Archive | October, 2009

2010 Porsche Panamera Unveiling

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On Tuesday evening Carousel Porsche had a private unveiling of the new for 2010 Panamera sedan. This is the first sedan from Porsche and boy did they work hard on this. The sedan has been the center of a lot of controversy both during development and during the launch. The car is all new for Porsche, a true sedan with a front mounted engine and rear or all wheel drive. Featuring a once choice transmission of the new PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) which is Porsche’s dual clutch transmission. True Porsche fans were devastated when the Cayenne was launched as the first SUV in the history of Porsche. The purists said it was too far from true Porsche roots. Truth of the matter is that in the right iteration the Cayenne is every bit a Porsche, well as much as a SUV could be. Funny thing happened though, the Cayenne became the best selling Porsche. The Panamera is again having the purists again crying and saying a four door sedan is can not be a true Porsche.

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The front view of the Panamera is great looking. The styling department really put a lot of Porsche DNA in the front end. Looking like a over sized 911, you can see the family resemblance right away. The rear styling is what has people both car aficionados and non a buzz. The rear…well some have called it a hunch back some call it plain ugly. I will say this, in person it truly does look a lot better then in pictures. I can definitely see Porsche DNA in the rear and it is growing on me, though I still would not call its svelte. Function definitely won over form here. A six foot adult will feel more then comfortable for a cross country jaunt in the back. That will not be the case for one of the main competitors the upcoming Aston Martin Rapide. The Rapide has a more form over function approach to the rear seat occupants which limits the rear headroom and legroom. Porsche wanted no compromises inside the Panamera and boy did they win on that note.

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The interior is just gorgeous. Yes it is true, there are a lot of buttons on the center console but they are all grouped together by what they control so it is quite easy to learn where each is if you break it up into quadrants. The car is swathed with leather all over the place and the seats are definitely up to keeping you planted while putting down the power. Speaking of power you have two engine choices both featuring direct injection. The base engine is a 4.8 liter V8 putting out 400 hp and 369 lb-ft and if that is not enough power you can step up to the same engine with twin turbos slapped onto it and that will bring power up to 500 hp and 516 lb-ft. The base car is rear wheel drive and has a base price of $89,800 while stepping up to the 4S model that features all wheel drive will set you back $93,800. The twin turbo, the range topping model which only comes in all wheel drive, starts at $132,600. I took a quick test drive in both a regular Panamera 4S and a 4S model that had the sport package which featured both active suspension and dual mode exhaust. Both drives were very short but there is no question this car is a true Porsche. Check the video below for my initial driving impressions. Stay tuned for a first drive review in the near future.

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2010 BMW 5-series GT Unveiling

2010 5-series Gran Turismo

2010 5-Series Gran Turismo

On Friday night Motorwerks BMW in Minneapolis had a private unveiling of the all new for 2010 5-Series Gran Turismo.  The car was a prototype build and thus was not for sale.

Unveiling

Unveiling

The car will be an all new model for BMW when it arrives on this side of the Atlantic in the spring.  Riding on the 7-Series platform this car is truly large.  The rear seats can move fore and aft to increase rear leg room or rear storage.  The rear end features a trick hatch/tailgate that can be opened two ways.  In trunk mode the rear will open with a stubby trunk lid and the inside of the car is still sealed not letting heat or cool air in or out.  For larger items the rear can be opened in hatch mode where the whole rear end opens and is more exposed to the elements.

