Chevrolet Equinox Performance
The majority of test drivers of the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox feel that the engine in the SUV performs quite well, though there is general agreement that the steering and handling are not on par with the best vehicles in its class. "The V6 has plenty of punch and feels more robust than its relatively meager output ratings might suggest," says Edmunds.
Acceleration and Power
The 2008 Chevrolet Equinox comes standard with a 3.4-liter V6 engine that makes 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. The new Sport model gets a more powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 264 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. The engine choices are noteworthy because many competitors in the compact SUV class do not even offer a V6 option -- let alone two.
Reviewers generally agree the base V6 delivers good acceleration. "Put a heavy foot on the pedal and the Equinox takes it as a command, not a suggestion," says Kelley Blue Book, adding, "While pulling away from a stop or negotiating slower traffic on a two-lane road, the 3.4-liter V6 always delivers plenty of power." Of the Sport's 3.6-liter V6, Consumer Guide says it provides "good power delivery from a stop and for highway passing and merging."
All models except the Sport come with a five-speed automatic transmission with Adaptive Learning Capability. Reviewers agree the transmission offers a fluid driving experience. MSN calls the smooth-riding Equinox "car-like" and many other test drivers concur. "Not much driving was required to realize that the Equinox, despite its assumed SUV toughness and availability of all-wheel drive, counts a carlike ride among its attributes," notes the The new Sport model comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with a Tap-Up/Tap-Down driver shift control feature and Adaptive Learning Capabilities.
Test drivers go out of their way to praise the Equinox's long-distance driving experience. "With a more comfort- than sport-oriented ride, Equinox could be called a long distance driver's dream," says Road and Track. MSN agrees, saying the vehicle is "car-like" and "designed...for fast, comfortable highway cruising".
Fuel economy is considered competitive by many reviewers. The front-wheel-drive Equinox has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated fuel usage of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway with the 3.4-liter engine and 16/24 city/highway with the Sport's new 3.6-liter engine. All-wheel-drive models should net about the same. "One of the nicest features of this engine is it won't bankrupt you at the gas pump," observes Kelley Blue Book.
Handling and Braking
The majority of reviewers are not impressed with the Equinox's steering and offer mixed assessments on the suspension. "You may not like this SUV if you're enthusiastic about the driving experience," says Kelley Blue Book. This goes even for the new Sport model, which Consumer Guide says "likely represents the worst model of the bunch with its poor handling, plentiful noise, and overall lack of refinement."
The Equinox comes standard with power variable-assist electric steering that almost universally disappoints test drivers. "The electric power steering system offers little feedback and an unnatural feel, while a 40-foot turning diameter can make the Equinox seem like a full-size SUV in just about any parking lot," says Kelley Blue Book, adding that the steering is "numb." In agreement, Consumer Guide adds that the steering feels "overassisted" and "vague...like cumbersome trucks." MSN calls the steering "slow", and Edmunds call it "sluggish."
Though Chevrolet's marketing materials say the Equinox's steering has been tuned to respond differently to various situations, New Car Test Drive positively notes, "We don't think the average driver will feel the difference between this system and more conventional hydraulics, and that's a good thing." The Sport model gets a hydraulic, rather than electric, variable-assist steering system. However, it doesn't help matters much. Consumer Guide still says, "Steering feel is poor, and body lean in turns is not well controlled at all."
Test drivers are split concerning the standard independent front and four-link rear suspensions on the Equinox. "Putting some serious miles on the Chevy Equinox is relaxing, as the suspension swallows up the bumps, and the lack of intrusive wind and road noise makes for a tranquil cabin," says Edmunds, adding, "Running the Equinox through the curves reveals some body roll, but it's not excessive for an SUV." MSN adds some perspective to the discussion, stating, "A soft suspension...smooths out rough roads but causes pronounced body lean in curves if you're driving hard. However, handling is good during routine driving." The Sport gets a special sport-tuned suspension, but the upgrade doesn't please Consumer Guide. The reviewer complains, "The Equinox Sport's firm suspension tuning and low-profile tires do the ride no favors. All but the smallest bumps pound through the cabin."
Reviewers don't have many complaints about the Equinox's standard four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. "The brake pedal is sensitive without feeling touchy, and stopping distances are short," adds MSN, reflecting the conclusion of a number of test drivers. Though the Sport model has the same brakes as the others, Consumer Guide has a complaint about the test vehicle, noting, "While the brakes have good stopping control, the pedal on our preview test vehicle was soft."
While All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is an option on the Equinox, the SUV should not be mistaken for an off-road vehicle. Reviewers find the AWD performs competently around town, but are quick to point out that the vehicle is not designed for true off-road driving.
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