This is the second time I've driven a new Equinox, having been at the vehicle launch back in June. Many of the things people are complaining about here - unresponsive brake pedal, hyper-light low-speed steering, and funny throttle calibration - struck me on my first drive. My second time around, these quirks didn't stand out quite as much and I got out of the crossover more impressed with the Equinox than after my initial drive. Sure, there are dynamic shortcomings, but no one is buying an Equinox to be a driver's car. This is a practical small family vehicle, and a pretty good one at that.
That being said, there are a handful of fixes that would make the Equinox a more compelling buy. A few times when matting the throttle, the transmission was very slow to shift and then quite abrupt when it did decide to move two gears lower. A simple recalibration would address that problem. Also, as Joe Lorio mentioned, Chevrolet needs to back way off the low-speed-steering boost. With such little feel, it can be difficult to tell where exactly the wheels are pointing. Moderate tweaks to the brake feel and throttle pedal travel would be appreciated, but these are minor concerns that an Equinox driver would never notice after a week of ownership. I also wish you could fold the rear seats flatter to better accommodate large loads.
Finally, there's weight. The Equinox weighs almost 400 pounds more than some of its competitors. GM engineers have proven they can imagine, design, and build seriously advanced technologies. I'd like to see them apply that same focus to weight-savings. There seems to be a conception in the entire industry that cutting weight can only be done with expensive materials. Careful accounting for every gram that goes into the vehicle would likely yield some significant savings. The Equinox already leads the class with power and highway fuel economy; stripping the excess weight would make this a quicker and more efficient compact.
Pricing out the base front-wheel-drive Equinox and RAV4 (with the optional seventeen-inch wheels) brings the price gap much closer than $2500. With the Toyota at $22,420 and Chevrolet at $23,185, the difference shrinks to less than $800. That Chevrolet also includes a few more minor - but not inconsequential - features like XM radio, Active Noise Cancellation, and OnStar. Of course everyone likes a more affordable car, but as Phil mentions, two extra gears and direct injection are neither simple nor cheap additions. And while most drivers may not understand what the technology does, Chevrolet will make sure they know the results by plastering the 32-mpg fuel economy rating wherever they can.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor