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2012 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ

Seeing the Equinox parked in my garage gave me a new appreciation to how handsome the car is in profile, especially with the bright eighteen-inch wheels. It is a more cohesive and muscular design than its GMC Terrain sibling, which has too many right angles stuck on for no reason than to "butch" up the car. The interior is also well laid out, with a high center stack that puts the majority of controls in easy reach, and a number of thoughtfully designed compartments, nooks, and crannies. Even without the optional moonroof, the tall glass area let in a lot of light; although I always felt as though I was sitting a little too low due to the high dashboard. Generally, this is a very well executed package.
As Donny says, the Equinox is a surprisingly good-looking vehicle. Although its design will never draw oohs and aahs at future classic car shows, the Equinox's styling is well executed, without being flashy or overdone. The same goes for the interior, which is smart and well-designed, although somewhat conservative and filled with many cheap-feeling hard plastics. It's notable that our top-trim, $33K LTZ model lacked now-commonplace features like a sunroof or push-button start. I'm also confused by the layout of some buttons. For instance, the trip computer buttons are located below the climate controls on the center console, and the power liftgate switches are mounted on the roof.

I recall the four-cylinder-powered Chevy Equinox being fully capable of moving this attractive crossover fairly quickly; I think I could be perfectly happy driving a four-cylinder Equinox, especially when you consider that the four-cylinder is EPA rated at 30 percent better fuel economy than a V-6 model. The V-6 engine that we tested here does increase the Equinox's towing capacity from 1500 pounds to a much more palatable 3500 pounds, though, so I suppose that's one reason to spend $1500 extra for it. If you get a V-6, though, it'd be a good idea to also fork over the cash for four-wheel drive, as well; torque steer was plainly apparent in this front-wheel-drive V-6 test car.

The forward-collision warning seems kind of pointless to me. If you don't notice that you're about to hit the car in front of you, I don't think you're going to see a smallish red light on the top of the dashboard quickly enough to make a difference (except for possibly at night). Perhaps GM's research proves me wrong. Thankfully, the system is adjustable with a handy button on the steering wheel, which provides three closeness settings as well as an "off" position.
Large doors and lots of cargo space make this an excellent family car, and it served me quite well in that capacity during Thanksgiving weekend. The problem is that the base price, at $24,260, is higher than that of the entry-level crossovers in most showrooms -- even if the Equinox is larger than many of those models -- and it's easy to price an Equinox well into the $30,000s.
There's nothing spectacular or earth shattering about the Equinox, just all-around competence and solid execution. The exterior design has more personality than competitors like the Toyota Highlander without impinging on the practicality these vehicles need. It also still looks quite fresh after a few years on the market. Inside, it seems Chevrolet has mastered the dark art of making cheap plastic look premium. The curved dash looks warm and well-grained, belying the fact that it's hard as a rock. Some actual soft-touch surfaces would be nice in a car costing more than $30,000. The Equinox drives well for its size, with good body control and nicely weighted steering. The 3.0-liter V-6 still isn't GM's most inspiring powertrain, but as my colleague Rusty notes, it's more than enough for this application. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder is probably the smarter option, as it saves $1500 and boasts much better fuel economy (6 mpg better on the highway, according to the EPA).

The second-generation Equinox has been a success. 193,274 units were sold in 2011, making it the fourth best-selling nameplate in GM's U.S. portfolio. It's easy to see why: the Equinox offers composed handing, a compliant ride, plenty of interior space, and all packed into a relatively compact size.

Why mess with that success? For now, GM isn't. Updates for the 2012 model year are rather minor, including door lock switches placed on the door panels themselves, and the availability of GM's new infotainment and connectivity suite - which Chevrolet calls MyLink -- on the top-shelf LTZ model. I didn't have a chance to actually mate it to my smartphone, but the touchscreen-driven system responded fairly quickly to inputs for both the navigation and audio system.
Like many of my colleagues, I had previously found the base four-cylinder perfectly adequate, but if you want the new forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems, they're restricted to the LTZ trim with the 3.0-liter V-6.
Still, seeing as the second-generation Equinox is only three years old, it's at least refreshing to see GM add improvements now, as opposed to waiting for an all-new model launch. Here's hoping they address one minor gripe of mine: the tapered center stack design is stylish, but control placement - especially for the audio system - is a bit cluttered and difficult to sort, especially at night.


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