2012 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ AWD Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Published on August 29, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 29, 2012

Forty grand for a compact SUV? Sure, that's ok if we're talking premium brands, like Audi and BMW, but a Chevy? And my Equinox LTZ tester wasn't even loaded. It's just that I was moving over from the RAV4 Limited I'd been testing the week before, and the Toyota's $36k window sticker was already steep enough.

Then again, I like the Equinox a lot more. Don't get me wrong, the RAV4 is a good crossover SUV with an excellent powertrain and a well-built interior, plus it had proximity sensing keyless access and pushbutton ignition, a feature I really like living with that for some reason isn't available with the Equinox, but comparatively the Toyota seemed like yesteryear's compact SUV while the Chevy felt like I was riding in the lap of modern luxury.

Of course the Equinox, only a few years into its life cycle, is barely a child compared to the grandfatherly RAV4 that's been soldiering on for seven years without a major redesign, so no wonder it feels so fresh and new. And GM really did a nice job inside and out. Its styling looks good from every angle while its cabin could be mistaken for something from the aforementioned premium segment if it weren't for more hard plastics than luxury buyers would allow. The interior design is really nice though, with a rich appearance that most others in the compact class lack. But is it really a compact?

Some quick comparisons of its length and wheelbase show that it's substantially longer than the average compact crossover. It even stretches farther than the midsize Ford Edge, although it's quite a bit narrower than those one category up, measuring about the same as its compact competitors. The length adds cargo space, a bonus in any SUV, while its rear liftgate is a lot more convenient to get into than the RAV's cumbersome side-swinging door that doesn't even open to the correct curbside for our market, to allow safe access. To make the Equinox even more appealing, the liftgate on my LTZ was powered. How's that for premium?

I certainly didn't find the longer Equinox more difficult to park than most other compact SUVs I've tested, other than the really small ones like Mitsubishi's RVR. And out on the road the longer wheelbase makes for a solid, secure stance that irons out pavement irregularities better than most in this class. It handles well enough, hardly sport-oriented but fully capable of putting a smile on your face during nice winding sections of highway, and the 182-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder easily got the Equinox up to highway speeds as needed. Again, acceleration can't be deemed sporty, but this is the more fuel-efficient of the two engines offered after all, a good trade-off with a claimed EnerGuide rating of 9.2 city and 6.1 highway in front-wheel drive guise or 10.1 and 6.9 with all-wheel drive. Its highway rating beats the smaller and more recently redesigned Honda CR-V, by the way, at 9.0 and 6.4 respectively, and the city rating is as close as close can be with a nominal nod to the Honda, although the lighter CR-V does better on both counts when factoring in AWD. But again, we're not really comparing apples to apples here, because the larger Chevy is a lot thriftier than many of the midsize models it comes closer to rubbing shoulders with in length and interior volume, offering a nice efficient sizing alternative between both segments.

And like I said previously, it's not like you'll be missing out on any features. Even the base Equinox LS that starts at $27,810 including its destination fee comes nicely equipped with all the usual powered features including keyless entry, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a driver's seat with powered height and lumbar support, air conditioning, automatic headlamps, Bluetooth, OnStar telematics, a driver information centre, variable intermittent wipers, blind spot inserts for the side mirrors, cruise control, a handy "Multi-Flex" sliding rear seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, and more. It even boasts gas struts for the hood. The new Acura RDX doesn't even include those. All the usual safety equipment is included too, like ABS-enhanced brakes plus traction and stability control, not to mention enough airbags to protect all but the rear centre passenger, giving the Equinox Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS.

You can move up the trim levels to the 1LT, which adds automatic climate control, body-colour heated mirrors, premium cloth seats, fog lamps, a rearview camera, a 7-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with USB connectivity, and more, or the 2LT that includes an 8-way driver's seat with heated cushions for both front occupants, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, remote start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a Pioneer audio upgrade with XM satellite radio, and a tire pressure monitoring system, or the top-line LTZ that I was driving that adds heated leather seats with driver's side memory, rear parking assist, projector beam headlights and the powered liftgate I mentioned earlier.

Along with those other items included in my tester that I told you about before, the only things missing from the options list were 19-inch dual-spoke chrome wheels available for $300, a $300 Protection package that adds premium all-weather floor mats and splash guards, the 260-horsepower 3.0-litre V6 for another $1,725, and when the V6 is chosen you can get lane departure warning for $310 and a trailer tow package at $515, bringing the possible total to $43,395, including destination. My four-cylinder powered Equinox broke the $40k barrier at an as-tested price of $40,545.

Yah, granted $40,000-plus is a lot to pay for a compact crossover built by a mainstream brand, but remember that it's a cut above most rivals when it comes to delivering that unquantifiable degree of ownership pride.

GM backs up the ownership experience with the usual 3 years or 60,000 km of basic coverage and one of the longest powertrain warranties available at 5 years or 160,000 km.

If you're shopping for a compact crossover you'll likely already know by the sheer number of vehicles offered that it's one of the most fiercely fought segments in the auto industry. As stiff as the competition is however, Chevy's Equinox has what it takes to face its rivals and come up shining.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Chevrolet, 2012, Equinox, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999,

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