2005 Chevrolet Equinox

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2005 Chevrolet Equinox

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Handsome new Equinox is a solid new entry sport-utility.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Nice ride
  • Sliding rear seat
Cons:
  • Average performance
  • Slow steering
  • No third seat

The small Suzuki-built Chevrolet Tracker sport utility didn't have much going for it except off-road prowess, but its larger replacement gives Chevy a much better vehicle for the entry sport-ute market.

The truck-like, rough-riding Tracker had rugged body-on-frame construction, and was best suited with 4-wheel drive for reaching a cabin in the mountains. The smooth-riding Equinox is car-like with a unibody design and is primarily designed for suburban errand-running, or fast, comfortable highway cruising,

The Equinox can be had with all-wheel drive, but lacks low-range gearing and thus isn't designed for rugged off-road use. Front-wheel drive is standard for its entry LS and higher-line LT trim levels, with all-wheel drive costing extra.

The Equinox is arguably the best-looking Chevy truck, although it's based on General Motors' rather homely Saturn VUE. However, the Equinox uses metal body panels instead of the VUE's plastic body panels and is longer and roomier.

Size Confusion
Chevy calls the Equinox a compact truck, but it's only a little shorter than a midsize Ford Explorer sport ute and rides on a 112.5-inch wheelbase that's only a half inch less than that of Chevrolet's slightly longer TrailBlazer sport utility.

Chevy calls the TrailBlazer a midsize sport ute and the Equinox a compact one because it wants to position them in different markets so they don't compete with each other, although the TrailBlazer is costlier and more powerful than the Equinox.

The Equinox actually seems smaller than it is from the driver's seat because of its car-like design, whereas the TrailBlazer feels like a truck because of its body-on-frame design.

Lively Old-Style Engine
The new Chevy comes only with an old-style 3.4-liter pushrod V6, which generates 185 horsepower. That's considerably less than the 250 horsepower from the Honda-supplied 3.5-liter V6 available for the VUE.

However, the fairly smooth Equinox engine doesn't feel overworked and delivers good acceleration—although it would be nice if the Honda V6 was an option.

Responsive Transmission
The Equinox V6 is hooked to a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission and delivers an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 25 on highways no matter if the Equinox has front-wheel drive or its on-demand all-wheel drive, which doesn't call for driver involvement. Only 87-octane fuel is needed.

The all-wheel-drive system delivers all power to the front wheels during normal driving but shoots some to the rear ones if it detects front-wheel slip.

Well Equipped
Even the base LS trim level has lots of equipment, including air conditioning, the usual power accessories, remote keyless entry and an AM/FM/CD sound system. The all-wheel-drive LS adds anti-lock brakes, which are a worthy $400 option that includes traction control for the front-wheel-drive LS.

Both versions of the LT have anti-lock brakes, along with cruise control, fog lights, rear privacy glass and alloy wheels.

Extras include $395 side-curtain airbags. The LT is offered with $250 heated front seats and $545 leather upholstery. There's also a costly $3,745 option package for the LT that contains a power sunroof, in-dash 6-disc CD player, steering wheel radio controls and GM's OnStar assistance system.

Slow Steering
The Equinox looks sporty, so new owners may be surprised to find that its electric power steering is a little slow. Also, a 41.8-foot turning circle will result in lots of wheel turning in parking maneuvers.

Accompanying the slow steering is a soft suspension that smooths out rough roads but causes pronounced body lean in curves if you're driving hard. However, handling is good during routine driving.

The all-wheel-drive system enhances stability, and so do the optional 17-inch alloy wheels and 60-series tires offered for the LT. Standard for the LS and LT are 16-inch wheels and narrower 65-series tires.

The brake pedal is sensitive without feeling touchy, and stopping distances are short.

Easy In and Out
It's easy sliding in or out, thanks to wide doorways, a low floor and chair-high seats—not to mention large, easily gripped outside door handles. However, the front seats are almost too soft and don't offer enough side support in turns. They also seem smaller than they should be, although the front passenger seatback can be folded forward to help accommodate extra-long cargo.

The quiet interior is roomy and functional, with an upscale appearance. There is comfortable room for four 6-footers, with an especially roomy back seat.

Handy Sliding Rear Seat
The split-folding rear seat slides fore and aft 8 inches to increase rear-seat room for tall adults or to reduce it for children while adding cargo space. However, the Equinox offers no third-row seat, which is a big selling feature for midsize sport utes.

Visibility is generally good, although thick windshield posts sometimes partially block it.

Gauges can be read at a glance, and climate controls are easy to use. However, the power window switches take getting used to because they're on the console rather than in a more handy location on the front doors. Large outside mirrors can be folded against the front glass to prevent damaging them in tight parking spots.

Shift Design Flaw
Finding the intended gear with the console-mounted shifter can be confusing because of the location of the gear position indicators. There's no excuse for such a design flaw on such a new vehicle.

The one-piece tailgate should have a separate glass opening, but doesn't. However, the cargo floor is low and wide to facilitate loading.

The decent-size cargo area can be enlarged by folding the rear seatbacks forward. But the combination cargo area cover/adjustable shelf is awkward to use and has side mounting points that eat up cargo room. That item seems like a good idea, but is more trouble than it's worth.

The attractively priced Equinox is nicely assembled and painted. Count on it to be a long-term success.

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BB05 - 8/21/2014 3:39:39 AM