Rear opened in trunk configuration

Rear opened in trunk configuration

Rear opened in hatch configuration

Rear opened in hatch configuration

Styling of the 5-Series Gran Turismo foreshadows the upcoming all new 2010 5-Series.  The interior is probably close to a spot on copy of the next generation 5-Series while the exterior front is close and the rear obviously the styling will be slightly different adapted for a sedan.  The styling is obviously reflective of the new 7-Series with a blunt front end and BMW double kidney grills.  I over heard many people excited about this car and I am sure it will be a huge hit for BMW.  The fact is there is no real direct competitor currently.  This is a whole new niche that, for the moment BMW has all to itself.  I am sure that will not last long and the long awaited and rumored Audi A7 could end up being a direct hatchback competitor.  This car is already had a few reviews done on it in Europe and the one thing that kept coming up was the frameless windows.  Without full door frames wind noise at high speeds or even highway speeds could seep into the cabin.  I will have to wait for a road test to see how that is dealt with but it is something of note.  Price is not finalized at this time though I heard numbers of around or over $65k being thrown around quite a bit in the crowd though that is just hearsay definitely not legitimate numbers given by BMW.  Stay tuned for a road test in the future of this segment bending vehicle.

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Officially Official- The Lexus LF-A is finally here

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Lexus finally took the wraps off the new LF-A super car this week at the Tokyo Motor show.  This car has been in development since approximately 2000 and the amount of man hours put into this project is staggering.  Most of the leaks, when it comes to specifications, were spot on if not close.  The car will be rear wheel drive with an all in house developed V10 engine sitting up front.  That V10 is a 4.8- Liters making 562 hp and 354 lb-ft will rocket the car 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.  Lexus says the top speed is 202 mph which is super car territory and tops that of many competitors.  Weighing in at 3,263 lbs, it is rumored that weight distribution is 48/52 front-to-rear which would explain why Lexus is boasting about the driving dynamics.  Another tidbit of awesomeness on this cake is the redline is a staggering 9000 rpm!  That helps explain the F1 sound coming from the LF-A flying around the Nurburgring all these years.  The inside is luxurious for a sports car and it has a trick gauge cluster.  The whole speedometer is digital.  When you hit redline the whole background turns red.

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Last night on #carchat we had a open discussion about this car and it seems many people do not like it.  Keep in mind we are not the customer Lexus is going after with this vehicle.  Most of us are not rich and could not afford the $375,000 price tag associated with ownership.  The majority said it was ugly and that for the money they would rather buy other cars.  Many mentioned cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette Zr1 or the Nissan GT-R for the price and performance.  Fact is those aren’t exclusive cars when compared to this car, though they are both halo cars for each brand and in that regard they are similar to the LF-A.  I was definitely in the minority and thought it was a good looking car and truly love the sound of the V10 at full tilt from the videos leaked.  I feel the LF-A is definitely not a screaming value then again with only 500 units being made this will be a exclusive car.  The fact remains that while the price puts this car deep in super territory where the elite compete such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and others, what separates this car from those.  The separation comes with what Toyota/Lexus does best, reliability.  Super cars are not known for being super reliable.  This could be a new way to compete.  Without question Lexus/Toyota will be taking a loss on each car after all the years of development.  Then again can you put a price on a halo car that truly puts your brand in the spotlight with a super car even for a moment?  Lexus has not had a sports car nor a halo car to speak of.  Toyota just announced recently they want to be building fun cars again that stir the soul of the driver.  While that is not what they are currently known for this car might put a pulse to that statement.

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Check this video by Lexus/Toyota listen to that engine.

Review- 2010 GMC Terrain

2010 GMC Terrain

2010 GMC Terrain

Many people have asked me why Pontiac and Saturn are being killed and GMC gets to live.  To many on the outside it does not make perfect sense though the answer is quite simple.  GMC makes money while Pontiac and Saturn do not.  The response I got to that was about how GMC products are mostly rebadged Chevrolet products so how can they make money.  Again a simple answer with two parts.  GMC is not really cross shopped with Chevrolet according to GM.  Also GMC is aimed to be one step above Chevrolet “offering more premium content then Chevy” according to Annalisa Bluhm who works for GM, so that means slightly higher base prices.

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The last generation Chevrolet Equinox had a brother and it was the Pontiac Torrent which was about as class competitive as the last generation Equinox was, which was not very.  With Pontiac dead and gone spreading the development costs of the new Equinox with another vehicle was key.  GMC has been successful with the Lambda based Acadia and thus it was logical to make the new Equinox’s brother a GMC.  The new 2010 Terrain, moves GMC into a new segment and gives another vehicle to add to the now empty Pontiac showroom floor space.

