What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Chevrolet Equinox gains side curtain airbags and satellite radio as standard, while Bluetooth joins the options list.
Mention the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox to your family or friends considering a midsize crossover SUV and they're likely to say, "Huh? An Equa-what?" Just as with good yet obscure bands, the Equinox is a pleasant experience waiting to be discovered by those willing to look past the typical Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 of its segment.
Respectable performance along with decent fuel efficiency highlight the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox's strong points, which also include a space-efficient design, a versatile cabin, a comfortable ride and strong crash test scores. A key feature is the adjustable split rear seat design -- those seats can slide fore and aft to boost cargo capacity or rear legroom as needs dictate. Last year, Chevy furthered the Equinox's appeal by adding the enthusiast-oriented Sport trim level and the luxury-lined LTZ.
Neither as small as the true compact SUVs nor as ungainly as the larger midsize utes, the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox strikes many, including us, as being just the right size. Though some rivals offer third-row seats, these marketing ploys are typically useful only for kids no bigger than their Barbie and WWE dolls. The Equinox plays a more honest game, instead offering expandable space for second-row passengers.
Of course, the Equinox faces a number of solid competitors, including the top-selling and top-rated Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. There's also the Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue and Saturn Vue. Is it a favorite for an automotive Grammy? Maybe not, but the Equinox is certainly worthy of inclusion as a nominee on your list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chevrolet Equinox is a midsize SUV that 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 tiltable steering column, a flat-folding front passenger seat and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat that slides fore/aft and reclines. Cruise control, full power accessories, automatic headlights, a driver information center and a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio are also standard.
The LT actually comes in two subsets, 1LT and 2LT. The 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 and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The LTZ includes chrome exterior accents, leather seating, heated front seats, an in-dash six-CD changer and a Pioneer premium sound system. For performance fans, the 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, optional Equinox features include a rear-seat entertainment system, a navigation system and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
All Chevy Equinox trim levels are available with a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All but the Sport model are equipped with a 3.4-liter V6 engine that makes 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. The Sport model boasts 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 a 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds, even the smaller V6 provides respectable performance that should please most owners. According to Chevrolet, the 3.6 will do the same sprint in less than 7 ticks, an impressive time for any SUV.
With either engine, towing capacity is a competitive 3,500 pounds. Despite their considerable power disparity, both engines achieve the same EPA fuel economy estimates, which are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. Even with the AWD version, the mileage only differs by 1 less city mpg with the 3.6-liter engine.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, full-length head curtain airbags and OnStar are standard on all 2009 Chevrolet Equinox trims.
In crash testing, the Equinox 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 Equinox Sport receives exclusive blue-lit instrumentation and ebony accents. The layout is generally straightforward, with GM's ergonomic stereo and climate controls, but the cabin is let down by a lot of low-quality plastic and poorly located cupholders.
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. With the second-row seats folded down, it offers a generous 69 cubic feet of total cargo capacity.
The 2009 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 it's the go-to choice for buyers who expect sharp handling dynamics and versatility in equal measure.