2011 Chevrolet Equinox Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 2, 2011

Pros

  • It's lots of crossover SUV for the money
  • Roomy, comfortable cabin
  • Absorbent ride, little wind noise

Cons

  • Acceleration with the four-cylinder is adequate at best
  • Subpar cargo room for the class
  • Main gauges can be obscured by steering wheel

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2011 Chevrolet Equinox Buying Advice

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is the best SUV for you if you want a roomy five-passenger crossover that looks sharp, rides well, and is smartly priced.  

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox returns for its sophomore season with some equipment shuffling its only changes. This remains essentially the same SUV introduced for model-year 2010 to replace the 2005-2009 Equinox. That first-generation model was a plain-looking SUV with plain-awful road manners. This second-generation replacement is based on a design with roots in General Motor’s European Opel arm. It’s handsome, quiet, and highly competent. And it’s been a smash hit, climbing to the top of the midsize-crossover-SUV sales charts.  

Should you buy the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox or wait for the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox? Little reason to wait for the 2012 Equinox. It isn’t apt to be altered enough in appearance or equipment to offset any eventual price increase over the 2011 Equinox.

2011 Chevrolet Equinox Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox styling changes on with the addition of two new exterior color choices, Twilight Blue and a fresh version of Summit White. The 2011 Equinox continues as a four-door wagon with a one-piece rear liftgate. Styling highlights include a single-horizontal-bar grille that’s nice interpretation of Chevy’s strong family face. Bold wheel arches, a raked-forward stance, and the illusion of wrap-around tailgate glass complete a clean, confident look.

Equinox’s exterior dimensions are smack dab in the middle of the midsize-SUV field, but its 112.5-inch wheelbase is the longest in its competitive set. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and key to how much space a vehicle can devote to passenger room. The long wheelbase not only provides Equinox passengers with generous leg room, it plants the wheels close to the edges of the body. That benefits ride quality and promotes an athletic stance on the road.

General Motors reskins the Equinox with a more broad-shouldered look for sale as the GMC Terrain. Both are crossovers, so-called because they combine SUV traits, such as elevated ride height, with car-type unibody construction. A unibody vehicle’s body and frame are essentially one unit.  Old-school SUV design employs truck-type construction in which the body attaches to a separate frame. Unibody design is lighter in weight to improve fuel economy and handling, although it’s less suited to heavy-duty towing or hauling.

The 2011 Equinox returns in four trim levels, base LS, volume 1LT, slightly plusher and 2LT, and top-of-the-line LTZ.

Mechanical: The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox continues to follow midsize-crossover convention by offering four- and six-cylinder engines and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Both engines employ the precision of advanced direct fuel injection to enhance power and fuel efficiency.

The four-cylinder is a 2.4-liter from GM’s Ecotec engine family. At 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, it’s among the more powerful four-cylinders in the class. (Torque creates pulling power and throttle response; horsepower sustains momentum.)

The V-6 available in the Equinox is a 3.0-liter with 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. That horsepower figure is solid, but most rivals use V-6s of 3.5- to 4.0-liters that furnish substantially more torque. For 2011, this V-6 becomes flex-fuel capable, meaning it can run on regular-grade unleaded gasoline, on E85, which is a mixture of 15 percent gas and 85 percent ethanol, or a combination of both. Ethanol produces fewer greenhouse gases when burned. And in some states, subsidies mean it’s less expensive than gasoline. But fuel mileage dips by 20 percent or so on E85 (see the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Economy section below).

Both Equinox engines come only with automatic transmission and they’re contemporary six-speeds with a floor lever that can be toggled to mimic manual-gear selection. With the four-cylinder engine this transmission includes a selectable “eco” mode that alters its shift patterns a bit to help maximize fuel economy.

All 2011 Equinox models continue with a choice of front-wheel drive or extra-cost all-wheel drive (AWD). Front-drive places the mass of the drivetrain over the tires that propel the car, a traction advantage on slippery surfaces. Equinox’s AWD provides an extra measure of grip by automatically shuffling power to the rear tires if the fronts begin to slip. It’s not intended for serious off-road use, however. Traction and antiskid stability control systems are standard to improve movement away from a stop and to minimize chances of a sideways slide in turns.