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Being the brother to the Equinox has its advantages.  The interior of the new Equinox is already more then class competitive it is class leading and so changes were not really necessary to compete in this area.  With a few upgraded materials here and there and some different graining and texture on some dash panels the interior was a nice place before the switch from Chevrolet to GMC.  The exterior styling is what really differentiates the Terrain from the Equinox.  With bold, blocky, in your face looks, the Terrain is much more controversially styled then the Equinox.  With a blunt front end and squared off fenders, the Terrain is much less curvaceous and soft compared with the Equinox.  The huge overly exaggerated fender flares continue this blocky bold styling down the side and towards the rear.  Speaking of the rear again much blockier and more bluntly styled then the Equinox.  The styling seems to be a love it or hate it with everyone having a opinion.  Many people on Twitter seem to thing this is not a good looking rig with one person even saying they thought it was the ugliest vehicle on the road today.  I would not personally go that far but it is definitely in your face and styled differently.

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During the Terrain’s stay this week I had a road trip down to Hudson, IA to visit some friends and family.  With the cruise control set the Terrain was a comfortable highway cruiser lugging along at 75mpg I was averaging 26.3 mpg.  It is worth noting that it was chilly here during the trip and this probably affected the gas milage slightly.  The Terrain utilizes the same exact engine choices as the Equinox either the 2.4L four cylinder or the optional 3.0L V6 both engines are feature great new technology.  Utilizing VVT (variable valve timing) and direct injection both these engines are class leading in gas milage ratings.  The Terrain I had was rated at 20/29 mpg due to the all wheel drive.  Without the all wheel drive ratings would have been 22/32 mpg.  The Terrain also utilizes the great six speed automatic used in the Equinox.  Since I had the four cylinder it had the “eco” button which changes shift points. The Terrain drove smoother and I enjoyed the way the transmission worked while in eco mode much more then when not.  According to GM eco mode earns you one mile per gallon more in gas milage.

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The Terrain I had was a SLE2 with a few option packages including the convenience package, trailering equipment package, cargo management package, and 18″ machined aluminum wheels.  The sticker price on this particular vehicle was $29,630.  This vehicle was far from stripped yet is only one step above the base SLE with a few option packages.  The convenience package put in heated seats which were great when the temperature dipped into the low 30’s during the week. Also in that package was the remote vehicle start which again was great when the temperatures got into the 30’s.  Bluetooth was another great standard feature in this particular vehicle.  In this writers opinion bluetooth should be standard in every car for safety reasons.  Many cars have fog lights but not many do much for the driver.  The fog lights on the Terrain surprised me adding a lot of extra light on the ground in front of you.  Much more then you would expect especially considering how tiny they are.

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At the end of the day we have a platform mate to the Equinox.  It is more controversially styled and is priced about $1,810 more in base price.  I feel the styling is good but then again I think the Mercedes Benz GLK is good looking and that thing is a chiseled block, so blocky does not bother me.  With a premium look and feel this classy vehicle has what it takes to beat the competition.  The looks are polarizing which gets you noticed and that is exactly what GM needs for the GMC Terrain, people noticing it.  Like the Equinox with better fuel economy and overall execution then the main competition mainly Toyota Rav4 and Honda CR-V the Terrain is a great option in a crowded segment.  My recommendation, if the Equinox is not your taste in style check the Terrain before you look else where.

EuroCars Oktober Fest

2This Saturday EuroCars will be hosting their annual OktoberFest.  They have a few rare cars among their already nice inventory.  Notable cars that will be in the showroom include a Noble M400, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, a tricked out Acura NSX, and an Audi S8 and a Porsche 911 C4S.  Along with these they also carry other European (and Japanese) makes and models that will be on hand and for sale.  More then just cars, this event will have authentic German food, beer, and other assorted beverages.  They will be giving away Minnesota Vikings tickets and car detailing packages during the event.  Attendance is free and I think it will be a good time for all.  Bring the family and take a stroll through the showroom while eating some great food and meeting new people.

