ROAD TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
in a 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Oct 30, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Reed Berry After driving a number of smaller cars and, having made a recent visit to Southern California’s famed Santa Catalina Island (where the preferred method of transportation is a glorified golf cart known as an ‘autoette’), I’ve been looking forward to driving something a little bigger and more spacious. Sure, small cars are fun to drive and, during this time of high gas prices, you have to appreciate the fuel economy but from time to time it’s nice to drive something a little larger that makes you feel as though you belong on the road. The 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ is such a vehicle. The Equinox is a crossover vehicle, making it bigger than a car but smaller than a full-size SUV. It’s not the sportiest vehicle on the road, but it does have a rather attractive appearance with sleek roof rails and a big bold grille bearing the Chevrolet logo. A friend commented that it reminds him of the late Saturn Vue. While it doesn’t look exactly like a Vue, I do see a slight similarity that validates his unsolicited observation. Whenever I road test a vehicle, I try to take it through a variety of driving conditions. Driving around town in normal traffic gives me a feel for the vehicle, but taking it out on the open road really allows me to see what it’s all about. Therefore, I’m headed out through the Mojave Desert to an area that I haven’t visited since I was a kid: California City. You may be thinking either “where’s that?” or, if you’re familiar with the area, “but there’s nothing to do there.” We must, however, give credit where credit is due. Based on land area, California City is the third largest city in California and, according to Wikipedia, the 34th largest city in the U.S.
Along the way, I’m treated to a scenic drive that includes rolling hills and picturesque canyons. A highlight of today’s drive is Vazquez Rocks, a striking series of rock formations created by the activity of the San Andreas Fault. Legend has it that Vazquez Rocks got its name from a bandit (named Vazquez, not Rocks) that used the complex rock formations to avoid capture by law enforcement in the 1800s. Vazquez Rocks has been used as a filming location for dozens of television shows, including ‘Charmed’ and ‘NCIS’, and such movies as ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’ It also served as the town of Bedrock in the 1994 film ‘The Flintstones’ starring John Goodman and Rosie O’Donnell. Regardless of what awaits me at today’s destination, getting there is half the fun (if not more) in the comfort of the Equinox. Some crossovers and SUVs have a rather plain, impersonal look and feel but Equinox looks like a big, neatly appointed luxury car. Sliding into the comfortable perforated leather seats and placing my hands on the leather-wrapped steering wheel provides a favorable first impression. Quality materials and attention to detail give the interior a stylish appearance. As I start the vehicle, an animated graphic on the 7-inch touch screen greets me and reminds me that I am driving a Chevrolet. I’m on the road for a while. Fortunately, Equinox is equipped with a Pioneer premium 8-speaker sound system that sounds great and gives me a variety of entertainment choices from AM/FM broadcasts to crisp, clear satellite radio and, of course, a CD player (based on the popularity of iPods and smart phones, one must wonder when CD players will disappear from vehicles the same way in which cassette players and, at the risk of dating myself, 8-track tape players once did). For those of us that enjoy traveling with the latest audio entertainment, Equinox not only has an auxiliary input and USB port for plug-in devices, it also provides hands-free smart phone integration with the internet radio services Pandora and Stitcher.
Although I notice a slight hesitation as I accelerate, Equinox has ample power. It comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but my test vehicle is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6. While I have to assume the four-cylinder engine does a respectable job, I suggest shelling out the extra $1,500 for the V6. Sure, you’ll sacrifice fuel economy a bit, but a vehicle of this size offers extreme versatility. Whether you use it for your daily commute or load it up with passengers and cargo for the family vacation, the larger engine will ensure that you have plenty of power in any driving situation. The V6 is also a ‘must have’ if you plan to do any serious towing. Properly equipped, Equinox can tow up to 3,500 pounds. Making my way through Palmdale and into Lancaster, I enjoy a smooth ride and responsive handling. A six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive seems a winning combination, and Equinox for 2013 feels a little more confident on the road than did previous models. Thankfully, this vehicle doesn’t have the boxy, bouncy feel of some crossovers and SUVs. A stability control system with traction control further adds to the solid driving experience. Finding my destination is fairly easy thanks to the MyLink Infotainment system with navigation, an available option well worth the extra $795. In fact, aside from the nav system, the larger engine and big 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, all the comfort and convenience features on this model come standard—features such as remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, and a great looking exterior chrome package. The Equinox is also well-equipped with a variety of safety features from an anti-lock braking system and airbags throughout to a rear vision camera that will help you back safely.
Another nice feature on Equinox is the programmable power rear liftgate for easy access to the cargo area. After all, this is a crossover vehicle and, from time to time, you will want to avail yourself of the generous cargo space. There’s plenty of space as is but if you need more, Equinox is equipped with a Multi-Flex sliding rear seat with a 60/40 split. Simply slide it forward or fold the seats for additional cargo space. Upon arriving in California City, memories start to return as I enter an area I haven’t visited in four decades. I have wondered if anything will remain from my first visit that I will recognize, or if I’ll be venturing into totally unfamiliar territory after so much time has passed. The reason for the original visit with my family was because California City was to be developed into a super-city of the future and residents of L.A. were lured here to tour the area and purchase land. My parents wisely passed on the offer. The planned growth was not to be and an area once filled with visitors and an artificial lake alive with activity are now deserted. The only thing I recognize from my youth is a gazebo-type structure on the lake—very 1970s in design—which now has a rather cool retro look. Driving around town, I notice crumbling sidewalks, empty homes and a fairly large deserted, decomposing hotel that, according to locals, has remained in that condition, untouched and undeveloped, for two decades.
This road test has turned out to be rather bittersweet. While California City never turned into the developer’s dream destination and, in fact, has lost much of its original luster, it has made me realize that while progress here may not have been made, the vehicle I’m driving today serves as proof that some things do continue to progress and improve one’s quality of life. Today’s vehicles are more fuel efficient, more eco-friendly and, perhaps most importantly, safer than they have ever been. You can own a little piece of paradise. No, I’m not talking about a land parcel in a wannabe desert oasis, I’m referring to the environment created by a vehicle that perfectly suits and complements your lifestyle. Is Equinox such a vehicle? That’s for you to decide but, despite the fact that it’s a little pricier than similar vehicles in the competitive crossover market, the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ has the power, comfort and features to impress. For more information on Chevrolet products: chevrolet.com GM’s Blog: thefutureiselectric.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013 Chevrolet Equinox AWD LTZ Price: MSRP: $32,265 As Tested: $36,385 EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway): 16 city/23 highway (miles per gallon)
Engine type: 3.6-liter DOHC V6 SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection) engine Horsepower: 292 @ 6,800 rpm Torque: 258 @ 4,800 rpm Transmission type: 6-speed automatic Steering: Power-assist, electric-variable Brakes: 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes Wheels: 18” Chrome clad aluminum (17” wheels standard) Wheelbase: 112.5 inches Overall length: 187.8 inches Overall width: 72.5 inches (without mirrors) Overall height: 66.3 inches