2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
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Review by Chris Chase; photos by Grant Yoxon

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We drove the Chevrolet Equinox for the first time in June 2004, when General Motors was getting ready to launch its then-new sport utility as a 2005 model. At that time, we called the Equinox a “righter-sized” SUV, what with dimensions inside and out that were larger than a compact truck, but smaller than a traditional mid-sized SUV.

Were we right? The Equinox was significantly larger than both the Chevrolet Tracker (a Suzuki Vitara clone) and the Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy that the new truck ostensibly replaced, and it was certainly more “right-sized” than either of those two.

Since the Equinox’s introduction, other SUVs have stepped up with a view to taking a larger piece of the mid-sized segment: Hyundai’s new Santa Fe was upsized for 2007, there’s a larger RAV4 now, and the Mazda CX-7 is a sexy entry in this staid segment.

2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
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Those are all very nice trucks, but we think the Equinox is also set to butt heads with a handful of handy crossover utility vehicles (CUV for short, because we need more acronyms around here) from Ford, Lincoln and Mazda: the upcoming Edge and its MKX and CX-9 platform mates are nice-looking, spacious vehicles that will give the Equinox a run for its money on many fronts.

For the record, our tester was a 2007 Equinox LT AWD, carrying a starting price of $31,820. We got heated cloth-covered front seats (it’s always nice to see a manufacturer offering this combination, rather than only weaving heaters into leather seats) for $370; XM satellite radio added $260; a DVD-based Navigation system piled on $2,690; $435 got us a nice-sounding seven-speaker premium sound system, and OnStar cost $995. Factor in the $100 A/C tax and $1,150 for freight, and the bottom line swelled to $37,820. Ours was painted a lovely shade of dark red (Deep Ruby Metallic, according to General Motors), a new shade for the 2007 model year.

2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
Click image to enlarge

Suzuki’s new XL7 (based on the Equinox’s platform), fitted with seven leather-upholstered seats (an option not offered on the Equinox), a more powerful engine, a power moonroof and a self-levelling rear suspension, comes in at $37,995 – a better deal, we think, given the extra stuff it offers.

We’re not sure why the Equinox is still stuck with General Motors’ ancient 3.4-litre V6 engine for 2007. While its 185 horsepower isn’t totally out of place for the class – entry-level versions of some of its competitors make do with about that amount or a little less – it seriously lags behind several others offering anywhere from about 240 to 265 horsepower. The lack of power is tangible, too. The Equinox is noticeably slower than many of its more powerful competitors, and the engine feels strained during high-speed passing manoeuvres.

2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
Click image to enlarge

What’s most frustrating is that GM has a perfectly good 3.6-litre V6 in its parts bin – another extra that the new XL7 uses – that was first seen under the hoods of some recent Cadillacs. And then there’s the Saturn Vue (another GM product based on the Equinox) that uses a Honda-built V6. We’ve heard rumours that the Equinox was to get GM’s 3.6-litre, but haven’t seen any proof yet. What gives?

At least the Equinox gets a five-speed automatic (also shared with the XL7), the number of gears required these days if an auto tranny is to be considered up-to-date technology. It’s a smooth shifter and does its job unobtrusively, just like most buyers in this segment wish for. Speaking of the transmission, the console shifter got a useful redesign for 2006 that carries on for 2007. Sadly, though, the power window switches are still located just behind the shifter, instead on the doors, where we think they belong. Autos contributor Haney Louka made a good point about the console-mounted switches, though: he noted that when travelling with children in the back seats, the Equinox’s setup allows a parent riding shotgun to control the back windows, rather than forcing the driver to take their attention from the road to do so.

2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
Click image to enlarge

Otherwise, the interior is quite user-friendly. The gauges are big and easy-to-read (though we don’t care for the generic GM green backlighting) and there’s lots of headroom in every seating position, and tons of rear legroom. The front seats are quite comfortable for long journeys, as we discovered on a three-plus hour jaunt from Ottawa to an event at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario. Other than the mis-located power window controls, our only gripe is that the radio volume and tuning controls are tiny enough for bare hands, and would be impossible to use while wearing gloves. We blame this on the optional navigation system in our tester; models without it get different radio controls. At least the redundant steering wheel-mounted volume control is much easier to use, and the navigation system is intuitive.

2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
2007 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD
Click image to enlarge

We like how the rear seat slides for and aft a few inches; sliding it forward obviously sacrifices legroom, but expands the already generous cargo hold significantly. While we didn’t have occasion to pack the Equinox to the limit, the cargo area easily accommodated the luggage for two ladies travelling to a girly-girl long weekend wedding shower and bachelorette (when do they have time to buy all that stuff, anyway?) without obscuring rearward vision. Naturally, the rear seat folds down too, in a 60/40 split. The large liftgate is heavy and on our tester, it didn’t like to open all the way without a little help.

On the road, the Equinox is far from sporty, but it drives more like a big car than a truck. That’s good, but the ride is a little squishy, particularly at highway speeds, where it can feel floaty. The steering’s very light too; great for city driving, but not on the highway, where it gives little feedback and feels disconnected – almost literally.

We like the Equinox’s looks, even if they are a bit generic compared to other trucks in its class. What we’d ditch are the chromed taillights, which are cheesy. It’s a minor thing, but we prefer the all-red taillights from the nearly-identical Pontiac Torrent.

For a truck costing almost $38,000, we found our Equinox tester to be a decent SUV in need of a better engine. The General’s own 3.6-litre V6 would give this truck the power figures it’d need to stand up to most of its competitors, at least on paper. But if you can get past the Equinox’s lacklustre motor and bland ride and handling, we think the Equinox is still one of the “rightest-sized” SUVs around.


Pricing


Specifications

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Competitors

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Dodge Nitro
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Ford Escape
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Honda CR-V
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Pontiac Torrent
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Saturn Vue
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Toyota RAV4
  • First Drive: 2007 Suzuki XL7


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