Also standard are four-wheel disc brakes with antilock management for additional control in emergency stops.

Features: The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox boasts a laudable array of standard features -- even in base LS trim. An impressive selection of luxury amenities kicks in as you ascend the model line or peruse the options sheet.

Every Equinox comes with head-protecting curtain side airbags that cover both seating rows and are designed to deploy in a side collision as well as when sensors detect an impending rollover. Also standard is the latest version of GM’s OnStar assistance with a free six-month trial subscription. It includes automatic crash response and enables OnStar personnel to unlock the vehicle remotely or even diminish the engine’s power if your car’s been stolen.

Power windows, locks, and mirrors are included in the base price of every 2011 Chevrolet Equinox. So is air conditioning, keyless remote entry, and tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio controls. A digital compass is newly standard on the 2011 Equinox LS.

Newly standard for the 2011 Equinox 1LT model is Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity, a USB iPod interface, and a steering wheel with audio controls. Added to the 2011 Equinox 2LT’s standard equipment are heated cloth seats. Two-tone leather upholstery and an audio unit with hard-drive music storage remain among available 2LT features. A navigation system, rearview camera, and dual-screen rear-seat DVD entertainment also are optional.

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox remains among the few SUVs in this price range to offer a power liftgate as well as a remote engine-start system that also activates the climate-control and optional heated seats. Base wheels are 17-inch alloys; 18-inch alloys are available at extra cost on the LT models and on the LTZ. The 2011 Equinox LTZ features body-color bumpers and chromed door handles and is only model available with optional chrome-clad 19-inch alloy wheels.       

2011 Chevrolet Equinox Test Drive back to top

From behind the wheel: To find happiness with a four-cylinder Equinox, recalibrate your acceleration expectations. Around-town pep is fine, but you’ll need to commit to full-throttle assaults when merging with freeway traffic and leave plenty of room when passing on a two-lane.

The V-6 generates less drama, though, frankly, not that much less. You expect more from 265 horsepower but soon realize the important figure is this 3.0-liter’s 222 pound-feet of torque, which simply isn’t sufficient to scoot a 4000-pound wagon with much verve.

Bottom line: make peace with a four-cylinder Equinox’s leisurely pace and you’ll free yourself to enjoy this crossover’s many other dynamic virtues. Atop the list is that well-calibrated suspension with European DNA. Equinox handles with pleasing competence: grip is good, body lean in directional changes is never exaggerated, though there’s never much power to pull you through corners quickly. Straight-line stability is great, with Equinox’s steering flawed only by a reluctance to return to center after low-speed turns.

Dashboard and controls: The speedometer and tachometer are housed in side-by-side rectangular housings that look a little misshapen, as if their plastic was melting. It’s reminiscent of the sad-eyed binnacles in the Chevy Camaro. It looks no better here and, like in the Camaro, the gauge faces can be partially obscured by the steering wheel rim.

We’ll quibble with distracting sun reflections off the chromed gear-shift collar, but Equinox’s control layout is otherwise hard to fault. A helpful screen between the instrument panel binnacles displays such useful data as instant and average fuel economy and distance-to-empty. The central stack of dashboard controls is attractive and neatly organized. Soft-blue ambient cabin lighting accentuates the center-console cupholders and door pulls, while most gauges and controls are crisply lit in complimentary colors.

That lighting effect, thankfully, is tasteful, and the quality of Equinox’s cabin materials exceeds expectations, too. Even the 1LT model dresses up with a contrasted-color stitching effect on seats and door armrests. The fabric upholstery is a sturdy, modern tech-weave, and leather upholstery is available in a two-tone that’s sporty without being overdone. Padding on cabin panels is rationed, but few ring hollow and most surfaces have a nicely grained, matte finish.  