The LF-A is finally coming!

LF-A from 2006 Chicago Auto Show

LF-A from 2006 Chicago Auto Show

Lexus has been teasing us with the LF-A concept for years in the auto show circuit. One year it was even a convertible version. It is finally time for the car to come to fruition. On October 21 Lexus will announce details on the production intent LF-A. Rurmors say that the production name end up as the LF-L though LF-A could still stick. Recently the car has been sighted testing on the Nurburgring in what is believed to be final production trim. The cars in the below pictures are barely wearing camouflage. Many rumors have been pegged the price anywhere from $200,000 to $400,000. This will be the first super car from Lexus and the competition is stiff. Sitting in the class with Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, Aston Martin’s, among others, means this car better deliver especially after this much time in development. Other rumors have mentioned the chassis which might be made of carbon fiber which would keep the weight hopefully under 3,500 pounds. It has been recently confirmed that it will be powered by a all new in house developed V10 pushing around 550 hp to the rear wheels. The transmission will probably be similar to the one in Nissan’s GT-R, a dual clutch automatic. The benefit of such a transmission is it can shift faster than a human could. That said it takes out some of the engagement of driving a sports car in this writers opinion. Recently a video was taken of the car leaving a gas station in Germany outside the Nurburgring. When the driver pulled out of the gas station he wasted no time in dipping into the the power and taking off. The crackle of the V10 is seriously reminiscent of a F1 car. See the video below. More details to come after the 21st until then I leave you with this video crank up your speakers because this is the first you’ll truly hear the crackle of Toyota/Lexus’s first super car V10!

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Review- 2010 Chevrolet Camaro

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

Forget the auto shows, the public at large knows the new 2010 Camaro as the star of Transformers, Bumblebee and that is not a bad thing.  Chevrolet needs an Autobot to help the tarnished name and increase revenue.  Stirring the pot is not the only thing the new Camaro is doing.  Consider this, since it has gone off the market the evil enemies known as Decepticons have landed and are known as the newest iteration of the Ford Mustang and the new Dodge Challenger.  The Camaro has been off the market since 2002 which I must say feels a lot longer then 8 years.  With slowing sales and lack of interest the car was pulled from the line up.  They say you always want what you can not have and that is obviously the case here.  The new Camaro has beat both the Dodge Challenger and the Ford Mustang in sales for the past four months straight.

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The new muscle car wars are in full swing and everyone seems to be bringing the big guns.  The all new Camaro is full on retro with improvements of the 21st century.  With independent rear suspension and a wide stance the Camaro actually handles well.  That said it is not a light car, it could stand to go on a diet and lose a few hundred pounds.  Driving through the country side on twisty winding roads this car handled with little to no body roll.  When I attended the Product and Technology event put on by GM, I test drove a Camaro equipped with a V8 and a manual transmission.  While hustling that car around the track it was even more evident it needs to go on a diet, though the car was predictable and completely under control.  Turning off the traction control allows for effortless burnouts whether in a V6 or V8.  This car is built on a shortened Zeta platform which was shared with the now deceased but still awesome Pontiac G8.

3.6L Direct Injection V6

3.6L Direct Injection V6

The new Camaro comes with two engine options.  For the first time in history the V6 in a muscle car can not be called a “secretary special”.  The Base engine is a direct injection V6 with variable valve timing.  Putting out 304 hp and 273 lb-ft this V6 is technologically advanced and powerful.  The SS with the  V8 will net you 426 hp and 410 lb-ft with the manual transmission (400 hp and 410 ft-lb when equipped with a automatic).  The car I had was equipped with the V6 and the optional automatic.  The V6 was actually enough engine in this car.  The V6 engine sound is similar to that of the new Nissan 370z which is not bad company to be in.  Do not fret I have not gone soft I would still purchase the V8, though I might pause for a mere second and think about the V6.  With less weight over the front wheels, the V6 has slightly better balance.  The automatic was actually good and was consistent with keeping the engine on boil when left in sport mode.  The paddle shifters were almost useless considering how good a job the sport mode did though still fun to play with.  When driving in normal drive mode the engine is refined and easy to drive around town.  Rated at 18/29 mpg the V6 with the automatic is definitely not your typical gas guzzler rather a great highway cruiser.

