Chevrolet has caught a lot of flak over the past couple of decades for building boring cars. But that's only because a flash-in-the-pan 15 years of muscle car insanity gave customers lasting expectations. During the muscle car era, almost anything with a bow-tie logo on its grille could be ordered with a huge, tire-smoking V8.
For its part, Chevy can't be blamed for hanging on to that awesomeness as its milieu. Before introducing its legendary small block V8 in the 1950s, Chevy built dull, practical commuter cars. Ditto for the years following the OPEC embargo, only with reduced build quality. Today, the only cars the automaker builds to inspire excitement are the Corvette and the Camaro.
Luckily for Chevrolet and the millions of people who buy its vehicles, general dullness has been joined again by quality. Take the Chevrolet Equinox, for example. There's nothing about it that's legendary or awe-inspiring. One could even say it's more of a 2006 car than a 2016 car. But it stands as proof that boring doesn't necessarily mean bad. The Equinox is a solid car that does what's asked of it, providing capacious transportation in a comfortable, non-offensive package.
The exterior styling is clean. There's not much more to say about it. It doesn't stick its neck out in any way whatsoever - particularly in places where you're not likely to see too many BMWs and Porsches weaving madly in and out of traffic on the freeway. The bland Equinox blends right in with its surroundings.
In short, this is a perfect car for both FBI agents and the people trying to evade them.
The interior is generously proportioned, and the heated seats are supportive and comfortable. Controls, although a bit dated and not all that elegant compared to what's available in other cars on the market, are ergonomically-placed. The climate control system and heated seats worked great, and as with most American cars, the cupholders were top-notch. I popped out of a non-stop eight-hour drive feeling fresh as a daisy.
All that interior space also meant slightly bulbous exterior dimensions. While not all that long, the Equinox was a little difficult to parallel park and felt unwieldy in narrow alleys.
Equipped with all-wheel drive, the Equinox plowed through the worst sort of winter weather without problems. The 182-horsepower 4-cylinder engine performed adequately and the 6-speed automatic shifted smoothly. An engine with more torque would keep the engine from having to downshift so often on the highway, but with more power come fuel economy impacts. On my trip, the Equinox turned in fuel economy numbers in the mid-to-low 20s - not stellar, but not terrible for something with so much room inside.
New for 2016 - on the LT and LTZ models - are LED daytime running lights, projector-beam headlamps, blind zone and rear cross traffic warning indicators and a standard 7-inch touch screen. The "Hey stop now before you crash!" alarm was a nice touch that may have helped me avoid a collision in stop-and-go traffic. GM's infotainment system is relatively easy to use. Knobs for tuning and volume control were refreshing, as were the analog gauges in the instrument cluster (and I know I'm unique in appreciating that).
Will you be the coolest kid on the block driving an Equinox? No. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But it will get you, four passengers and almost 32 cubic feet of cargo (unless you get rid of three passengers and fold down the rear seats, in which case cargo volume goes up to 64 cubic feet) from point A to point B in comfort. This Chevrolet will never hold a candle to similarly-sized and more stylish offerings from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but it also won't cost nearly as much and isn't likely to get stolen. You might also be able to find a deal when GM offers one of its periodic "we built too many cars" incentives.
Besides, if you think it's hip to be square, this may be exactly what you're looking for.
By the numbers: 2016 Chevrolet Equinox AWD LTZ
MSRP: $34,755 (estimated price as tested, includes $895 destination charge)
Power and drive wheels: 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower 4-cylinder; all-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 20/29 city/highway mpg
Safety: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/chevrolet/equinox-4-door-suv IIHS Top Safety Pick; Four-star (out of five) government crash test rating
In showrooms: Now