Equinox evolution: 2017 is last stand for tweener size and V-6 power before radical redesign

2017 Chevrolet Equinox

What changes will make the 2017 Chevrolet Equinox different?

None – and that’s evidently a bold assessment on our part, given widespread reports that the ’17 Equinox will be all-new and radically different. We believe the next-generation of this crossover SUV will be smaller, lighter, and more sophisticated than today’s version. But our sources say it’ll debut during 2017, as a 2018 model. That makes the 2017 the swan song for this popular but aged design. It’ll carry over the minor facelift and the features upgrades that freshened the 2016 model. Expect a similar timetable for the GMC Terrain, which shares this Chevy’s underskin engineering and powertrains.

Read our 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Preview for the latest information

Why should I wait for the 2017?

You shouldn’t, if you like the ’16. The ‘17 won’t change in any way worth waiting for, and its design will have a much shorter shelf life before the all-new 2018 edition bows. That next-generation Equinox will be a course correction for Chevy, finally giving it a direct competitor to compact-class benchmarks like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4. The 2012-2017 Equinox straddles the line between the two most popular crossover categories: it’s priced like a compact but is just large enough to compete with midsize crossovers like the Ford Edge and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The downsized ’18 will almost certainly no longer be available with a V-6 engine, relying instead on a selection of naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinders. In turn, Chevy will introduce an all-new, as-yet-unnamed, crossover with dimensions – and prices — that make it a genuine midsize-class entry.

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

If you like today’s tweener size and hanker for a V-6. You’ll be getting a five-passenger crossover with the latest updates, ones that’ll see it through the end of this design generation. Its styling will be current for a season longer than a 2017’s would be. And, given the inevitable model-year price inflation, you’ll avoid paying more for a vehicle differentiated mainly by its fast-approaching retirement date. Expect the ’16 lineup to return the entry-level, front-wheel-drive-only L model, plus better-equipped LS, volume-selling LT, and top-line LTZ versions, the last three available with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Will the styling be different?

No. It’ll repeat the revisions made for 2016. These included new fascias front and rear, a chrome-accented dual-port grille, projector-beam headlamps, and Chevy-signature dual-element taillamps. LTZs got new 18-inch alloy wheels, the other models new 17-inch alloys. The dashboard’s “center stack” was revamped with a new storage shelf and updated control graphics. The changes strengthened Equinox’s family resemblance to Chevy’s subcompact Trax crossover and its full-size Traverse but didn’t alter the dimensions that once had it furnishing more cabin space than the typical compact SUV. However, compacts such as today’s CR-V and RAV4 – redesigned since 2012 – and models introduced since then, such as the Jeep Cherokee, all beat the Chevy for both passenger and cargo room. They have more modern interior layouts, as well.

Any mechanical changes?

No. The base engine will remain a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. It’s adequate to the task in undemanding driving, but doesn’t have much in reserve for quick merging or overtaking. Blame this crossover’s relatively high weight. No such issues with the V-6, a 3.6-liter with 301 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque. The six is available only in LT and LTZ models equipped with AWD. Both engines link to a six-speed automatic transmission. The AWD system is a basic system that automatically transfers power to the rear wheels only when sensors detect a loss of traction by the front tires. Sporty road manners are not a Equinox hallmark, although the LTZ acquits itself well enough in spirited driving and its 18-inch wheels and tires don’t detract much from the ride quality that is an Equinox asset.

Will fuel economy improve?

No. 2016 ratings should repeat. That means four-cylinder models will rate 22/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 20/29/23 with AWD. V-6 will return at 16/23/18. The four-cylinder’s ratings are below those of most compacts but strong compared to those of genuine midsize five-seat crossovers, though most midsizers are larger and have more power. The V-6’s ratings are poor, even for the midsize-crossover class.

Will it have new features?

Chevy might rearrange a few amenities to create a special going-away edition of this Equinox generation, but new features are unlikely, given improvements made for model-year 2016. These included availability of of blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alters on LT and LTZ models. Every model was given a rearview camera and a 7-inch dashboard screen and will again feature Bluetooth connectivity as standard. Integrated GPS navigation probably will remain available only on LT and LTZ models, although all trim levels will again come with come with GM’s OnStar assistance. Among other assists, OnStar can provide helpful turn-by-turn directions as part of its Guidance Plan, which is free for the first six months and a subscription service thereafter. Likely to remain exclusive to LT and LTZ versions is Chevy’s MyLink smartphone connection to assets such as Siri Eyes Free and Pandora Internet radio, plus 4G LTE connectivity and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

Barring its inclusion in some special-edition model, leather upholstery should remain exclusive to and standard on the LTZ.

How will 2017 prices be different?

Expect a nominal increase but no deviation from a strategy that prices four-cylinder models against compact-class crossovers and V-6 LT and LTZ models undercutting most midsize crossovers of similar power. Look for the rarely seen L versions to begin around $23,500, with the more widely available LS starting around $26,400, the LT around $27,700, and the LTZ around $31,000. Note that all these estimated base prices include the manufacturer’s destination fee; it was $895 for the 2016 Equinox. To these prices, expect to add $1,750 for AWD. With the V-6 and mandatory AWD, look for an LT to start around $33,000 and the LTZ around $36,000.

When will it come out?

Expect a summer 2016 release.

Best competitors

Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape and Edge, Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe, Kia Sportage and Sorento, Subaru Forester and Outback, Toyota RAV4

What change would make it better?

A going-away gift to buyers who want the V-6 but not the extra features Chevy requires you to buy in order to get it. For example, if you could order just the engine upgrade, it would be a reasonably priced $1,500 addition to the AWD LT model and you’d be looking at $30,595 for a lively driving crossover. But in order to acquire the V-6, you also had to shell out $3,590 for mandatory options, including the $1,200 Convenience package (automatic climate control, remote start, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel) and the $890 Technology Package (premium audio and MyLink with navigation). Base price: $32,685. The V-6 tariff on the LTZ was $3,340 in mandatory options.

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]