2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Replacing the Chevrolet Tracker, the Ontario-built Equinox is now the largest ‘compact’ SUV on the market. Compared to the Ford Escape, the Equinox is 358 mm (14 inches) longer and 51 mm (2 inches) wider and has the largest passenger cabin in its class.

Based on a longer and wider version of the Saturn Vue platform, the Equinox has unit body construction, a fully independent suspension, and a 185 horsepower 3.4 litre V6 engine and 5-speed automatic – it’s not offered with a base four cylinder engine and/or manual transmission. Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive drivelines are available – the latter is an ‘automatic’ four-wheel-drive system that requires no intervention from the driver. Under normal driving conditions, the AWD Equinox runs in front-wheel-drive, but should the front wheels begin to slip, a portion of the engine’s power is transferred to the rear wheels.

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT
Click image to enlarge

Two trim levels are offered, LS and LT, in both FWD and AWD models. Considering the level of standard equipment and the size of the Equinox, pricing is reasonable. Manufacturers suggested retail prices are LS FWD $26,560, LT FWD $28,565, LS AWD $29,170, and LT AWD $31,275.

My test vehicle was an Equinox LT with the optional leather interior, 17-inch tires and alloys, 6-disc CD player and premium sound system, and trailer towing package. With options, Freight and A/C tax, my Equinox came to $35,970.

Roomy interior

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT 2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT
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Though it’s in the same class as compact, car-based SUVs like the Ford Escape, Saturn Vue, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Mazda Tribute, and Mitsubishi Outlander, the Equinox is considerably larger than most of these. The Equinox’s long 2857 mm (112.5 inch) wheelbase provides a roomy cabin with plenty of front and rear legroom. As well, the Equinox has a unique sliding rear seat that slides 203 mm (8 inches (203 mm) fore and aft, allowing more rear legroom, or alternatively, more cargo room.

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT
Click image to enlarge

Behind the rear seats is a unique adjustable shelf that can be positioned in any of three positions between the suspension towers. The shelf is carpeted on one side and hard plastic on the other side, the latter useful for wet or dirty items. The shelf also doubles as a picnic table.

But the overall width of the cargo area is restricted by the large suspension housings for the independent rear suspension. In fact, the width of the cargo area is quite narrow considering the overall width of the vehicle. Total cargo area with the rear seats up in their most rearward position is slightly less than in the Ford Escape (32.2 cu. ft.). However, with the sliding rear seat, split folding rear seatbacks, and a fold-flat right-front passenger seatback, the cargo area can be expanded considerably lengthways.

The Equinox has very large doors, and the step-in height is low. Once in the driver’s seat, you’ll find an elevated driving position and good visibility. The optional leather seats in my test vehicle were firm and there was minimal side support – and the rear seats were even firmer. The rear seats do have a reclining feature though.

Interior quality is very good (much better than the Vue) with a nice blend of plastic and faux metallic trim. The centre stack is easy to reach and controls are simple to use, although the radio might take you a day or so to figure out. The shift lever is mounted high, so it’s easy to reach. Unique are the power window buttons on the centre console just below the shift lever – there are none on the front doors.

There’s plenty of open storage space on the floor between the front seats, map pockets on the side of the centre console, and a bi-level centre armrest, but all of these require you to take your eyes off the road to reach them – I would have liked to see an open bin or tray that’s visible at a glance from the driver’s seat.

In addition to the standard dual front airbags, side curtain airbags are available as an option on the Equinox.


Driving impressions

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT
Click image to enlarge

With a longer wheelbase and wider track than most small SUVs, the Equinox offers a more comfortable ride, less ‘choppiness’ and more stability in the corners. It’s a very comfortable freeway cruiser, and is easy to drive around town – steering effort is very light. However, its length and wide turning circle (42 ft.) make manoeuvring in tight spaces more difficult – I found myself having to back up after failing to make sharp turns on more than one occasion.

With a fully independent suspension (front McPherson strut/rear four-link with coil springs), the Equinox glides over road undulations quite well. But sudden bumps – like potholes or manhole covers – bring out the worst in it suspension. For a new vehicle, I thought there was way too much suspension clunking. Handling is balanced with some lean, but the wheelbase is too long and the turning circle too wide for it to be considered nimble.

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT

2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT
Click image to enlarge

The 3.4 litre overhead valve V6 motor and 5 speed automatic transmission are superb – the engine is very responsive from a standing start, during lane changes, and while entering the freeway. Though it doesn’t have the most horsepower in it class (185 @ 5200 rpm), it has more torque (210 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm) than most of its competitors. GM quotes a 0 to 60 mph time of 8.5 seconds which is pretty quick for a 1713 kg (3776 lb.) SUV. The Equinox has a 3,500-pound (1,587 kg) towing capability, but you have to buy the optional trailer package ($515) that includes a trailer hitch and 4 pin harness connector. Payload capacity is 525 kg (1157 lb.).

Fuel consumption of 12.7 l/100 km (22 mpg) City and 8.6 l/100 km (33 mpg) Highway is not great, but comparable with other V6-powered compact SUVs like the Ford Escape and Hyundai Santa Fe 2.7 .

Some critics deride GM for continuing with traditional overhead valve engines, but I find them much smoother and quieter than they used to be, and they offer superior responsiveness at non highway speeds.

Front disc brakes/rear drum brakes are standard on all models, and ABS is standard on all but the base LS FWD model. FWD models with ABS also get traction control.

The all-wheel-drive system is imperceptible on dry surfaces, and there are no gear levers to engage or buttons to push. I didn’t get a chance to try this system on snow or ice – that will have to wait for a winter test-drive.


Verdict

A roomy, easy-to-drive SUV with a wonderful V6 engine and transmission, a comfortable ride, and a unique sliding rear seat, the Chevrolet Equinox has firm seats, a wide turning circle, an occasionally clunky suspension, and a clever trunk that’s not as roomy as it should be.


Technical Data: 2005 Chevrolet Equinox LT

Base price $31,275
Options $3,645 (Preferred equipment group 1SD $3,130: leather heated seats, leather steering wheel and shifter, 6 disc CD player, compass/temperature display, 235/60R-17 radials and alloy wheels. Trailer towing package $515)
Freight $950
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $35,970
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact SUV
Layout transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 3.4 litre V6, OHV, 12 valves
Horsepower 185 @ 5200 rpm
Torque 210 @ 3800 rpm
Transmission 5 speed automatic
Curb weight 1713 kg (3776 lb.)
Wheelbase 2857 mm (112.5 in.)
Length 4793 mm (189.0 in.)
Width 1832 mm ( 72.1 in.)
Height 1703 mm ( 67.0 in.)
Ground clearance 203 mm (8.0 in.)
Max. towing capacity 1537 kg (3500 lb) w/trailer package
Payload capacity 525 kg (1157 lb.)
Cargo volume 912 litres (32.2 cu. ft.) rear seats up
  1043 litres (68.6 cu. ft.) rear seats down
Fuel consumption City: 12.7 l/100 km (22 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.6 l/100 km (33 mpg)
Fuel type Unleaded 87 octane
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Assembly location Ingersoll, Ontario

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