MUSKOGEE, Okla. -- Just west of Muskogee on the Oklahoma prairie, we're cruising along U.S. 62 in the comfortable driver's bucket of Chevrolet's Equinox crossover utility vehicle.
Stretching more than 15 feet long and six feet wide, this slippery wagon rides on a stretched platform with two doors on each flank of the elongated cabin and a hatchback lid at the tail.
It wears chiseled sheetmetal with a muscular bulge ringing each wheel but elegant decorative appointments.
Focal point is the bold front-end carved in smooth lines of a sculpted block with a sharp rake to the windshield and down-sloping hood, and a single-bar grille with mesh inserts and oversized corner headlamp clusters.
The nameplate of Equinox -- a word referring to that moment in spring and fall when day and night are equal and the world is in perfect balance -- seems appropriate for Chevrolet's compact-class CUV because it strikes a balance as a car-based vehicle which resembles a sleek sport utility wagon but functions like a family-friendly minivan and drives like an easy-riding sedan.
Equinox blends the best traits of a traditional SUV -- such as the tall stance and spacious cabin with flexible seating and generous cargo capacity -- with favored traits of a tightly constructed sedan, as it's easy to enter the low-rise cabin, easy to maneuver the vehicle around town in traffic and easy to park it on a crowded lot.
Equinox is constructed with an integral body-frame structure which compares to a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car rather than the conventional SUV's rear-wheel-drive (RWD) body-on-frame truck platform.
A fully independent suspension features struts up front with tuned coil springs and direct-acting stabilizer bar. In back Equinox totes a 4-link design with coil springs and trailing arm, a stabilizer bar and hydraulic link bushings.
Steering is a rack and pinion design with variable assistance. An electric power steering (EPS) system replaces an hydraulic apparatus with the base 4-cylinder engine.
Brakes include a large disc at every wheel with linkage to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus StabiliTrak, GM's electronic vehicle skid control system.
Trims for the 2015 CUV line up as the Equinox LS, LT (LT1 and LT2), and LTZ.
GM brings two high-tech engines to the 2015 Equinox featuring dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
The transaxle is a fuel-saving Hydra-Matic 6-speed electronically controlled automatic. The Hydra-Matic 6T45 mates with the 4-cylinder engine and the Hydra-Matic 6T70 applies to the V6.
Standard plant for all three trims is the Ecotec 2.4-liter cast aluminum 4-in-line engine which develops 182 hp at 6700 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4900 rpm.
The federal EPA sets fuel economy numbers for this Equinox powertrain at 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway with FWD, or 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with AWD.
Optional engine for Equinox LT or LTZ is a cast aluminum 3.6-liter V6 which punches out 301 hp at 6500 rpm and 272 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm.
With the V6 aboard, EPA fuel economy scores amount to 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with FWD, or 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway with AWD gear.
The optional AWD device for Equinox is always engaged and uses a computer to determine how much power to apply at each wheel for maintaining tire traction on slippery roads.
Plan for the 5-seat cabin pitches a pair of comfortable bucket seats on the cockpit row separated by a floor-mounted console. A bench seat on the second row splits and folds and also slides fore and aft by eight inches to vary legroom.
Cargo space in Equinox is also good. With the rear bench up, the flat-floored cargo bay has 31.5 cubic feet of stow room. With the back bench folded down, the bay expands to 63.7 cubic feet.
Chevrolet establishes MSRP figures as low as $24,370 for Equinox LS FWD and $26,120 for Equinox LS AWD.