2011 Chevrolet Equinox Expert Review

You'll Like The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox If...

If you prefer bold styling over bland, cutting edge audio and navigation over gutless four speaker systems, and class-leading 32-mpg highway fuel economy, Chevrolet has built a crossover utility vehicle for you.

You May Not Like The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox If...

If you need the capability afforded by a third-row seat, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox will take a back seat to competitors such as the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander and Hyundai Santa Fe.

What's New

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox gains a FlexFuel (E85) compatible V6 engine option, as well as some new standard features. The mid-level Chevrolet Equinox 2LT gains standard heated front seats, while Chevrolet Equinox 1LT now feature Bluetooth, a USB port and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

Interior Features

Although the new Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento come awfully close, we think the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox has the freshest, most visually eye catching interior in the segment. While we can find fault with some of the plastics and trim pieces, the overall execution is first rate, especially when equipped with the two-tone Jet Black/Brownstone leather seating option. But, the Equinox's interior improvements go beyond mere good looks. There is a lot of room, utility and just plain thoughtfulness here, as well. Four-cylinder models, for example, use active noise cancellation (a system that cancels out sound waves with counteracting sound waves) to keep the cabin quiet. Further evidence can be found with the back seats that slide forward a full eight inches, creating an even larger area for cargo (or the family dog).

Exterior Features

What we like most about the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is that it doesn't try to look like a downsized Suburban. From its elegant oversized headlamps, to its two-bar grille and "floating" fog lamp bezels, to its sharp creased fender flares, the Chevrolet Equinox looks more like an overgrown exotic wagon rather than a small SUV. We like all the trims, but are especially partial to the top-of-the-line Equinox LTZ, with its available 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, power liftgate and chrome door handles, and roof rack trim. And, despite its tall appearance, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is as easy to step in and out of as a standard family sedan.

Driving Impressions

If the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox has one strong suit, it's the vehicle's quiet and comfortable interior. For those who prefer frugality over fury, the standard four-cylinder engine will surprise with its strong acceleration and quiet operation. Aided by an innovative six-speed automatic transmission, the 182-horsepower four-cylinder not only moves with some authority, it delivers impressive fuel economy as well. The 264-horsepower V6, available on all except the base model, brings greater power for passing and merging, but it is not the strongest V6 in the segment. That honor still belongs to the Toyota RAV4. The Chevrolet Equinox's ice-blue ambient lighting and available perforated leather seats make you forget you're not in a luxury crossover. Finding a comfortable position behind the wheel is a breeze thanks to the tilt and telescoping steering wheel and power adjustable seat. The Equinox's sliding rear seats make it easy for rear seat passenger s to get comfortable, especially those with long legs.

Pricing Notes

The 2011 Chevy Equinox has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting right around $23,500 for the base Equinox LS, and tops out at about $37,000 for a fully loaded Equinox LTZ model. We expect our Fair Purchase Price values to reflect real-world transaction prices within a few hundred dollars of sticker price. Comparable base models of the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 all start closer to $22,500 and top out around $30,000, $33,000 and $36,000, respectively. As for resale, we expect the Equinox to hold strong five-year residual values, better than the Ford Escape and Kia Sorento, nearly equal to the Toyota RAV4, and just below the Honda CR-V.

Notable Equipment

All models have a six-speed automatic transmission, while an "eco" mode on models with the four-cylinder engine alters shift points to improve fuel economy. Safety and convenience are enhanced with standard OnStar, while XM Satellite Radio provides added entertainment value. The "smart" remote start feature, standard on Chevrolet Equinox 2LT and Equinox LTZ trims, also activates the heating and air conditioning.

Notable Options

The 2011 Chevy Equinox offers a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a power liftgate, both of which are uncommon in the category. Other notable options include 264-horsepower V6 engine, all-wheel drive, a navigation system, comprehensive premium audio system, remote vehicle start, backup camera, leather seating, heated front seats, and a memory-enabled driver's seat and mirror.

Favorite Features

Height-adjustable Tailgate
If you have low garage clearance or limited vertical reach, you can program the tailgate to open to only a safe or reachable height.

Rear-seat Entertainment
This is an option we think more vehicles in the class should offer. In the 2011 Chevy Equinox, the system features two independent seat-back-mounted screens on which one rear passenger can watch a DVD movie while the other plays a (self-supplied) video game, for instance.

Under the Hood

Every 2011 Chevrolet Equinox includes a fuel-efficient, 182-horsepower, four-cylinder engine as standard equipment, and all but the entry LS trim level offers the upgrade to the 264-horsepower V6 for $1,500. The engines feature direct injection technology and are matched with six-speed automatic transmissions, both of which simultaneously increase power and efficiency. Four-cylinder versions offer an "Eco" button that sets the engine and transmission programming to mileage-maxing mode. The optional V6 is E85 compatible and offers manual shift control, although we felt it could be more responsive. The four- and six-cylinder versions feature tow ratings of 1,500 and 3,500 pounds respectively.

2.4-liter in-line 4
182 horsepower @ 6700 rpm
172 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (FWD) 20/29 (AWD)

3.0-liter V6
264 horsepower @ 6950 rpm
222 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (FWD), 12/18 (FWD, E85), 16/22 (AWD), 12/17 (AWD, E85)

Editors' Notes

With the cost of everything from oil to steel on the rise, the growing popularity of smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles is also trending upward. We all know how much Americans love their SUVs, so when Chevrolet introduced the Equinox, a smaller, less-expensive and more fuel-efficient version of the traditional SUV, its acceptance among buyers seemed a no-brainer. The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox continues to raise the bar in a segment dominated by such heavyweights as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. With newcomers Hyundai and Kia now stepping up their game as well, the Equinox will clearly have its work cut out to keep pace. But, GM seems determined to keep this vehicle relevant, a fact born out by the continuing improvements made to the 2011 model.

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