The Chevrolet Equinox crossover combines respectable highway fuel economy, luxury design, and an impressive features list for those seeking not only the versatility of an SUV, but also the efficiency and maneuverability of a smaller vehicle. The big news for 2012 is the additon of Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system and active safety systems seen in higher-end luxury vehicles.
Chevrolet’s signature handsome face - the two-tier grille dressed with its prominent gold bow tie insignia - gleefully grins with its strong fender shapes, a distinctive premium roofline, wraparound headlamps, and dual round tail lamps within which the Chevrolet bowtie proudly glows.
The multi-dimensional hood, wraparound rear side glass and wheels-at-the-corners stance is reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, adding a dose of masculinity to the Equinox.
Aerodynamic performance was enhanced by lowering the front spoiler, while moving the base of the windshield three inches forward to create a sleeker profile. Incorporating chrome trim and flush-fitting “exposed edge” windshield and rear glass smoothed out Equinox's rough edges and helped reduce wind noise of which we experienced virtually none.
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is a solid feeling and driving crossover that pays major attention to reducing wind and road noise, while at the same time allowing just enough engine sounds into the cabin to let the driver know the Equinox is awake and powerful.
The standard 2.4L Ecotec direct-injected I-4 engine delivers 182 horsepower and impressive fuel economy of 22 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway for front-wheel drive models, while AWD borrows 2 MPG from each in exchange for added confidence and safety.
Our test vehicle's 3.0L direct-injected V-6 engine is rated at 264 horsepower with fuel economy ratings of 17 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway for front-wheel drive models, with AWD debiting 1 extra MPG for both. During our review of the 2012 Equinox, we averaged 20.4 on local errand and urban jaunts, while a long highway drive stretching across the Empire State revealed where the Equinox truly shines. An average of 28.7 MPG for solid highway driving at 70 MPH amazed us for such a large and powerful vehicle.
Both engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission; an “Eco” mode on 2.4L-equipped models alters shift points in order to improve fuel economy. The fully-automatic all-wheel drive system aims to conserve costs by operating in front-wheel drive until the wheel sensors detect slippage, then rerouting power to those with the most grip.
We tested the Equinox in a variety of weather and road conditions and felt confident at all times. The driving position, weighting of the steering, and rigidity of the Equinox were all sensed and appreciated as we drove along winding roads, and the strong braking system with its linear pedal feel was totally reassuring.
Interior and Technology
The Equinox is loaded with both driver and passenger-friendly amenities; smart storage spaces abound in the interior. Several storage bins, an oversized glove box, closed storage under the center armrest large enough to accommodate a laptop, four 12V power outlets, and eight cup and bottle holders are distributed throughout the cabin.
The extremely comfortable heated front seats offer generous room in all directions, and the MultiFlex rear seat can be moved fore and aft nearly eight inches, achieving best-in-class rear legroom. With the 60/40 split-back rear seat moved all the way forward, the cargo area offers 31.4 cubic feet of storage - an impressive offering for Chevrolet’s smallest crossover.
At night, the interior glows in Chevrolet’s signature ice-blue lighting around the doors and center console; this makes the Equinox feel more abundant while adding visibility to the interior.
As for visibility, all Equinox models come with very helpful blind-spot mirrors which work flawlessly every time; this cannot be said about electronic blind spot systems. They look cool, too! When in reverse gear, the Equinox offers two methods of ensuring the driver doesn’t collide. We appreciated having the ultrasonic sensor system to gauge distance, but we also value being able to see behind the vehicle when there is hidden danger lurking undetectable by the sensors. Both are available on the Equinox and we highly recommend opting for them.
As if that weren’t enough, Chevrolet now offers a lane departure warning system and forward collision alert on the 2012 Equinox. We loved how well the system operates, and hope that more vehicles offer this lifesaver in the near future. It does a superior job of keeping the driver alert, and for that one time he or she is distracted, which we all know is all it takes - serves as your very own GM guardian angel.
We triggered the forward collision system a few times in stop and go city driving, and found it effective at alerting the driver at the optimum time. Like all technologies, however, it has its limits.
The camera-based system’s weakness becomes obvious in rainy/snowy weather. Forward collision alert still operates, but because it needs to read the road markings for lane departure, inclement weather causes the system to disable itself. Intelligent, though, it re-enables when it can once again detect the lines.
We enjoyed the programmable power rear liftgate, which opens via either a ceiling mounted button inside the cabin or from the remote keyfob. The remote start system activates the climate control and heated seats depending on the outdoor temperature.
Even better, the Equinox can be started from anywhere using a computer or smartphone with the OnStar app. We tested the app on the Chevrolet Volt and were blown away by the exceptional operation and integration of all these systems.
The optional Pioneer sound system with eight speakers and 250 watts of output sounded concert hall perfect in ourEquinox, operating seamlessly using a new seven-inch color touch screen for the various inputs and menus of the vehicles. MyLink wasn’t available on our tester, but is available for the 2012 model year; MyLink greatly increases the number of voice controls, along with apps such as Pandora and Stitcher built-in to eliminate the complications of finding your favorite tunes.
We’ve tested MyLink on the 2013 Malibu Eco and are quite impressed. Plugging our iPhone into the USB port, we were able to say “play artist Journey” and seconds later a Journey song would start playing. MyLink works in this manner for Pandora, XM, and FM/AM radio stations.
The only feature we would love to see Chevrolet include with the Equinox is auto-up windows.
The Chevrolet Equinox is equipped with safety features designed to avoid crashes or protect occupants in the event of one. Proactively, standard Stabilitrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology helps keep the vehicle on its intended path in the event of an emergency maneuver, while four-wheel anti-lock brakes with traction control and electronic brake force distribution help maximize braking performance.
Like all GM vehicles, daytime running lamps are standard so that the Equinox is more visible to other drivers and pedestrians. The crossover also comes equipped with trailer anti-sway control and hill hold assist for those who tow, or live in very hilly areas.
In the unfortunate event of an accident, the well-designed structure is able to absorb and deflect energy around the cabin, while dual front, head, curtain, and pelvic/thorax front seat-mounted side air bags work to reduce the likelihood of injuries.
All Chevrolet Equinox models are equipped with the lifesaving OnStar technology, which includes an Advanced Crash Response System, crystal clear hands-free calling, vehicle diagnostics, emergency service support, and six months of the Directions and Connections plan for hands-free route guidance. The Advanced Crash Response System uses vehicle sensors, GPS, and digital cellular phone technology to summon emergency responders in the event of a moderate to severe crash, even if the vehicle’s occupants are unable to do so.
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox as of this writing is up against no competition. Equinox is at the top of its game in performance, fuel economy, and technology, excelling at providing a superior experience for both driver and passenger.
An equinox is a rare event which occurs only twice a year; a new Chevy Equinox may occur only once in your lifetime: Carpe diem.