Full 2008 Chevrolet Equinox Review
What's New for 2008
The Chevrolet Equinox gains two new trim levels to spice things up in 2008: a fully loaded LTZ and the racier Sport with 264 horsepower and a sport-tuned suspension. More basic LS and LT variants receive recalibrated suspension tuning, and all Equinox models get standard OnStar and stability control -- the latter now with integrated electronic trailer sway control.
With lots of functional cabin space for a vehicle of its size, the well-equipped Chevrolet Equinox has been a popular choice for a small SUV in recent years. Owners enjoy the Equinox's roomy cabin -- the rear seats slide fore and aft to boost cargo room or legroom when needed -- and often comment favorably about the vehicle's power and fuel efficiency.
For 2008, Chevrolet injects more style and performance into the Equinox. Leading the way is a new high-performance Sport model complete with lowered ride height and a new 3.6-liter V6 good for 40 percent more power over the standard 3.4-liter V6 engine. Chevrolet promises a 0-60-mph acceleration time under 7 seconds. The Sport's hydraulic power steering also addresses one of our Equinox criticisms that related to lackluster steering response on lesser versions. Like its stablemates, it offers the option of all-wheel drive.
For those who instead desire more refinement and luxury, the new Equinox LTZ is differentiated by bright exterior accents, heated leather seats, upgraded premium audio and head curtain side-impact airbags. The LTZ also benefits from the same enhanced ride and handling package as LS and LT models, consisting of retuned shocks, spring rates and hydraulic bushings.
The well-rounded 2008 Chevrolet Equinox has a lot going for it, including a spacious and versatile cabin and smooth, quiet ride that makes it a great choice for long trips. And now its basic goodness has been enhanced with variants that focus on performance and luxury for those so inclined. True, it faces solid competition from rivals like the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 and even the Saturn Vue, but the Equinox is certainly hard to beat given its something-for-everyone lineup. If you're looking for a competent, functional and safe runabout that does most things well, the 2008 Equinox definitely belongs on your list of models to check out.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The four-door 2008 Chevrolet Equinox SUV seats five and comes in four trim levels: base LS, midlevel LT, fully loaded LTZ and performance-oriented Sport. Standard equipment on the LS includes 16-inch aluminum wheels, a roof rack, air-conditioning, a sliding 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a flat-folding front passenger seat. Cruise control, fully powered accessories, automatic headlights, a driver information center and a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack are also standard. The LT comes in two subsets, 1LT and 2LT. The Equinox 1LT adds body-color exterior trim, rear privacy glass, premium cloth upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The 2LT package then adds 17-inch chrome-plated wheels, foglamps, remote engine start, a power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and satellite radio.
The new LTZ luxury trim includes chrome exterior trim, leather-trimmed seating, heated front seats, an in-dash six-CD changer and a Pioneer premium sound system. For performance fans, the new Sport model adds a larger V6, 18-inch aluminum wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, special exterior trim, sport bolstered front seats and unique instrumentation. Depending on trim level, other optional Equinox features include a rear-seat entertainment system, a navigation system and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2008 Chevy Equinox trim levels are available with a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Non-Sport models are equipped with the standard 3.4-liter V6 engine coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. With 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, this engine offers respectable performance that should please most owners. The Sport model substitutes one of the most powerful engines for this class, a 3.6-liter V6 cranking out 264 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. It's hooked up to a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. With either engine, towing capacity is a competitive 3,500 pounds. Despite their considerable power disparity, both engines achieve about the same fuel economy, with a 2008 EPA fuel economy estimate of 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. (The Sport gets 16 mpg city.)
Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control and OnStar are standard on the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox. Full-length head curtain airbags are standard on the LTZ trim and optional on all other Equinox models. In crash testing, the Equinox (even without the side airbags) earned the highest marks possible, receiving a perfect five stars in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal- and side-impact tests and a highest-possible "Good" rating in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The standard Equinox instrument panel and center stack project a clean, industrial-looking design with large, clear gauges surrounded by faux aluminum accents, while the LT model is warmed up by imitation wood. The new Equinox Sport is specially outfitted with exclusive blue-lit instrumentation and ebony accents. The layout is generally straightforward, with GM's ergonomic stereo and climate controls. With its longer-than-average wheelbase, the Equinox provides lots of stretch-out room for both rows. To accommodate larger passengers or cargo, the adjustable 60/40-split rear seat slides nearly 8 inches fore and aft. A movable rear cargo shelf functions as a shelf, security cover or picnic table. Out back, the Equinox offers an above-average 35 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seats -- its 69 cubic feet of total cargo capacity is among the class leaders.
The 2008 Chevy Equinox's fully independent suspension setup offers a satisfying balance between ride comfort and competent handling. It dispatches bumps and surface irregularities with ease, and long trips are especially relaxing thanks to its quiet, well-insulated cabin. We find fault with the standard electric power steering, however, which is overly light and slow to respond. The performance-oriented Equinox Sport addresses this criticism with a better-connected hydraulic setup, and of course is the go-to choice for buyers who expect sharp handling dynamics and versatility in equal measure.