roads. AWD is an optional extra available across the board.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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While the 1.5-liter isn’t a bad option, I’m greatly looking forward to the 1.6-liter turbodiesel. This is the same engine used in the Chevy Cruze turbodiesel. In this application, the all-aluminum turbodiesel makes 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. That is behind the 2.0-liter gasoline engine, but Chevy predicts the turbodiesel will achieve 40 mpg on the highway. That’s an impressive figure for a two-row crossover. It is interesting why Chevy doesn’t pair the turbodiesel with the nine-speed automatic. Obviously, the nine-speed is capable of handling more power; the 2.0-liter makes 20 pound-feet more torque than the turbodiesel. Weight shouldn’t be a major issue either, as both engines use aluminum blocks and cylinder heads. With three more gears, the nine-speed/turbodiesel combination would surely achieve even better than 40 mpg highway.

The 2018 Chevy Equinox rides on a unibody platform constructed from steel. Suspension wise, the front uses independent A-arms sprung with MacPherson struts. A direct-acting stabilizer bar helps reduce body roll in the corners. Out back is a four-link independent configuration with coil springs and dampers.

Honda CR-V LX Honda CR-V EX Chevrolet Equinox
Engine 2.4-liter In-Line 4-Cylinder 1.5-liter In-Line 4-Cylinder 2.4-liter I-4 DOHC VVT
Horsepower 184 HP @ 6,400 RPM 190 HP @ 5,600 RPM 182 HP @ 6,700 RPM
Torque 180 LB-FT @ 3,900 RPM 179 LB-FT @ 2,000-5,000 RPM 172 LB-FT @ 4,900 RPM
Transmission CVT CVT Hydra-Matic 6T45 six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (city/highway/combined) 26/32/28 28/34/30 21/31
Weight 3,307 Lbs 3,358 Lbs 3,764 Lbs

Behind the Wheel

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Interior High Resolution
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The Equinox will happily whisk you down a crowded city street or open highway.

The 2018 Chevy Equinox provides a rather relaxing ride. Get comfortable behind the tilting and telescoping steering wheel, and adjust the eight-way power seat and side mirrors, and the Equinox will happily whisk you down a crowded city street or open highway. The electronic steering system is mostly lifeless, but does remove most vibration from the road – something not desirable in a sports car, but welcomed in a family crossover. The wheel does translate messages from the front tires when aimed hard into a corner. Body roll is well managed for such a tall crossover. Bucking over expansion joints or washboard roads is nearly absent. While not floaty or soft, the suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps without making passengers seasick like grandpa’s Lincoln Town Car.

Long distance comfort is high thanks to supportive seats and plenty of legroom. Rear passengers get a surprising amount of legroom. Add that to the reclining seatbacks, heated outboard cushions, folding armrest, and HVAC vents, and fewer sibling fights over riding shotgun is a real possibility. Adults will find it plenty comfortable, too. Step-in height is exceptionally good, as well. The floor isn’t too high for kids to climb into and the seat height is positioned just right for older generations to simply slide in and out.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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The Equinox’s downfall is passing power. The 1.5-liter does a respectable job under normal driving conditions, but feels overly taxed when pushed hard. The six-speed automatic is also slow to downshift when more power is needed. Shifting manually isn’t the cure, either, as shifts take too long and are unrewarding. As such, I’m looking forward to sampling the 2.0-liter gasoline turbo-four and the 1.6-liter turbodiesel. Nevertheless, the Equinox isn’t a sports car or hot hatch. Don’t drive it like one and you won’t be disappointed. In fact, drive it calmly, and the 1.5-liter will easily reward with fuel economy very close to the EPA’s estimates. I averaged 27 mpg combined over 300+ miles of mixed driving. Another point of praise: the 1.5-liter does feature an automatic start/stop system designed to save fuel when temporarily stopped. The system is nearly unnoticeable with little vibration coming into the cabin on shut-downs and restarts. Unfortunately, there is no way to disable the system besides moving the shifter to L. Regardless, it’s one of the best start/stop systems I’ve sampled.

Powering the Competition

2017 Honda CR-V – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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Unlike the Chevy, Honda only offers one engine and transmission in the 2017 and 2018 CR-V – well one engine that’s worth talking about. The base LX trim gets the carry-over 2.4-liter four-cylinder. The rest of the trim lines get Honda’s 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with direct fuel injection and an all-aluminum construction. On paper, both Honda and Chevy’s engines seem evenly matched, but in reality, the Honda makes an impressive 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque. Thanks can likely be given to the Honda’s legendary i-VTEC valvetrain system. It curbs the four-cylinder’s thirst for 89-octrain fuel when cruising, but shifts camshaft profiles when the throttle is buried. The result is more power in the upper rev range.

As for the transmission, Honda uses a Continuously Variable Transmission. Gearbox snobs might scoff, but it is one of the best CVTs currently in production. Power is sent to the front wheels in the standard CR-V, or to all four wheels with the optional AWD option. Fuel economy in the FWD is rated at 28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined. Opt for the AWD, and the estimate falls to 27/33/29 mpg respectively. I’ve got to hand it to Honda here; the CR-V in FWD out-sips the 2018 Chevy Equinox by the EPA’s estimates.

