While the Equinox isn't necessarily a blast to drive, it handles well enough for its size–but its power steering is far too numb and light for our taste. Still, it remains one of the only vehicles in the segment to offer a V-6 option, which produces more than enough power to get up and go.
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.
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.
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.