The Chevrolet Equinox received its last redesign back in 2010, which is a pretty long time in automotive terms. The 2015 Equinox still stands out for its comfort-oriented drive and optional V6 engine. But is that enough to keep it out in front of its newer competitors?
If you’re shopping for a crossover that’s great on road trips and highway journeys, the Equinox is better than most at dealing with America’s underfunded road infrastructure, and it’s one of the quieter vehicles we’ve tested at highway speeds. The aforementioned V6 engine is a peach too, with plenty of power on tap for passing maneuvers and uphill slogs. Some competitors offer turbocharged four-cylinders that are similarly powered, but there’s something to be said for a tried-and-true naturally aspirated V6. Properly equipped, the Equinox can haul up to 3,500 pounds, which is also impressive. And while the Equinox isn’t a class leader for overall roominess, it has a decent amount of space in the back for rear passengers.
Aside from these traits, though, the Equinox is generally outmatched by several leaders in this segment. The standard 4-cylinder engine in the 2015 Equinox is pretty underwhelming. While its rated power on paper is competitive, with it the Equinox just doesn’t have a whole lot of verve when you’re trying to accelerate around other cars in the passing lane or getting up to speed for freeway on-ramps. This is especially troubling if you enjoy the sensation of driving at all, because it contributes to a general lack of driving entertainment in the Equinox. This may seem like a moot point for shoppers who are more interested in fuel economy, but in our testing of a 4-cylinder Equinox we found that its real-world fuel economy falls short of the EPA estimates.
If the Equinox doesn’t quite seem to be what you’re looking for, some newer kids on the block might be more appealing. The Honda CR-V is the most well-rounded crossover you can get today, with a more fuel-efficient engine and a bit more cargo space in the back as well. If you’re looking for a crossover that’s more entertaining to drive but is still quite practical, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is our choice. Other viable options include the high-tech and agile 2015 Ford Escape, the engaging and roomy Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and the versatile 2015 Jeep Cherokee, which has an available V6 and some excellent off-roading tricks up its sleeve.
Driving characteristics for the 2015 Chevrolet Equinox will largely depend on which engine you select. Although the 4-cylinder Equinox has similar power ratings and acceleration times to other compact crossovers in this price range, it doesn’t feel as potent out in the real world. You’ll have the gas pedal floored during routine merging and passing maneuvers, and this is neither very relaxing nor advantageous for fuel economy. If you’re looking for a more enjoyable driving experience, the V6 is definitely the choice we’d recommend.
The Equinox’s handling abilities are nothing special. The steering doesn’t offer very much road feel and isn’t very precise. And the Chevy’s suspension is tuned to favor comfort over sharp handling around turns. The upside, of course, is an isolated, smooth drive that’s enhanced by the overall serenity of the cabin. Back roads will be less entertaining in the Equinox, but you’ll likely be more cozy on long family road trips.
The 2015 Chevrolet Equinox is a compact crossover SUV that’s offered in four trim levels: L, LS, LT and LTZ.
Standard equipment on the entry-level L includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a driver seat with power height adjustment, a 60/40-split second-row seat that slides and reclines, cruise control, a trip computer and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with sound controls. In terms of onboard electronics, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar communications (with an in-car 4G WiFi hotspot) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary sound input jack and an iPod/USB interface are also standard.
The Equinox LS is very similar but has a few extra minor features, the most notable being satellite radio.
The LT trim level is split into two subsets: 1LT and 2LT. The 1LT adds heated mirrors, rear privacy glass, roof rack side rails, premium cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera and an upgraded sound system that has a 7-inch touchscreen (Chevy’s MyLink interface), Bluetooth sound connectivity, voice controls and smartphone integration for Internet radio apps such as Pandora.
Moving up to the 2LT gets you foglights, remote start, automatic climate control, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a Pioneer sound system with eight speakers.
At the top of the line, there’s the LTZ, which further adds 18-inch chromed alloy wheels, a power liftgate, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, an eight-way power passenger seat, driver memory settings, a lane departure warning system and forward collision alert. LTZ models equipped with the V6 engine also get firmer suspension tuning.
Many of the standard features of the upper trim levels can be added to the less expensive models as options. Other stand-alone options include 19-inch chrome-clad alloy wheels (LTZ V6 only), a sunroof, a navigation system (2LT and LTZ) and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system (LTZ only).
Much like the rest of Chevy’s current lineup, the inside of the 2015 Equinox is generally stylish and well laid out. There’s a distinctive dual-cowl design that looks all the more appealing with the available two-tone color scheme. The quality of the materials is just average, but the overall effect is quite pleasing.
Seating comfort and legroom are good all around, and the sliding and reclining second-row seats allow you to expand the amount of legroom in the rear. The downside to all this room being devoted to passengers is that the Equinox offers less cargo space than many competitors, with 31.5 cubic feet of storage behind the 60/40-split rear seats. Fold both sections of those seatbacks down and the interior maxes out at 63.7 cubic feet of cargo room — the CX-5 offers 65 cubic feet, and the CR-V has more than 70.
The sound system’s touchscreen interface (1LT and above) features customizable menus similar to those on modern smartphones and it is relatively easy to use. The MyLink system incorporates Bluetooth streaming sound capability, which allows it to work with popular smartphone apps like Pandora and Stitcher. There are a few weak spots though, such as the touchscreen’s occasionally slow processing times and missed responses to touch inputs.
Standard safety features on the 2015 Chevy Equinox include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is GM’s OnStar emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency assistance button, remote door unlock and stolen car assistance. A rearview camera is standard on all trims except the LS. Standard on the LTZ and optional on the 2LT are rear parking sensors and frontal collision and lane departure warning systems.
In government crash tests, the Equinox received an overall score of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side protection. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Equinox earned the highest possible rating of "Good" in the small-overlap frontal-offset, moderate-overlap frontal offset, side impact and roof strength tests. Its head and seat restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The 2015 Chevrolet Equinox is offered with one of two powertrains: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V6 engine. Both come with a 6-speed automatic transmission and are available with front- or all-wheel drive.
The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder puts out 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. In SUVS testing, a front-wheel-drive Equinox with the 4-cylinder engine accelerated from zero to 60 miles per hour in 9.8 seconds, which is a little slower than average for this segment. For the 4-cylinder engine, the EPA estimates 26 miles per gallon combined (22 city/32 highway) with front-wheel drive and 23 miles per gallon combined (20/29) with all-wheel drive. While these numbers are respectable, we’ve had a hard time reproducing them in the real world, especially on the highway.
The optional 3.6-liter V6 produces 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque. In testing of the essentially identical GMC Terrain with the V6 and all-wheel drive, we recorded a 0-60 time of 7.0 seconds. That’s impressive, as it’s about half a second faster than average for small and midsize crossovers with a 6-cylinder or upgraded turbocharged engine. EPA fuel economy estimates for this engine drop quite a bit though, with the V6/front-wheel-drive combo coming in at 20 miles per gallon combined (17/24) and the all-wheel drive with the V6 getting 19 miles per gallon combined (16/23).
Properly equipped, 4-cylinder models will haul up to 1,500 pounds, while the V6 towing capacity climbs to a more useful 3,500 pounds.
Premium look inside and out; strong optional V6 engine; quiet interior; cozy highway ride; spacious and adjustable backseat.
The 2015 Chevy Equinox is a worthy choice for a small crossover SUV, particularly if you’re interested in one with a nice highway drive and an available V6 engine, but some newer competitors may be a better choice.