Quick Take: 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LT (Review)

Chevrolet’s Equinox shares its bones with a number of corporate cousins, but has managed to eke out a loyal following of its own over the years.

You can get into an Equinox for CDN $26,935, but this was an upper trim level (not the top though) – an all-wheel drive LT with the biggest motor available, and it priced out at a slightly shocking CDN $42,595. Dang.

 

Exterior/Under the Hood

Though recognizable as an Equinox, the latest one takes things upscale and looks more mature and refined than ever before. I’m not the biggest fan of the slightly hunchbacked look from some angles, but overall the styling really appealed to me.

I like Chevy’s new face – it’s simple and strong. There’s plenty of chrome here – most of it is nice, but I thought the super high-polish 18″ chrome wheels – which are an expensive option and shiny enough that you can use them as shaving mirrors – were almost too blingy. They are handsome, but maybe too much.

I enjoyed how the fenders have been flared out to give it some character, and how most of the lines have remained smooth and inoffensive.

I like that the vehicle, while not compact, keeps a smaller profile and never looks like a big truck. Chevy did a good job with the meaty dual exhaust pipes – it adds a touch of menace, and it has the balls and the sound to back those up.

This one had the big 3.6-Liter V-6. It cranks out a mighty 301 HP at 6300 RPM and a stout 272 lb.ft of torque at 4800 RPM. All this power makes its way to all four corners through a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s not rocket science – a vehicle that weighs over 4000 pounds and all that power? Yeah, it doesn’t come cheaply. At the pump, that is.

It’s rated at 13.2 L/100 km (18 mpg) in the city and 8.4 L/100 km (28 mpg) on the highway. My mileage, after a week of driving in fresh snow, sometimes economically, occasionally with a heavy foot? A sobering¬†15.3 L/100 km – that’s the magic crossover point, because it’s also 15.3 mpg. Thank goodness for the 79 Liter tank.

If you’re into towing, you won’t do a lot of it – the Equinox has a 3500 pound maximum, enough for small trailers.

 

Interior/Tech/Convenience/Storage

There’s a minor step up into the cabin, and into the comfortable, heated leather (with perforated inserts) seats. The driver’s side is power-adjustable. The materials in the Equinox are nice to look at, but definitely behind the curve in terms of quality and feeling. There are no soft-touch plastic surfaces anywhere on the dash or the console. With that said, I do like the styling of the dash. The interior is spacious, and headroom in the front is stellar.

The manually-adjustable steering wheel has a really thick rim, and seems as though it has a large diameter. It has controls for cruise, media, driver assistance stuff and phone/handsfree goodies. Behind it sits a set of large gauges, separated by GM’s horrible-to-look-at but very useful driver information screen, which offers good data on fuel consumption, trip meters, etc.

The center stack starts with a mid-sized touchscreen, which handles media, navigation, phone, vehicle settings and the back-up camera. The Pioneer sound system sounds very good and feeds off of a myriad of sources. Hey, if you’re one of those people complaining that there aren’t enough hard buttons in modern cars, you’ll be ecstatic in the Equinox. There’s a sea of buttons below the screen, handling media, nav and phone functions, and then even more of them for the automatic dual-zone climate control system.

Of course, everything is powered – door locks, mirrors, windows (although strangely, not auto-up) and the sunroof overhead. Headlights are automatic, and of course you get GM’s OnStar system as well as a HomeLink garage door opener. The liftgate is powered – there’s a button overhead, one inside and one outside of the trunk lid and one on your key FOB. That’s nice.

The center console houses a nice deep rubberized open storage bin at the front, the gear selector and dual cupholders, as well as an upholstered armrest. Under its lid, you’ll find a narrow and very deep bin as well as the auxiliary and USB plugs.

There’s some nice driver assistance tech here – lane departure warning and forward collision alert systems.

The door bins include a bottle holder, and a long, shallow (read: useless) tray and the glove compartment is smallish, but useable.

The cargo space is large (889 Liters/31.4 cubic feet), but the rear wheel wells do intrude into it. The rear seats fold (not quite flat) in a 60/40 split to make it much, much bigger – 1803 Liters/63.7 cubic feet. You can cover the cargo space with a soft, retractable tonneau cover, there’s a handy cargo net that spans the width of the space, and you’ll find a 12V plug for your convenience.

