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On the Road Review: Chevy Equinox RS



With the conventional four-door family sedan dwindling in sales numbers each month — only one car made the top-10 sales list in America for the first quarter — the compact crossover segment has exploded in popularity.

The heavy hitters remain the Toyota RAV4 — America’s favorite crossover, by sales — along with Honda’s CR-V. In third place thus far in 2022 is Chevy’s venerable Equinox, seen here in new RS trim. Other contenders are Nissan’s Rogue, Mazda’s CX-5, Ford’s Escape, Hyundai’s Tucson, Subaru’s Forester, Kia’s Sportage, plus a smattering of other almost-compact offerings. Add Tesla’s Model Y crossover — more of a premium product if measuring price — and you can tell which direction the marketplace will head: five-door, five-passenger SUVs with gasoline, or, EV power.

With 2021 blurring the lines between who did well and did not do well due to the virus, chip shortages and other production issues, the Equinox has consistently been GM’s number two selling product for several years. Like the Silverado/Sierra pickup duo, the Equinox shares its mechanical bones with the GMC Terrain.

RS trim is a stylish visual upgrade only. Blacked-out 19-inch alloy wheels, blacked-out emblems and trim, an enhanced front fascia, plus some embellishments inside, with some added gear, is the extent of the RS upgrades ($31,245 start, $36,515 as shown) over the best-selling LT trim ($28,095). AWD is included on RS trim, but an additional $1,600 on other models.

Equinox power comes from a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 170 horses plus 203 pound/feet of peak torque, running through a conventionally shifted six-speed automatic gearbox. This is the only powertrain for all models — the V-6 is gone. The 2019 remodel dropped over 300 pounds, which improved overall performance, while the turbo-motor feels stronger at lower and mid-range speeds than the wheezing output of the previous 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. EPA mileage estimates are 25/30 mpg (1 mile per gallon better for FWD models), with a realized 26 mpg during the Chevy’s spring visit. The Equinox is rated to pull 3,500 pounds of trailer.

In the face of many new competitors, the Equinox retains its smooth ride compliance. Handling is secure, predictable and responsive to immediate inputs from the helm, although the low-speed turning radius could be much smaller. Buyers will also be impressed with the spaciousness of the passenger cabin — both front and rear-seat occupants, even though the rear bench no longer slides fore and aft. Cargo space is average for the segment; if the rear seatbacks would fold flat, the cargo area would be more useful. A programmable power liftgate helps taller users tailor the opening height.

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Inside, the Equinox uses sensible controls throughout. The central media screen is easy to operate and relatively swift — not a common occurrence for too many applications today. Content is generous with Apple/Android and standard Wi-Fi hotspot functionality along with Chevy’s MyLink system, as well as multiple USB ports. RS trim here includes heated steering wheel, heated leather seating, plus dual-zone climate controls. Start clicking the options list and Equinox pricing can exceed some rivals that come with more standard content.

On the safety front, the Equinox RS includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane departure assist, automatic high beams, plus the Driver Confidence Package, which includes front and rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert and lane change alert/blind spot assist. The Equinox also features rear-seat reminder alerts and a teen driver program.

As a point of reference, the resident navigator owns an older Equinox. She found that driving the new RS proved reassuring about the ride and handling comportment, while the turbo-motor provided a notable increase in responsiveness in the driving that she generally experiences. A vote of approval for the larger rear-camera screen with clearer depictions was noted, and the power liftgate is a must-have feature for the user who frequently packs the cargo hold with power tools, lumber and assorted hardware. The “sportier” stance of the Cherry Red Metallic RS also drew compliments.

Equinox production was limited in 2021 (our RS was built in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico) but seems to be accelerating this year. Demand remains hot, and consumers should expect price increases as strategic material prices continue to climb. Next fall, 2023, Chevy has plans to introduce the Equinox EV, the first affordable electric crossover from GM. Sixteen months is a long way off, with a host of situations that could affect that timeline.

Until then, the new Equinox RS is hoping to hold Chevy fans close to the Bow-Tie brand.

Next week: Toyota Highlander XSE

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