2012 Chevrolet Equinox FWD 2LT road test: A roomy, comfortable, compact cruiser

2012 Chevrolet Equinox

2012 Chevrolet Equinox

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is pretty much a carryover from the highly regarded and popular 2011 model, but there is a significant difference among models in the product line-up that is worth examining.

Does it make sense to buy an extra-cost 2012 Chevrolet Equinox with V-6 power when a reasonably competent four-cylinder model is available that gets class-leading highway mileage in the compact crossover segment?

That’s what I was wondering as I took temporary possession of the second most lavishly equipped model, a V-6 2012 Equinox FWD 2LT. But, first of all, let’s get our apples and oranges separated.

Comparably equipped, the V-6 model costs $1,500 more than the 4-cylinder model. For that you get 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque, compared with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque.

Equinox instruments

Equinox instruments

Fuel mileage in the V-6 is EPA-rated at 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway. The 4-cylinder Equinox is rated at 22 mpg in the city and a class leading 32 on the highway. Both run happily on regular unleaded gasoline.

However, based on my experience with the V-6 Equinox (overall average of 19 mpg) and a 4-cylinder version of the Equinox’s corporate cousin, the GMC Terrain (overall average of 23 mpg), the real-world difference is about 4 miles per gallon.

So, as expected, there is no justification for the V-6 based strictly on cost. But what about other factors?

The V-6 wins hands down in the towing department. It will haul a boat or trailer of up to 3,500 pounds, while the in-line 4-cylinder can handle only 1,500 pounds.

If you live in hilly terrain and regularly travel with two or three adults and/or a trunk full of cargo, the V-6 will give you the most satisfying drive.

Equinox cargo space

Equinox cargo space

Likewise, if you live in a cold-weather region and require all-wheel drive to push your way through snow and slop, the V-6 model mostly likely will best suit your needs.

And, there’s one more factor in the V-6 Equinox’s favor. It simply feels better, richer, more upscale. The power delivery is smoother, it’s more instantaneous, more effortless. For people who actually enjoy driving, this could be an important consideration.

Engines aside, the latest generation Equinox is not only a major leap ahead of its predecessor, it makes a convincing alternative to all of the entries in what has become a hotly competitive segment of the automotive market.

Four adults or two parents and three children can sit comfortably in the Equinox. While its cargo capacity is not class leading, the 31.4 cubic feet behind the second-row seat and 63.7 cubic feet of space with second-row seatback folded forward are certainly adequate for most buyer’s needs.

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Nick has been an avid observer of all things automotive almost since birth and has been writing professionally about cars, trucks and the industry for more than 30 years. He is the author of The Essential Hybrid Car Handbook and was the long-time automotive editor for the Reading (Pa.) Eagle and Times. His articles have appeared in a variety of magazines, including The Robb Report and Men’s Health, and he has written for a variety of auto industry-related Web sites. He is also a member and former director of the International Motor Press Assn., a New York-based organization of more than 500 automotive journalists and auto industry executives.

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