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The interior of the new Camaro has many retro throw back cues from the 60’s.  With switch gear not shared with other Chevrolets it is nice to have a car that is not all parts bin.  The climate control switch gear is all Camaro exclusive as is the gauges.  The radio is similar to other new cars from GM but really it is different as well.  With a high belt line you feel like you are sitting low in a bunker with a slit cut out for the windshield.  The windshield base is at your eye level so looking out you see the the huge expanse of hood in front of you and then it just drops off.  Visibility could be better. This vehicle could really use a back up camera similar to that one in the new Equinox which integrates the screen into the rear view mirror.  The interior is great looking though I wish there was more use of soft touch plastics.  I would not knock the Camaro too much for the interior, for me the design outweighs the feel and there is a ton of retro cues in the design.  For me the interior is a win.

IMG_0666The Camaro I had was a 2LT which means it was pretty loaded up.  Optional equipment outside of the 2LT package included 21 inch tire and wheel package #2, ground effects package, RS package, six speed automatic transmission with remote vehicle start, and body-color painted engine cover.  The wheel and tire package while they looked great they were $4680!  That seems ridiculously priced when compared to aftermarket wheels and tires.  I think GM needs to re-evaluate the price on that option package.  The ground effects package, RS package are both great options that really finish off the cars styling.  I can not invest a body-color painted engine cover for $285.  I would say while I personally would buy a manual transmission in this car, the automatic in this car is not bad, it is still a sports car and I am a car guy.  The sticker on the car I had with all the options and packages was $37,345.

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The Camaro is back and for a week I pretended I had my own bumblebee.  Though Megan Fox never did show up I have to say the car rocks all the same.  With more then acceptable gas milage, great sounding engine this car makes sense once again.  It is no real wonder why GM can not make enough, the public at large wants what they could not have.  The question is where is the future for this car?  I truly hope they keep up and do not let the car get stale in years to come.  If you are in the market for a sports car I would definitely take a spin in the new Camaro, that is if you can find one to get your hands one.

Cars & Café- October 3, 2009

Audi/BMW Section

Audi/BMW Section

Once a month a magical event called Cars & Café where car guys gather to gawk at cars and drink coffee.  On the first Saturday of the month from early spring to late fall this event is held at the Auto MotorPlex in Chanhassen, MN.  Normally 400 to 500 cars show up with some being on site already stored in garages.  There are set parking assignments based on the cars origin.  This month’s event happened to be a mere 49 degrees and drizzling rain.  This is not the opportune weather for such a event and because of that the turn out was closer to 100 cars then 500.  I heard people calling the turn out everything from “weak” to “terrible”.  I personally was happy even with 100 cars though obviously would have preferred 500.

Parking Assignment Diagram

Parking Assignment Diagram

Ford Mustang with the BMW identity crisi

Ford Mustang with the BMW identity crisis

There are a good variety of cars that show up to this event and this month’s was no different.  Everything from the Ford Mustang with the BMW identity crisis to the Porsche with the Chevrolet small block V8 with supercharger as the engine.  Nothing truly seemed out of the ordinary here.  Coffee and doughnuts were provided by the sponsors.  I even caught Kevin Tan, pulling in.  Kevin owns the new European automotive shop in town called Imola Motorsports.  Also of note, Imola Motorsports is one of the various sponsors of Cars & Café.  Many of the garages at the complex are dreamy to say the least.  With car lifts, full kitchens in some, not to mention they are fully customizable to suit the owner.  The Auto Motorplex is one sweet place to be.  My buddy brought his Honda S2000 and I took our 1990 Nissan 300zx.  Of course the cold drizzle and sloppy roads made all the cars quite a mess once at the event.

