Competitor crossover models provide better handling, but the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox outputs substantial horsepower and features a smooth-shifting transmission.
The base powerplant in the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox is a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 that's made in China with a design little changed from the 1990s. The engine isn’t particularly powerful, and even the five-speed automatic teamed with it can't draw out any sort of excitement. It's either front-wheel drive or, when specified, all-wheel drive. Cars.com reports this engine is “Hard to get excited about,” and according to Kelley Blue Book, the base V-6 is "jackrabbit quick when it comes to crossing crowded intersections." In regard to "passing at high speed," however, the Chevrolet Equinox "engine seems to lose some of its kick past the 70 mile-per-hour mark." Car and Driver notes the "thrashy-sounding 185-hp, 3.4-liter pushrod V-6," but is impressed with the shifting of the "surprisingly responsive five-speed automatic transmission" as found on the "LS and LT models."
The 2009 Sport model is powered by a V-6 engine producing 263 horsepower and teamed to a six-speed automatic. The automatic has tap-shift controls for semi-manual gear changes. Chevrolet offers the Sport in front- and all-wheel drive, and in general, it's a more enthusiastic performer capable of accelerating to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. Car and Driver is enthusiastic about the Sport trim, with its "3.6-liter DOHC engine with 264 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission." Cars.com says, “This engine, optional on the new Malibu, has plenty of punch, nicely delivered through the six-speed automatic transmission.”
According to Edmunds, “Though the Equinox is not meant for serious off-road duty, consumers who live in snowy climes will be glad to know that both trims may be purchased with all-wheel drive.” It should be noted that there's almost no fuel economy penalty between the two; the AWD Sport gets 16/24 mpg, while the front-drive Equinox with the base engine musters 17/24 mpg, according to the EPA.
Although the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox features independent suspension, the crossover’s handling is far from athletic. The steering feels vague, and fast cornering is absolutely out of the question. Edmunds “noted considerable body roll around turns, and the truck's electric power steering is sluggish and offers little feedback,” while Car and Driver praises the "relatively agile and carlike" handling, especially when "compared to SUVs with body-on-frame construction." Kelley Blue Book is also not impressed with the steering, saying the 2009 Equinox's "electric power steering system of the LS, LT and LTZ trims" provides "little feedback and an unnatural feel." Kelley Blue Book reports that with "a 40-foot turning diameter," the 2009 Chevy Equinox feels "like a full-size SUV in just about any parking lot." The Equinox Sport, however, shines in reviews from across the Web: “The ride is firm but compliant,” Cars.com asserts, “and handling is better than I thought I'd ever see in an Equinox.”