Hop in the redesigned Chevrolet Equinox SUV, and you may notice an “Eco” button ahead of the automatic gearshift. It comes in four-cylinder versions of the Equinox. In other cars, “Eco” or “Econ” buttons can limit A/C usage or, in the case of the Honda Insight and Toyota Highlander Hybrid, scale back accelerator sensitivity. The goal is the same: Improving fuel economy.
The Equinox’s example is one of the few such buttons we’ve seen in a non-hybrid that actually influences the way the engine and transmission react. Thanks in part to that button, GM and Chevy say the four-cylinder Equinox achieves an impressive EPA-estimated 32 mpg on the highway. Eco mode doesn’t come without a cost to the driving experience, though. At a press event last Friday near our Chicago offices, GM program engineering manager Doug Smith gave us a rundown.