Many people go to Nashville to listen to music, but if you are really lucky, you go to make music. Chevrolet made the latter happen for this guitar-playing auto writer and made a test drive of the new 2018 Equinox part of the bargain.
This Nashville trip coincided with the Country Music Awards, which Chevy sponsors as part of its long and deep association with music of all kinds. Consider that the first car to have a radio installed was a 1933 Chevy and that the brand is mentioned in more than 1,000 songs.
Our hotel was awash with celebrity bands — Earth, Wind & Fire, U2 to name just two — but we were focused on the Equinox, as we headed out for a drive on Tennessee’s bucolic back roads.
As Chevy’s second-best selling vehicle after the Silverado, the Equinox has sold more than 2 million units since its launch in 2005. Given the competitiveness of the booming compact-crossover segment, Chevy has executed a thorough redesign and engineering makeover for the 2018 Equinox.
Like other new models in the Chevrolet lineup, the Equinox has been on a diet, losing 400 pounds and five inches in overall length. These moves translate into a vehicle that immediately feels more dynamic and responsive than the previous generation Equinox.
The all-new body structure is much stiffer, which means the suspension has been tuned to provide tauter steering, less body-roll and a more agile feel through twists and turns.
Aside from the body redesign, the other big news for the 2018 Equinox is its engine lineup, which now adds GM’s first application of a 2-liter turbo four-cylinder, paired with a new nine-speed automatic. With 252 horsepower on tap, the latest powertrain combination provides a welcome boost over the 170-horse base 1.5-liter turbo. Diesel engine fans will be interested to know that a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel motor will be offered later this year.
The Equinox continues to offer all-wheel drive as an option but the system is now switchable, so fuel economy is improved when the driver disengages it.
Inside, the 2018 Equinox is dressed up with a new design, materials and driver-assistance features. The overall look and feel is best expressed in the Premier version, which sports contrasting leather trim to break up the standard sea-of-black-plastic dashboard. Front seats come with surprisingly firm side-bolsters, which are great when cornering, but may be a tad tight for larger occupants.
Pricing starts in the mid-$20s but quickly ramps up to the low-$40s for a well-equipped Premier AWD model.
Compared to the best of the competition in the segment, especially the Mazda CX-5, the Equinox has significantly raised its game, with a combination of new 2-liter powertrain, more responsive driving character and practical crossover features.
Our Equinox drive route concluded outside Nashville at Castle Studios, a famous recording facility that has hosted a who’s who of musicians, from Bob Dylan to Brad Paisley to Snoop Dogg. Frank Rogers, a renowned music-industry producer, was on hand to introduce me and five other auto writers and amateur musicians to the intricacies of professional-level studio recording.
A few hours later we emerged, having recorded a couple of songs and gained huge respect for the challenges involved in producing high-quality music.
Just like the car business, the technology and skills involved in the recording industry are impressive and daunting. Suffice to say, this auto writer had a blast in the studio, but I won’t be giving up my day job any time soon.
John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at email@example.com.