Room, comfort, and utility: Equinox’s front passengers get plenty of head room and generous seat travel. Driver positioning is good. Rear-seat room and comfort vies for best in class. The bench slides fore and aft nearly eight inches to maximize leg room or rear cargo space. The seat itself is firmly supportive, elevated slightly for a theater effect, and has a reclining backrest. Equinox is wide enough to accommodate three adults in the back seat if they don’t mind brushing shoulders, though the center rider doesn’t get much seat padding. With two in back, Equinox shows an upscale touch with a rear center armrest that hinges from the backrest at perfect elbow height.

That Euro-influenced suspension that aids Equinox’s handling excels at providing impressive ride comfort. This SUV takes bumps firmly but is never rude to occupants. And there’s no queasy jounce or float when the road surface gets wavy.

The cabin is rich with small-items storage bins and cupholders, and the deep front center console swallows a laptop computer. The power liftgate can be programmed to open to several heights – to clear an overhead garage door, for example. But Chevy seems to calculate that Equinox families are best served by a crossover that favors rear-seat room over outright cargo volume. You’ll need to slide that rear bench fully forward and sacrifice some leg room to create 31.4 cubic feet of luggage space behind. Fold both 60/40 rear seatback sections and you’ll open 63.7 cubic feet of cargo room. Both figures are good by absolute standards but at the low end of the competitive set. And unfortunately, dropping Equinox’s rear seatbacks doesn’t create a fully flat load floor. Utility also suffers from intrusion of the rear wheel housings.

2011 Chevrolet Equinox Prices back to top

Prices for the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox barely budged from their model-year 2010 levels and remain very competitive among five-passenger crossovers. Expect Equinox to remain hot seller for Chevrolet throughout the 2011 model year, so don’t bank on manufacturer’s rebates until perhaps late in calendar-year 2011 to help clear any remaining model-year 2011 inventory.

Base-price range for the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is $23,490-$30,815. That’s up modestly from the $23,360-$30,715 base-price range of the 2011 Equinox. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Chevrolet’s fee for the 2011 Equinox holds steady at $745.)

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox LS’s base price is $23,490 with front-wheel drive and $25,240 with AWD. The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox 1LT’s base price is $24,655 with front-drive and $26,405 with AWD. The 1LT adds to the LS such upgrades as the Bluetooth and USB iPod interface and a leather-wrapped steering wheel,

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox 2LT’s base price is $26,715 with front-drive and $28,465 with AWD. This model adds to the 1LT such features as automatic climate control, heated cloth seats, and a rearview camera that displays on a portion of the inside mirror when backing up.

The top-of-the-line 2011 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ’s base price is $29,065 with front-wheel drive, $30,815 with AWD. The 2011 LTZ adds to the 2LT standard leather upholstery, self-dimming rearview mirror, and a rear proximity warning parking assist system.

Note that the V-6 engine is available only on the 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ models, where it adds $1,500 to the base price. A dual-screen rear DVD entertainment is optional on the LT2 and LTZ models, and costs $1,295 on its own and $3,440 bundled with a GPS navigation system.        

2011 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Economy back to top

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox fuel economy ratings for V-6-equipped models slip slightly from 2010 levels, but the four-cylinder Equinox remains among the most fuel-efficient midsize crossovers on the market.

The four-cylinder 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is rated at 22/32-mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 20/29 with AWD. Unchanged from model-year 2010, those ratings keep the front-drive four-cylinder Equinox the only crossover in its class to rate over 30 mpg on the highway and the AWD version one of the few to rate 29 mpg.

By contrast, the 2011 Equinox equipped the V-6 is mid pack for fuel economy, and it’s suffered a small retreat in EPA ratings. The 2011 V-6 Equinox with front-wheel drive is rated at 17/24 mpg, down from 17/25 for model-year 2010. And the 2011 V-6 Equinox with AWD is rated at 16/22 mpg, down from 17/24 for model-year 2010.

Suffering the effects of E85’s low energy-output-per-gallon versus gasoline, a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox equipped with the V-6 and running on the full ethanol blend is rated at only 12/18 mpg.

2011 Chevrolet Equinox Safety and Reliability back to top

For quality and reliability, the Chevrolet brand earns average ratings from J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer survey firm (jdpower.com). Chevrolet is ranked average for initial overall quality measured after the first 90 days of ownership. It also rates average for dependability in J.D. Power surveys that measure problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old vehicles.

