The Equinox is larger than compact crossovers and could by many gauges be called mid-sized; so it's not all that surprising that Chevrolet offers a choice between four-cylinder and V-6 engines. That, along with a choice between front- and all-wheel drive, should give most shoppers what they want for their family needs.
We like the base 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and think that it offers plenty of performance for most owners of a frugal, family-oriented vehicle.It has direct injection along with variable valve timing, and with the six-speed automatic it's one of the more advanced base engines in its class. We like how well it works with the automatic, and while 0-60 mph takes about nine seconds when empty, the transmission makes the most of what the engine has for good enough passing power even when you have some passengers. Our only complaint with this engine is that there are some unmasked clattery engine sounds when idling--a product of the direct-injection system.
For 2013, Chevrolet has dropped the former step-up engine, a 3.0-liter, 264-hp V-6 engine, and made the upmarket alternative GM's familiar 3.6-liter V-6 instead. While we haven't yet driven an Equinox with the 3.6-liter, which makes 301 hp, at the time of posting, we've found this engine to be smoother and stronger than the former engine in the closely related Cadillac SRX--while returning about the same fuel economy as that smaller V-6. If you do a lot of highway miles with a full load, it might be a worthwhile upgrade.
While the six-speed automatic transmission is responsive and does a good job of combining a low first gear, for quick takeoff, with taller cogs for the upper gears for keeping revs down on the highway (and fuel economy up), it's not as smooth as in other vehicles in this class. With either version, shifts can be rough, and the transmission can feel hesitant on hills or on-off throttle situations. Manual shifts can be made not though steering wheel paddle shifters or a separate gate, but through little plus or minus toggle buttons on the side of the shift knob.
The Equinox handles well enough for what it is, but steering is the only real sore point of the driving experience. The electric power steering is quite numb and light, which means that you might be making a lot of minor adjustments on the highway.