Monday, July 11, 2016

Chevy: Still building shit.

This weekend I had the misfortune to drive a Chevy Equinox LT AWD on a 900 mile round trip to Vegas and back and let me just say this: it's amazing to me that Chevy even still exist as a brand if this is what they're offering. Who, exactly, is buying this crap? I mean - who, apart from rental companies? I'm wondering if Chevy realize it's 2016 or if they think it's still the mid 1970's?
The model I was driving was a 2016 version with 20,000 miles on it - essentially a new car. According to the Chevy website, the slogan for this car is "love the journey" and with the trim level in the vehicle I was in, it starts just shy of $30,000. Let me tell you, that's $30,000 too much for this pile of shit.
Where to start? The engine maybe? Ok let's talk about the engine. It was a rental, so it had the 2.4L engine which Chevy claim has 182hp/172lbft of torque with a kerb weight of 3788lbs. My daily driver - a Range Rover Evoque - has 240hp and 250lbft of torque from an engine that is 400cc smaller and even though the Evoque weighs 200lbs more, it drives like an actual car. The Equinox drives like the Queen Mary. The engine is slow to respond and wooden, and it's connected to the accelerator pedal via twitter. Bolted to the back of the engine is a thoroughly 1970's 'Murican-built automatic slushbox. Honestly I thought the days of this sort of transmission were long gone. Over the last 16 years, the automatic boxes in my Subarus, Hondas, VWs and Range Rover have all been excellent. The Equinox appears to have a bowl of loose custard for a transmission. With the cruise control set at 80mph, even the slightest hill caused the box to change down. Get on to a steep hill and it kicked down to fourth. Get on to a canyon road and it kicked down to third. So I spent a good portion of the journey to Vegas and back with this fucking thing in third gear, screaming at over 7000rpm and still losing speed going uphill. It's the only car I've driven where a gearbox kickdown results in a lot of noise but no appreciable gain in torque or speed.
It's actually dangerous. When you pull out to overtake, the engine can't muster enough power to accelerate so you end up crawling past the vehicle in front. This isn't too bad on a freeway where everyone is going the same direction but if you were trying to do this on a two-lane road, overtaking a slower vehicle into oncoming traffic, it would be suicidal.
The end result of all this is that this vehicle managed an average of just 19mpg on the freeway. Chevy claim 31mpg on their website, and even accepting that that figure is unachievable, you'd think it might be in the high 20's - something like 25-26mpg. But no - 19mpg. 31mpg is an outright lie and is completely unachievable.
What about the rest of it? The brakes are wooden - and I think that's being kind. They're hard and have no feel to them. The brake assist system is vague meaning you need far more pedal pressure than you'd imagine to get the brakes to engage, and once they do, the brake response is woefully underpowerd for a car of this weight.
The suspension is boaty and vague, making the ride soft and wallowy, adding to the Queen-Mary-like driving experience. The horrible engine, the heavy car, heavy brakes and heavy steering ultimately mean you should stay away from corners at all costs.
The interior is bland and plastic, and not good plastic, but hard, brittle plastic that squeaks and rattles and is offensive to touch. The steering wheel is too big (and connected to a horrendously overpowered power steering system), the rest of the controls are too small and have the added bonus of all being in the wrong place (indicators are where wipers should be and vice versa). The driver's left-side elbow rest (on the door) is solid, unpadded plastic, making it uncomfortable to use on long journeys. The right side (center console) rest is too far back so you can't use it for support at all. The interior is covered in shiny silver plastic and chrome meaning that any amount of sunlight finds something to reflect off. The instrument binnacle is a genius piece of design that does nothing other than reflect the back of the steering wheel if there's any daylight at all. The picture below shows the best-case scenario of what I could see for 900 miles. When the sun came out strong, the reflections were worse than this and the instruments were completely unreadable.
The multimedia system is user-hostile with an interface designed by a blind person. The Bluetooth connectivity is sketchy and tends to forget what device it's connected to on a random basis, forcing you to re-pair devices mid-journey. The backup camera looks like a Super NES game.
I'd like to say the redeeming feature is the way it looks, but it looks like the Chevy designers (and I use the word 'designers' lightly) just threw a lump of clay on the floor and said "that's perfect - add some wheels and we're done".
Overall this car was obviously designed by people who hate cars, for people who hate driving. I can see how it would be an enticing vehicle for someone who works from home so their commute involves never getting into this spiteful piece of engineering. But for anyone else? There's no way any sentient human would willingly buy this.
This leaves me with a slight fear over the Chevy Bolt - their all-electric car that - until this point - I was quite looking forward to. I'm not so sure now. I mean it looks great from the outside but if the inside and the mechanicals are being put together by the same people that are making the Equinox, the Bolt could be terrible.
Which would be sad, because it has the potential to be great.
Chevy's slogan for the Equinox is "Love the journey". Counterpoint: I fucking hated the journey. The journey was the worst part of the weekend thanks to Chevy. This vehicle needs to die in a fire.