What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Chevrolet Equinox's optional V6 now has E85 capability. Enhancements include heated cloth seats on 2LT models and a compass on LS models. A USB port, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and Bluetooth connectivity are now standard on 1LT models, and OnStar service has been upgraded to standard Directions and Connections (providing access to OnStar's navigation and information services) for a six-month trial period.
Roomy and graced with an available snappy V6, the previous-generation Equinox had its charms, but it didn't shine brightly enough to surpass its rivals. As a result, Chevy's capable but undistinguished hauler was left to linger on the lots as shoppers flocked to more popular choices from the likes of Honda and Toyota. But thanks to a full redesign last year, the latest Equinox has vaulted up to be a top pick in the small crossover SUV segment.
The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox boasts character and refinement ? two traits that were missing in previous-generation models, and indeed many small crossovers in general. With a rear seat that slides back to create an expanse worthy of a prom-night limousine, the Equinox easily counts rear legroom among its strengths. Ride quality is another plus, with the Equinox delivering a stable, well-planted ride. In terms of equipment, the Chevy is fully competitive, with plenty of standard features and some nice upgrades like a hard-drive-based navigation system.
Under the hood you'll find a choice of either a 182-horsepower inline-4 or a 264-hp V6. Both of these engines deliver respectable acceleration, and the four-cylinder is notable for its above-average fuel economy (even though we've found it doesn't quite meet its lofty EPA estimates). Another Equinox selling point is its upscale good looks; the cabin is attractive and expensive-looking and features interior materials quality that's finally competitive with other choices in this segment.
The most significant area in which the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox lags is cargo capacity. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 both boast more total space, which could be a factor if you're frequently using your small crossover to haul lots of stuff. The Equinox also comes across as a bit lifeless to drive when compared to sportier models like the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-7. But in pretty much every other measure that matters -- cabin design, fuel economy, comfort and safety -- Chevy's crossover is a front-runner.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is a compact crossover SUV available in LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ trim levels.
Standard equipment for the LS includes 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, power front seat height adjustment, a sliding and reclining backseat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar and a six-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The 1LT adds tinted rear windows, roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth and an iPod/USB audio interface. When equipped with the optional V6 engine, 18-inch wheels are added.
The Equinox 2LT gets you the above features plus foglamps, remote ignition, heated front seats, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming mirror, a rearview camera (mounted in the rearview mirror) and an eight-speaker Pioneer stereo. The top-shelf LTZ adds automatic headlamps, a power tailgate, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery and driver memory functions.
Many of the standard features found on the upper trims can be added to the lower trims as options. All Equinox trims except the LS can be had with a sunroof. The 2LT and LTZ can further be equipped with a rear entertainment system and a navigation system with voice recognition and digital music storage. The LTZ V6 can be outfitted with optional 19-inch chrome-clad wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2011 Chevrolet Equinox comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing 182 hp and 172 pound-feet of torque. Optional on all but the LS is a 3.0-liter V6 good for 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is optional. When equipped with the four-cylinder engine, the Equinox makes the 0-60-mph sprint in 9.3 seconds, which is about average for the segment.
An Equinox four-cylinder with front-wheel drive achieves an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. All-wheel drive lowers these estimates to 20/29/23. An Equinox V6 with front-wheel drive gets an estimated 17/25/20, with all-wheel-drive versions dropping 1 mpg on the highway. As impressive as these numbers are, however, we've noticed that the Equinox struggles more than most vehicles to match these numbers in the real world.
The 2011 Chevy Equinox comes standard with antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and OnStar. A rearview camera and rear parking sensors are optional.
The Equinox has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedure; however, its 2010 rating (which isn't comparable to the new methodology) was a top five stars for its performance in head-on and side-impact collisions for all occupants. In side-impact and frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Equinox earned a top "Good" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chevy Equinox boasts a stylish cabin filled with premium touches. The available two-tone color schemes are eye-catching, and perfectly complement the dashboard's elegant, swooping dual-cowl design. All in all, the Equinox's interior looks more deluxe than that of most others in this segment.
The switchgear for the climate controls and audio system feels substantial, a pleasant departure from the cookie-cutter units found in many other GM models. The downside is that the center console is plagued by a plethora of similar-looking buttons and can be hard for shorter drivers to reach.
As its plus-sized exterior suggests, the Equinox offers a spacious cabin. Adjust the sliding rear seat backward and you'll find rear legroom that's the most generous in this segment; the rear seat also reclines for passenger comfort. There are lots of storage opportunities within the cabin, with the highlight being a huge bin that sits beneath the front row's center armrest. Cargo capacity, however, is not that impressive. There is a maximum 31.4 cubic feet of space behind the sliding backseat; with the rear seat folded, that figure grows to 63.7 cubic feet. As such, the Equinox offers less cargo space than rivals like the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4.
Acceleration from the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox's four-cylinder engine is respectable ? especially in light of its strong fuel economy -- and should prove satisfactory for most shoppers. The V6 is a good match for those seeking gutsier performance, offering a 264-hp output that marks it as one of the most powerful choices in the segment.
Road and wind noise aren't a problem in the Equinox, which boasts a very quiet cabin at highway speeds. Ride quality is also impressive on interstate road trips, providing a buttoned-down feel indicative of bigger SUVs. Handling is unremarkable and steering is decidedly vague ? though we suspect that these two shortcomings won't be an issue for the Equinox's target demographic.