 

Rear Seats

You’ll find three seats back there – along with 3 seatbelts and 2 headrests. The outboard seats are very comfortable and have the ability to recline. Headroom is good and the floor is almost flat – no big intrusive tunnel, so that’s nice. The middle position is narrow and raised, and uncomfortable for adult consumption – but all three of our kids were back there, and were very happy. The fact that the legroom is shockingly generous helped too – we never complained about them kicking our seats! There are two sets of LATCH anchors for kids’ seats.

There are a couple of seatback mesh pockets, doorbins with bottle holders and a 12V plug at the back of the console. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with a couple of cupholders in it.

 

The Drive

The bigger engine in the Equinox makes a difference – it certainly jumps off the line when you ask it to. As a matter of fact, you’re looking at a 6.7 second run from 0-60 mph. It has gobs of passing jam too. I also really liked the sounds the V-6 made when you step on it. Power delivery is smooth, and the transmission is usually smooth. I felt as though the transmission was a bit lazy and sluggish, and personally, I think GM can do better. You’ll find a stupid manual shift thumb toggle on the gear selector, which GM seems to have adopted from Ford. Bad idea – the concept sucks. Mind you, I’m not sure why anyone would manually shift this transmission anyway – I’ve seen glaciers make things happen more quickly. It’s best left to its own devices.

The ride is pretty firm/jiggly. It’s acceptable over most surfaces, but I found it too jarring over harsh surfaces. Frankly, it has the ability to become a kidney-jostling nightmare. Handling is reasonable. The vehicle is clearly top-heavy, and there’s plenty of lean, but it remains competent, and the all-wheel drive system does a good job on dry as well as snowy/icy surfaces. I did find the low-speed binding of the system to be a bit irritating – I felt it every single time I started driving and often while parking.

Noise levels were decent in every driving situation. Wind noise picked up a bit at highway speeds, but it wasn’t bad at all.

Visibility is pretty good, except for shoulder checking which gets a swift kick in the nuts from the two massive, angled rear pillars.

 

Details

I liked that you can choose if you want the power tailgate to open to maximum height, or to 3/4 height, to account for lower parking garage ceilings. Thoughtful touch.

 

Nitpicks

In my opinion, here’s a lot of stuff missing in the Equinox. Is it ill-equipped? Of course not! But when you’re dropping coin to the tune of nearly 43 grand, there are definitely things missing. No power seat for the passenger? No keyless entry and push-start ignition? Not even an adjustable air vent for the rear passengers?

I took issue with a few glaring ergonomics issues from the driver’s seat. The touchscreen, and the rotary knob to control it, are way too far away. With my arm completely stretched out, I was over 3 inches away from reaching them. In addition, the screen is set into a bezel that makes it difficult to reach it – it should be more flush with the surface. Same issue as the Ford Escape. And speaking of having to reach, the controls for the driver information screen are on the center stack, and required a stretch from me as well. Great way to remove the driver’s attention from the road…

The back-up camera – as useless as it can get, short of not having a camera. They didn’t even see fit to add static distance markings, never mind moving trajectory lines or to augment the visual feed with audible distance warnings.

Whenever the vehicle got cold, which was basically every day I had it after driving for about 15 minutes, any kind of larger road irregularity that would twist the vehicle a bit would make the adhesive or gasket around the windshield emit a crackling squeak. It was highly irritating, and quite disconcerting.

 

The Verdict

I came up with a number of things I wasn’t too excited about in the Equinox. But in the end, when you step back and look at everything, it’s a pretty good vehicle. It’s a vehicle I could live with, although I’d be horrified at the amount of time I’d be spending at the gas station.

That said, and after considering all that’s good about the Equinox, I’m not sure I can call it a good value. There’s plenty of competition at this price level or less, some of which you’ll see in the Wildsau garage in the near future.

I give the Equinox a 6 out of 10. If the price was lower, and some of the quality issues (mainly the windshield crackling and quality of the plastics) was addressed, I’d be bumping it up to a 7 because the vehicle itself is a good one. I just think GM can do better in some of those departments.

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She loved that it felt high up when she was driving, and she really liked the all-wheel drive’s ability to claw through the snow. She did mention that some of the interior felt cheap – that says a lot, because my wife rarely comments on the quality of plastics. But other than that, everything was very positive, including the exterior styling.

Disclosure:  Vehicle was provided by GM Canada.

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