Porsche with Chevrolet small block engine and supercharger

Porsche with Chevrolet small block engine and supercharger

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Blue on Blue Ferrari

Free and open to the public you do not even need to own a car worthy of being shown.  Many people come to be around car guys and look at the cars.  Parking is available right outside the gates.  The people that come whether with a car to show or not, are everything from the true car enthusiasts to people that just like to look at cool cars not to mention kids.  The first Saturday of November will be the last one for the 2009 season weather depending.  Between the coffee and the cars you should definitely check out Cars & Café.  My guess is with the weather the way it was today I will be done for this season.  Until next years Cars & Café……

My father and my 300zx with my buddies S2000

My father and my 300zx with my buddies S2000

My buddy with his one ticket and 4 warnings on the way home...priceless.

My buddy in his S2000 with his 1 ticket and 4 warnings on the way home...priceless

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Pantera

Pantera

Deloreans

DeLoreans

Note- For all the pictures check out my Flickr stream. My Flickr Stream

Review- 2010 Chevrolet Equinox

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

Many of my friends scoffed at me when I said General Motors is really making a come back. In fact most of my friends will not consider buying a American car due to the damage they have done to themselves over the last decade. This is all changing and the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox is big step in that fight.

The previous generation Equinox was barely class competitive and was no where near best in class in any area. The fact remains that for a time most of this did not matter and vehicles sold. While the previous generation Equinox sold Chevrolet was no longer satisfied having just another entry into the compact SUV market. Enters the new 2010 Chevrolet Equinox. This completely redone Equinox is not only class competitive, its class leading! Coming to market the main talking point is this new Equinox has class leading gas mileage. The exterior has great styling with real flair. The front has jelly bean like headlights and a dual port grill like the new Malibu. The side of the vehicle has a side spear going from the front fender back to the rear tail lights.

The new Equinox is available with two engine options both feature direct injection and both are tied to a six speed automatic transmission. The 2.4 liter 4 cylinder pumping out 182 HP all while achieving 22/32 mpg in front wheel drive is the real banner story! Those mileage ratings on for the front wheel drive variant while I had the all wheel drive variant which is rated at 20/29 mpg. I averaged around 18.5 mpg with a mix of city and city/hwy driving. While the 4 cylinder is powerful enough for most daily tasks those wanting more power a V6 is available putting out 264 HP With V6 the mileage ratings drop to 18/25 in front wheel drive and 17/24 in all wheel drive. Both engines are capable of towing with a max of 1500 lbs for the 4 cylinder and 3500 lbs with the V6. The 4 cylinder has a eco button that when pressed will help achieve one mile per gallon better fuel economy. When in eco mode the torque converter locks up quicker and the shift points move. I really did not see a difference in fuel economy though I felt the transmission shifted smoother while in eco mode.

General Motors for the longest time has been no where near class competitive in the interior department. Most have been travesties. It is obvious to me that designers spent a lot of time on this vehicle. The interior is really as class leading as the engine choices. While most panels are hard to the touch they look great and in this class that is what counts. The competitors also have hard panels but everything you actually come in contact with in the Equinox is nice to the touch. The interior at night lights up like something from Tron. The vehicle I had was equipped with cloth seats and they are something of a airy mesh that is quite interesting. The seats are firm and comfortable. I liked the material used on the seats. The Equinox I had was a 1LT with the only option being a back up camera for $320. The screen for the review view camera was integrated into the rear view camera on the left hand side. When in reverse the left hand side of the review mirror becomes a screen.

In a class lead by Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav4 the new Chevrolet Equinox should be putting those two competitors on notice. The Equinox both drives and looks like a breath of fresh air in the an all too boring segment. Chevrolet is pricing the new Equinox as aggressively as it is restyled, starting at $23,185 and topping out around $35,000. This vehicle is gone from barely class competitive to being segment leader in every category as far as I am concerned. With a class leading interior and very competitive pricing, the great fuel economy and high tech engines are icing on the delicious cake. I would recommend this vehicle over anything else in its class to anyone. The bottom line is this, if you are in the market for a small to midsize crossover SUV and you do not test drive the new Equinox you are doing yourself a big disservice.