2023 Chevrolet Equinox Makes Do with Leftovers


On Earth, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres synchronize and experience roughly equal amounts of daylight and darkness twice a year. This is one kind of equation. However, a new Chevrolet Equinox comes around much less often than that. After six years on the market – and more than 1.6 million sales – the current Equinox is showing its age. Its automatic transmission only offers six forward gears. Its segment-leading powertrains—a 252-hp turbo four mated to a nine-speed, plus a 43 mpg turbodiesel—were discontinued before the pandemic. COVID delayed the Equinox refresh by more than a year, and when it finally hit, a trio of sharp EVs and the Corvette Z06 made the lightly restyled Equinox look like a placeholder, a holdover from the 2010s that long enough hanging around for the arrival of its dazzling electric successor. Nevertheless, even in a state of neglect, this compact SUV is still the second most popular Chevy, just behind the Silverado.

HEIGHT: Nimble and solid chassis, excellent infotainment, always in dealer stock.

At a Chevy dealer, the Equinox presents itself as an easy choice. It’s a good size between the little Trax and the tall boy Traverse. The Blazer looks hotter but offers about the same interior room while costing 10,000 more. The Trailblazer is a tight squeeze, and its upper trims get expensive. An Equinox seems like a fair deal, though, with a $29,595 base price for an all-wheel-drive LS. Fuel economy is decent, there’s plenty of space, and there’s almost always a factory incentive even in these buyer-unfriendly times.

However, if you walk out to other dealers at your local auto mall, you might realize why the Equinox is our 13th choice when ranking compact SUVs. Horsepower is five for the new year, but 175 ponies fighting 3,627 pounds make for a slow, drawn-out battle during every highway merge. Granted, that’s not unusual in this segment, even for all-new entries like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage, but it’s a disappointment for a vehicle that once offered 252 horses. At least the 1.5-liter turbo four is smooth and free of the nasty, raspy sounds that characterized GM’s old naturally aspirated fours. Off the line, acceleration is adequate as all 203 pound-feet of torque arrives at 2000 rpm and stays until 4000 rpm. Our 8.0-second 60 mph time bested the 2018 Equinox 1.5T by the better part of a second, and in every performance test, the 2023 model was significantly quicker despite its near-equal weight and identical powertrain. (For the record, a turbo 2.0-liter Equinox hit 60 in 6.6 seconds.)

We’re not sure why this latest Equinox 1.5T has such an acceleration advantage. In both cases, the fastest runs were with four-wheel drive disabled. That extra productive wheelspin at launch in front-wheel drive helped us shave 0.3 to 0.4 seconds off our time to 60 mph. Unlike nearly every other four-wheel-drive crossover, the Equinox doesn’t automatically route torque to the rear axle when the front tires slip. There’s an AWD button that the driver has to press to activate the system, and it’s easy to forget. On the road, shown left to make a turn, you will panic when the front wheels lift in the middle of the intersection with cars coming at you from both directions. Pro Tip: Unless you’re towing an ’07 Altima, always engage AWD.

Once you get going, the gear ratios have wider gaps than a New York subway platform. Top gear passing from 50 to 70 mph takes six agonizing seconds. Every other automaker except Mazda has given up on six-speed transmissions in crossovers, and we remember just how well the nine-speed behaved in previous Equinox models.

This outdated powertrain is a major drag on an otherwise A-grade General Motors chassis. Vibrations are well dampened, body roll is minimal, and there’s real feel to the steering. Braking is above average for the class at 159 feet from 70 mph. For 2023, Chevy swapped the vacuum booster and master cylinder for an electrohydraulic system that reduces both weight and complexity. We didn’t notice a difference in pedal feel. The body structure and excellent rideability make for lively, predictable handling even if the all-season Hankook tires hang on for just 0.82g of lateral grip. With these solid bones and the 2.0-liter engine, the Equinox performed at Audi Q5 levels just a few years ago. With its stars fading, the Equinox may be ready to take up residence in Las Vegas.

In terms of looks, the RS trim with its blacked-out grille, wheels and bowtie badging is as slick as it gets, although this version should age better than the sci-fi Kia Sportage and the punchy Subaru Forester. Inside, materials are adequate for the Equinox’s sub-$30K starting price. The RS’s optional leather—which feels like vinyl—includes red piping over the seats and red stitching on the steering wheel, armrest and gear shifter. At $38,010 as-tested, other crossover interiors carry it better.

2023 chevrolet equinox rs awd

Michael Simari|Car and Driver

Hard plastics dominate most of the lower portions of the doors and dash, though Chevy has thankfully broken its habit of using cheap-feeling granules. The front seats have also shed their sturdy ironing board construction for true comfort. Rear passengers enjoy ample legroom and headroom, although other compact SUVs like the Nissan Rogue and CR-V offer significantly more cargo space with the seats folded. Still, 64 cubic feet will swallow a small bureau and is nearly the capacity of a short-bed Silverado with a tonneau cover. The optional 8.0-inch touchscreen is sharp and easy to use, with the ability to download apps and upload vehicle settings to Chevy’s cloud so you can load them into another connected GM vehicle. The 360-degree cameras project very sharp images, with almost a dozen views.

LOW: Last year gearbox, down on power, unintuitive AWD system.

The Equinox will eventually be refreshed, likely after the attractive Equinox EV goes into production in late 2023. Meanwhile, if you want to drive the latest and greatest Equinox, you’ll have to visit China, where the RS pairs the 2.0-liter turbo with a 48-volt hybrid system. Maybe we’ll get something like that, after another trip or two around the sun.

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2023 Chevrolet Equinox RS AWD
Vehicle type: front engine, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

Base/As Tested: $33,695/$38,010
Options: RS Leather Package (Bose premium sound system, black leather seat upholstery), $1580; power sunroof, $1495; Safety and Infotainment Package (heated steering wheel, 2 USB data ports, 120-volt power outlet, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, surround camera, heated outside mirrors, adaptive cruise control), $1200; front license plate bracket, $40

turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 inches31490 cm3
Power: 175 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 203 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm

6-speed automatic

Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 11.8-inch ventilated disc/11.3-in disc
Tires: Hankook Kinergy GT
235/50R-19 99H M+S TPC 3161MS

Wheelbase: 107.3 inches
Length: 183.1 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Height: 65.4 inches
Passenger volume, L/H: 52/47 ft3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 64/30 ft3
Curb weight: 3627 lb

60 mph: 8.0 sec
1/4-mile: 16.3 sec @ 85 mph
100 mph: 24.6 sec
120 mph: 46.2 sec

Results above show 1 foot deployment of 0.3 sec. away.
Acceleration, 5–60 mph: 8.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.0 sec
Fastest speed (C/D east): 125 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft
Road holding capacity, 300-foot skid road: 0.82 g

Combined/City/Highway: 26/24/30 mpg


Clifford Atiyeh header

Contributing Editor

Clifford Atiyeh is a reporter and photographer for Car and Driver, specializing in business, government and litigation news. He is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and committed to saving both manuals and old Volvos.