2011 Chevrolet Equinox: Compact SUV is economical and sporty
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Billed as “The Crossover that fits your life,” the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is a compact SUV that has improved its styling, ride and performance.
Initially introduced in 2004 for the 2005 model year, the Equinox became the first crossover SUV from Chevrolet, marketed by GM as a compact SUV. Built at GM’s Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada plant, the second-generation Equinox looks upscale, shows its versatility, has earned a solid safety rating and delivers comparatively good fuel economy.
Car buyers have embraced the new-look Equinox and have purchased more than 100,000 units so far this year, putting it in the Top 20 vehicles sold in America in 2011.
Available in LS, LT and LTZ trim, with front-wheel-drive and available all-wheel drive, the Equinox offers an economical Ecotec 2.4-liter I-4 direct injection engine as well as a more powerful and 3.0-liter V-6 direct injection Flex Fuel option.
Outside, the sportier-looking Equinox features Chevy’s signature global face – a two-tier grille and prominent gold bowtie insignia. It is enhanced by strong fender shapes, a distinctive premium roofline, wraparound headlamps and dual round taillamps. The new look is paid off with a multi-dimensional hood, wraparound rear side glass and a wheels-at-the-corners stance. This design gives Gen-2 Equinox a sleeker look and improves aerodynamic performance through a number of carefully designed exterior features, including moving the base of the windshield forward approximately three inches.
Equinox fits the compact SUV criteria as it measures 187.8 inches long, 72.5 inches wide and 66.3 inches high on a 187.8-inch wheelbase, providing minimum ground clearance of 7.8 inches and weighing in at a comparatively light curb weight of 3770 lbs.
Equinox’s rocker panels are integrated into the doors to make it easier to get in and out of the vehicle. They narrow the area over which a passenger must step, offering protection for pant legs that could brush against dirty rockers, while fit and finish have reduced in-cabin wind noise over the previous version.
Under the hood, the standard Ecotec 2.4-liter I-4 is paired with a 6T45 Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission and that system yields 182 horses and 172 lbs-ft of torque for an EPA estimate of 22 mpg in the city, 32mpg on the highway and a 26mpg average for FWD and 20/29/23 for AWD. My Equinox 2LT test ride was outfitted with the larger 3.0-liter V-6 that accepts Flex Fuel and is mated to a 6T70 6-speed automatic transmission. This set-up pumps out 264hp and 222 lbs-ft of torque and can run on either regular unleaded or E85 ethanol fuel. The FWD version has been EPA estimated at 17/25/20 and the AWD, which I drove, comes in at 17/24/20. A week of mixed-use testing achieved an average of 19.1mpg on unleaded regular as I never drove it with E85, still a tough find on the road when I needed to re-fill.
On the track, Equinox is not a speed burner, but I did manage a 9.2-second zero-to-60mph run under less than ideal conditions and with no tune up. A quarter-mile was achieved in 17.2 seconds.
On the highway, acceleration is a bit hesitant but there is enough power to easily make passes and attack hills. The hydraulic power rack-and-pinion steering is also a bit slow and there is some top-wobble when making crisp turns, but the cabin is quiet, the ride is gentle and the road surfaces are smoothed out well by independent strut-type front suspension with tuned coil springs; direct-acting stabilizer bar and hydraulic ride bushings and an independent four-link rear with coil springs and trailing arm; stabilizer bar and hydraulic link bushings.
Inside, Chevrolet has added an upgraded look, though it is not a Premium cabin. Roomy, with seating for five, the interior accommodates 40.9 inches of headroom up front and 39.2 inches in row two; legroom measures 41.2 inches in the first seats and 39.9 in the rear, while shoulder room is 55.8 inches in row one and 55.3 behind.
Cabin niceties include automatic climate control, heated Premium cloth front seats, rearview camera system, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, advanced Remote Vehicle Start and 8-way power driver seat, Bluetooth for phone, USB port, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, ice-blue ambient lighting and an ergonomic “floating” center stack that houses numerous controls.
The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox starts at $22,995 for the front-wheel-drive LS trim and goes to $28,750 for the front-wheel-drive LTZ trim and $30,320 for the AWD version. My test ride was a 2LT with the 3.0-liter engine in AWD. The base 2LT in AWD is $27,970. A cargo management package was added for $245; a chrome appearance package was $695, the protection package (floor mats and mud guards) was $295, the 3.0-liter engine added $1500, power sunroof was $900, power programmable liftgate was $495, a navi/infotainment system added $2145 with AM/FM stereo with seek-and-scan , XM Radio, XM NavTraffic®, Radio Data System®, which allows you to receive a variety of text messages, important traffic alerts or weather bulletins, CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability and 7-inch diagonal touch-screen Color Interface Display. Destination and freight charges added $810 and the sticker was packaged down to $33,805.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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