Reviews

2016 Chevrolet Equinox Driving Impressions

With its car-like unibody design, the Chevrolet Equinox offers a controlled if somewhat gruff driving experience. It leans a bit in turns, but body motions are kept in check. Like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, Equinox drives like a tall car, not a heavy SUV.

The brakes are easy to modulate, and the electric power steering that comes with the four-cylinder engine is light and somewhat numb. The V6 gets hydraulic steering that is a little more direct, but all models are rather noisy. Road and engine sounds can intrude on conversation, and we noticed some body drumming over washboard surfaces. Most of Chevrolet’s latest offerings are more refined.

The ride, however, is quite good. With the standard 17-inch wheels, the Equinox absorbs even sharp bumps without disrupting passenger comfort. The available 18-inch wheels also provide a comfortable ride, even on rough Midwestern streets. We haven’t tried the 19s, but we suspect they will offer more road feel without being too harsh. Models with the V6 get dual-flow front dampers that help the ride on rough surfaces, and also firm up to help improve handling through steady-state curves.

The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine benefits from direct fuel injection, which improves both power and fuel economy. It provides usable power from a stop and on the highway, and it also offers decent passing punch. Chevrolet quotes a 0-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds for a front-wheel drive model, which is respectable for a four-cylinder-powered vehicle of this size. The 2.4-liter engine is rated at 182 horsepower at 6700 rpm and 172 pound-feet of torque at 4900 rpm.

Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg City/Highway on an Equinox with front-wheel drive. Not even the RAV4 or CR-V can match the Equinox’s 32-mpg Highway figure, but they’re not far short at 31 mpg. In city driving, the RAV4 and CR-V top the Equinox, with estimates of 23 and 24 mpg, respectively. The Mazda CX-5 is rated 26/35 mpg with manual gearbox and 2.0-liter engine, 26/33 mpg with 2.5-liter and automatic. While engine noise is a problem in all models, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder standard on the Equinox is smoother than most four-cylinder engines.

The 3.6-liter V6 offers much more power, but with a sizable penalty in fuel economy. It makes 301 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 272 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 17/24 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive and 16/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. With the V6, the Equinox has a towing capacity of 3500 pounds. The four-cylinder can tow only 1500 pounds.

Both engines are Flex-Fuel capable. However, using E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) results in an EPA-estimated 15/22 mpg with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder, and 13/22 mpg with the 3.6-liter V6, not an efficient strategy.

The 3.6-liter V6 makes the Equinox jump off the line, and provides ready and willing passing punch. Chevrolet says a front-wheel-drive Equinox with the V6 can accelerate to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. The V6 engine sounds good, emitting a refined growl.

The Equinox’s 6-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and never hunts for gears. We found it smooth, responsive, and hard to confuse.

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