We finally get a chance to drive Chevy's large compact crossover at the 2015 Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally at the Autobahn Country Club outside Chicago
Low road noise
Good steering weight and brake feel
Cheap-looking interior trim
Middling ride and handling
2016 Chevrolet Equinox
The mission of the 2016 Chevy Equinox has to take on vehicles such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Honda CX-5 in the highly competitive compact crossover segment. So after spending a little more than an hour in a mix of back road and highway conditions, how do we think it stacks up?
For 2016, Chevrolet did a little shuffling to the four Equinox trim levels, dropping the 1LT and 2LT trims so it now looks like this: L, LS LT and LTZ. Except for the FWD-only L, all can be had in either FWD or AWD drivetrain layouts.
Despite the fact that the second-gen Equinox has been around since the summer of 2009 when it went on sale as a 2010 model, the 2016 model only gets a mild exterior refresh, a time frame that sees many competitors introducing models with either an all-new design or a major refresh.
As such, up front the 2016 Equinox gets a new fascia, grille and headlamp enclosures that contain new projector beam headlamps. LT and LTZ models receive new LED running lamps, while LTZ models also get new fog lights.
Along the sides, L, LS and LT trim levels get new 17-inch aluminum wheels, while LTZ models receive new 18-inch alloys, while in back all models now feature dual-element tail lamps, new license plate trim and a revised lower rear fascia on all models (chrome on LTZ models).
Interior changes include a revised center stack with a new storage shelf, updated control button graphics and a new standard 7-inch color touch screen. There's also a new, chrome-trimmed transmission shifter with Chevy's "Electronic Range" mode buttons now on top of the shifter handle while "Saddle Up" has been added to the interior color palate.
On the surface, it all seems to work. The instrumentation is clear and straight forward, and all the buttons and major controls are within easy reach of the driver. Views out the front, sides and back are excellent, although the view out the rear three-quarters is hindered somewhat by a the C-pillar. There's also plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and head room for two adults in front and three in back.
So far, so good, and even the interior trim looks spectacular from 10 or so feet away. But get any closer and you can see where Chevrolet has cut a lot of corners. On the LTZ example that we drove, which is supposed to be the top-shelf model in the lineup, nearly every single trim panel was hard plastic, low-rent looking and decidedly out of place – especially considering our LTZ driver came with a sticker price of over 35 large. Why Chevy didn't switch over to soft-touch materials as part of the recent refresh is a mystery.
Under the hood
The standard engine for all four trims is a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated inline-four that produces 182 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,900 rpm. Optional on both the LT and LTZ is a 3.6-liter V6 (normally aspirated but with direct injection) that generates 301horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 272 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm.
Both engines are mated to a traditional 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission, while an "Eco" transmission mode is surprisingly only available on models equipped with the 2.4-liter four.
Our top shelf LTZ tester was equipped with the smaller 1.4-liter engine, which the EPA rates at 20/29/23 city/highway/combined mpg, which is actually pretty good for a large subcompact crossover. So how did it all work?
On the road
During the short time we had with it, we discovered that driving the Equinox is sort of a mixed bag. On the plus side, interior sound levels are commendably low for a compact CUV. In addition, the steering has a nice weight to it and the brakes are easy to modulate.
On the other hand, acceleration with the 4-cylinder engine, even when you put your foot into it, is only adequate. There's also not much of an initial bite to the brake pads, while the soft suspension means overall handling is only mediocre with perceptible body lean in corners. The situation isn't helped by the fact that there's very little in the way of feedback to the driver through the steering wheel.
2016 Chevrolet Equinox prices
2016 Chevrolet Equinox pricing start at a reasonable $23,495 for the FWD L trim and can top out at over $40,000 for a fully optioned and accessorized AWD LTZ. This Iridescent Pearl Tricoat AWD LTZ tester had a starting MSRP of $31,490. That paint job was $995. Adding the $995 Enhanced Equipment Package (power passenger seat and rear liftgate, universal home remote), $890 Technology Package (MyLink radio with navigation, premium audio system), a $135 cargo area close-out panel plus an $895 destination charge brought its Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price to $35,355.
The Bottom Line
There were a number of things we liked about the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox including its nicely-weighted steering, smooth ride and quiet interior with plenty of room for up to five adults.
Conversely, acceleration is only adequate and its handling is mediocre, while the interior, though appealing to look at, consists of a plethora of hard plastic surfaces.
Put it all together and the Equinox, despite its recent facelift, remains an also-ran compared to the current crop of compact crossovers.