While 2011 model-year ratings were not available in time for this review, the 2010 Equinox was rated average in J.D. Power surveys of overall initial quality in the first 90 days of ownership. Owners gave the Equinox slightly higher than average marks in terms of its overall design and performance, but a below average rating for initial powertrain quality. Debuting for model-year 2010, today’s Equinox design hasn’t been on sale long enough to be included in J.D. Power surveys of dependability.

2011 Chevrolet Equinox Release Date back to top

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox went on sale in fall 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox back to top

Launched in its current form for model-year 2010 and likely to undergo its next full redesign in model-year 2015 or 2016, expect the Equinox to get a mid-cycle freshening around model-year 2013. Such revamps typically include slight revisions to nose and tail appearance and some fresh interior textures but don’t change to a vehicle’s overall shape or size.

Equinox’s engine lineup probably won’t be drastically altered during this generation. GM had offered a gas-electric hybrid version of the similarly positioned Saturn Vue crossover. It was available with a gas four-cylinder/electric-motor combination that produced 169 horsepower. And plans for a more advanced V-6/electric model with 255 horsepower were the works before GM shut down its Saturn division during its bankruptcy crisis. That system could eventually find its way into the Equinox.

Don’t look for Equinox to grow a third-row seat, though. It’ll stay a five-passenger wagon, with the larger, more expensive Chevrolet Traverse on hand for eight-passenger duty. Chevy also is reportedly considering introduction of a five-passenger crossover SUV for model-year 2013 that would be smaller and less expensive than the Equinox. It could share its underskin engineering with the Chevrolet Cruze compact car.

2011 Chevrolet Equinox Competition back to top

2011 Ford Edge: This five-seat crossover gets freshened styling, more infotainment tech, and a revised engine lineup for model-year 2011. New underhood are 3.5-liter V-6 with 285 horsepower, a 3.7-liter V-6 with 305, and Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder with some 230. An Edge selling point is advanced infotainment gadgetry, marketed as MyFord Touch. It centers around a dashboard LCD touchscreen and software developed in conjunction with Microsoft. Its innovation is the absence of buttons and dials, though that could confound less tech-savvy buyers. Assorted suspension upgrades help correct some of Edge’s past handling deficiencies. Fuel economy also improves, at 19/27 mpg (18/25 AWD) with the 3.5-liter V-6 and 18/25 (17/23) with the 3.7. EcoBoost ratings were unavailable for this review, but should beat both V-6s. EcoBoost pricing was also unavailable, but V-6 Edges range from $27,995-$36,995 with front-drive and $32,845-$38,845 with AWD.

2011 Hyundai Santa Fe: Freshened for model-year 2010 with revised styling and a new engine lineup, this U.S.-built crossover from South Korea’s Hyundai competes with Equinox on value and comes as close as any for fuel economy. With the six-speed automatic transmission, Santa Fe is priced aggressively at $23,798 with the 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine and rates 20/28 mpg with front-drive and 21/27 with AWD. Base-price range with the 276-horseower V-6 is $25,698-$29,798 with front-drive and $27,390-$31,490 with AWD; both versions rate 20/26 mpg. Lexus-like looks, outstanding interior materials, and a strong warranty are selling points.

2011 Subaru Outback: Perhaps not the most obvious rival to the Equinox but one well worth exploring. Outback is more of a puffed-up five-passenger station wagon – and that’s a good thing because it has a relatively low center of gravity for good handling, yet comes standard with an adept AWD system, plus more ground clearance than most SUV-costumed crossovers, Equinox included. Outback is solid and roomy and actually beats Equinox for cargo space, with 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 71.3 with the rear seat folded. The 170-horsepower four-cylinder versions start at $23,920 and rate 19/27 mpg with a six-speed manual transmission, 22/29 with continuously variable automatic. Versions with the strong 256-horsepower six-cylinder have a base-price range of $28,920-$33,220. They come only with a five-speed automatic and rate 18/25 mpg.