On Earth, the Northern and Southern hemispheres synchronize and experience approximately equal amounts of daylight and darkness twice a year. That's one kind of equinox. A new Chevrolet Equinox, though, comes around a lot less frequently 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 offers only six forward gears. Its segment-leading powertrains—a 252-hp turbo four paired with 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-looking EVs and the Corvette Z06 left the lightly restyled Equinox looking like a placeholder, a vestige of the 2010s hanging around long enough to witness the arrival of its dashing electric successor. Nevertheless, even in a state of neglect, this compact SUV is still the second-most popular Chevy, behind only the Silverado.
At a Chevy dealer, the Equinox presents itself as an easy choice. It's sensibly sized between the puny Trax and the tall-boy Traverse. The Blazer looks hotter but offers about the same interior room while costing 10 grand more. The Trailblazer is a tight squeeze, and its top trims get pricey. An Equinox, though, seems like a fair deal, 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.
If you wander out to other dealers at your local auto mall, however, you might realize why the Equinox is our 13th choice when ranking compact SUVs. Horsepower is up five for the new year, but 175 ponies fighting against 3627 pounds makes for a slow, drawn-out battle during every highway merge. Granted, that's not uncommon in this segment, even for brand-new entries such as the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage, but it's a letdown for a vehicle that once offered 252 horses. The 1.5-liter turbo four is at least smooth and free of the nasty, grating sounds that characterized GM's old naturally aspirated fours. Off-the-line acceleration is adequate since all 203 pound-feet of torque arrives at 2000 rpm and sticks around 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 same 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 quickest runs were with all-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 all-wheel-drive crossover, the Equinox doesn't automatically route torque to the rear axle when the front tires slip. There's an AWD button the driver must push to activate the system, and it's easy to forget. On the road, pointed left to make a turn, you'll be panicking when the front wheels light up in the middle of the intersection with cars coming at you from both directions. Pro tip: Unless you're drag-racing an '07 Altima, always turn on AWD.
Once you're underway, the transmission 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 gave up on six-speed transmissions in crossovers, and we remember just how good the nine-speed behaved in past Equinox models.
This outmoded powertrain is a major drag on an otherwise A-grade General Motors chassis. Vibrations are well damped, body roll is minimal, and there's some actual feel from 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 ride compliance make for lively, predictable handling even if the all-season Hankook tires only hang on for 0.82 g of lateral grip. With these solid bones and the 2.0-liter engine, the Equinox was performing at Audi Q5 levels just a few years ago. With its stardom faded, the Equinox might be ready to take up a residency in Las Vegas.
Appearance-wise, the RS trim with the blacked-out grille, wheels, and bow-tie badges is as slick as it gets, though this version should age better than the sci-fi Kia Sportage and the frumpy Subaru Forester. Inside, the materials are adequate for the Equinox's sub-$30K starting price. The RS's optional leather—which feels like vinyl—includes red piping across the seats and red stitching on the steering wheel, armrest, and gear shifter. At $38,010 as tested, other crossover interiors wear it better.
Hard plastic dominates most of the lower sections of the doors and dash, though Chevy has thankfully broken its habit of using cheap-feeling grains. The front seats, too, have shed their stiff ironing-board construction for real comfort. Rear passengers enjoy ample legroom and headroom, though other compact SUVs such as 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 crisp and easy to use, with the ability to download apps and upload vehicle settings to Chevy's cloud so you can load them in another connected GM vehicle. The 360-degree cameras project very sharp images, with nearly a dozen views.
The Equinox will eventually get a reboot, likely after the handsome Equinox EV starts production in late 2023. In the meantime, if you want to drive the latest and greatest Equinox, you'll need to visit China, where the RS packs the 2.0-liter turbo paired with a 48-volt hybrid system. Maybe we'll get something like that, after another trip or two around the sun.
2023 Chevrolet Equinox RS AWD
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $33,695/$38,010
Options: RS Leather package (Bose premium audio 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-view camera, heated exterior 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 in3, 1490 cm3
Power: 175 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 203 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 11.8-in vented disc/11.3-in disc
Tires: Hankook Kinergy GT
235/50R-19 99H M+S TPC 3161MS
Wheelbase: 107.3 in
Length: 183.1 in
Width: 72.6 in
Height: 65.4 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 52/47 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/R: 64/30 ft3
Curb Weight: 3627 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
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 omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 8.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.0 sec
Top Speed (C/D est): 125 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.82 g
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 26/24/30 mpg
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.