Although some compact crossovers have moved on to all-four-cylinder models, the Equinox still gives shoppers a choice between four-cylinder and V-6 engines. The Equinox is a bit larger than many so-called compacts, and it's essentially a modest mid-sizer. But even considering that, the base four-cylinder engine is plenty strong to move the Equinox along at a good clip.The base 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is one of the more advanced engines in its class, and with direct injection, variable valve timing, and a six-speed automatic, you can get quite a bit of real-world performance out of it--more than the 0-60 mph time of around nine seconds might suggest. Passing power is good enough even when you have some passengers; and our only issue with this engine is that its direct-injection-related clattering sounds are more prominent than in most other modern fours.
The engine choice, along with a choice between front- and all-wheel drive, should give most shoppers what they want for their family needs. And if they need some added grunt for full loads and mountain grades, the 3.6-liter V-6 is smooth and very strong. It makes 301 hp; and while it's considerably thirstier than the four, you might consider it a worthwhile upgrade.
With a rather low first gear, for quick takeoffs, plus taller cogs for the upper gears and highway fuel efficiency, the six-speed automatic transmission covers the bases--although 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.
You won't find the Equinox all that much fun to drive, but it handles well enough for what it is; the electric power steering is a low point--just too numb and light--and we've noted over several drives that on the highway you're making too many adjustments.