Pricing

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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The 2018 Chevy Equinox starts at $24,525 for the base L trim level. The L isn’t completely devoid of features, though. It comes with keyless open and push-button starting, the 7.0-inch MyLink infotainment system with a rear-view camera and Wi-Fi hotspot, 17-inch aluminum wheels, and LED daytime running lights. Stepping up to the LS trim pushes the price to $26,455, but adds a compact spare tire (replacing tire goop), carpeted rear floor mats and an electronic compass. The LS also has the option for the available Interior and Exterior Protection Packages.

Moving up-market, the LT starts at $27,695 and adds HID headlights, a power driver’s seat, outside heated and adjustable side mirrors, mechanical release levers for the second-row bench, tinted glass, and a roof rack. Available options include the Confidence & Convenience Package and the Sun & Infotainment Package. Then there’s the Premier trim level. It starts at $31,735 and brings a slew of exterior and interior upgrades well worth the money. The optional package is the Driver Confidence Package, which includes rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot alert, and auto-dimming side mirrors.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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My tester came loaded with nearly every available option. The $3,320 Sun, Sound, & Navigation package cost the most, but also added quite a bit, including a power sunroof, 19-inch wheels, navigation, seven-speaker Bose audio system, and HD radio. The $1,895 Confidence & Convenience II Package adds both luxury and safety items. Those wanting active safety systems will want this package. It includes an eight-way powered front passenger seat, heated and vented front seats, a heated steering wheel, low-speed forward auto braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, Haptic Seat, Surround Vision camera system, and the IntelliBeam auto high-beam control. Add on the $895 destination charge, and my tester’s grand total comes to $36,900.

Chevrolet Equinox L FWD $24,525
Chevrolet Equinox LS FWD $26,455
Chevrolet Equinox LS AWD $28,205
Chevrolet Equinox LT FWD $27,695
Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD $29,445
Chevrolet Equinox Premier FWD $31,735
Chevrolet Equinox Premier AWD $35,380

Pricing for the Honda CR-V

2017 Honda CR-V – Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 705980

The 2017 Honda CR-V starts at $24,045 for the base LX in FWD with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder. The EX trim adds the 1.5-liter and features like Honda Sensing, Smart Entry, and the 7.0-inch infotainment system. The EX-L trim adds leather seating, a power lift gate, power seats, and other luxuries. The Touring trim includes nearly every available option, including the hands-free access lift gate, LED headlights, automatic wipers, and navigation. The Touring trim starts at $32,495 – just 8,450 more than the base LX trim. AWD can be added to any trim level for $1,300.

Honda CR-V LX (2WD) $24,045
Honda CR-V LX (AWD) $25,345
Honda CR-V EX (2WD) $26,795
Honda CR-V EX (AWD) $28,095
Honda CR-V EX-L (2WD) $29,295
Honda CR-V EX-L (AWD) $30,595
Honda CR-V EX-L W/ Navi (2WD) $30,295
Honda CR-V EX-L w/ Navi (AWD) $31,595
Honda CR-V Touring (2WD) $32,495
Honda CR-V Touring (AWD) $33,795

Other Competition

2017 Ford Escape

2017 Ford Escape
- image 655894
2017 Ford Escape
- image 706091

Ford revamped the Escape for 2017, giving this two-row crossover a striking new face with an upscale appearance and an interior to match. The latest in-dash and active safety systems are present, including Ford’s SYNC 3 system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Safety tech includes adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning and brake support, lane keeping assist, active park assist, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.

Like before, the Escape is offered with several engine choices. For 2017, there are three engines available: the carry-over 2.5-liter four-cylinder, a 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, and a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. Of course, the EcoBoost name means turbocharged power, so those engines kick out some respectable grunt. The 1.5-liter makes 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, while the 2.0-liter makes 245 horses and 275 pound-feet of twist. All three engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. FWD comes standard and AWD is optional.

Pricing starts at $23,750 for the base S trim with the forgettable 2.5-liter. The better-equipped SE starts at $25,250 and gets far more features, along with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost. The Titanium is the range-topping trim and features leather seating, remote start, blind spot monitoring as standard, and a 10-speaker audio system. It starts at $29,250. Opting for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost costs $1,245. And while those prices are rather reasonable, additional options quickly inflate the MSRP. Check all the boxes, and the price jumps to nearly $40,000.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

2018 Chevrolet Equinox – Driven Exterior High Resolution
- image 720264

The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a vast improvement over the outgoing model. Now in its third generation, the Equinox finally combines family-friendly with a touch of luxury and a healthy dose of technology. Add to that three available powertrains and the optional AWD system, and the Equinox can be built to suit any family’s needs and budget. Though it can get pricey with options, the Equinox is an honest crossover that doesn’t pull punches with useless features and outlandish styling. It’s simple yet refined, its styling is muted yet classy, and its creature comforts rank high among its competitors.

Personally, the Equinox found appeal within my household. We own a first-generation Chevy Cruze and could see the Equinox as an honest upgrade when that time comes. And most importantly, the Equinox met the wife’s approval.

  • Leave it
    • * Reserved design compared to competition
    • * 1.5-liter is only adequate
    • * Can get pricy with options
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