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My Week with Eq: All-Wheel Drive You Never Know is There, and Other Equinox Musings

Sections: Chassis, Powertrain

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2013 Chevrolet Equinox on the tarmac at 8A3

The lower left tailgate “AWD” emblem is the only clue that you’ve got all-wheel drive on a 2013 Chevrolet Equinox. The system is designed to work seamlessly and therefore has no control– not even a mention of AWD– inside the Equinox. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

In my week with the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox, it occurred to me that though the handsome crossover was badged “AWD” on the liftgate, I never saw a button or an indication that all-wheel drive could be selected by the driver. That’s because the ‘Nox handles it for you, I found out.

According to Chevrolet spokesperson Otie McKinley, the all-wheel drive system aboard the 2013 Equinox is designed to be seamless and largely transparent to the driver.

“The system is automatic on-demand and splits power 50/50 front/rear, or as much as 85% to the rear wheels,” McKinley said. “In normal cruising, 96% of torque is directed to FWD. Seamless engagement and disengagement is done as the situation demands.”

2013 Chevrolet Equinox and Cessna Citation Jet on the tarmac at 8A3

The 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ is too pretty for mud. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Given milder-than usual winter temperatures for much of the test week and my unwillingness to take the too-pretty-for-mud Equinox through any serious Tennessee clay during rainy days, I did not get to actually feel the all-wheel drive system do its thing. But even if I had taken it through conditions that would have required the rear wheels to cue up, I suspect I still might not have known they did. With nary a knob or button in the interior to signify torque can be sent to all four of the Equinox’s 18-inch aluminum wheels shod in 235/55 Michelin Latitude Tour rubber, I reckon that was the goal when GM designed the system. Like McKinley said, “seamless.”

My test Equinox LTZ, with its brawny 301-horsepower 3.6-liter direct gasoline injected V6, got another piece of unseen tech from the General: FE2 suspension upgrades. According to McKinley, FE2 is basically GM code for dual-flow suspension damper (DFD) technology found on both of the front struts of V6 models equipped with 18- or 19-inch wheels.

A 2013 Chevrolet Equinox on the tarmac at 8A3

Not even a single badge signifies that the V6-equipped Equinox gets retuned suspension bits up front. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

“DFDs improve impact feel, noise, and vibration,” McKinley said. “Basically taming the torque and power of the new LFX 3.6 V6. The dampening tunability for the ride and handling performance is what (we) wanted with this kind of power in a compact SUV.”

They do that job well. Pointed into corners faster than one would normally fling a tall, hefty SUV such as the Equinox, our tester remained planted with less body roll than I expected. I’ll admit I didn’t hot-shoe the Equinox much. After all, that is not its expected role, especially for most anybody who cares to spec-out a $37,000 LTZ trim like our tester. However, on a short-and-spirited run down a narrow ribbon of patch-heavy blacktop, I found the Equinox’s ability to handle undulating pavement surfaces mid-corner reassuring. Ditto for its uneventful, relatively smooth weight transfer when piling on the skinny pedal at curve apexes. In all of the spirited driving, there was no great sensation of front-wheel drive torque steer, perhaps attributable to that seamless all-wheel drive system sending more power to the rear to negate it.

A 2013 Chevrolet Equinox and a Piper single-engine turboprop on the tarmac at 8A3

The 2013 Equinox LTZ has just enough chrome in the right places. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

Fast driving down curvy, pockmarked roads, as I say, is not what most have in mind when buying a crossover five-passenger SUV. They want something comfortable that can eat up the miles on straight, divided highways, deftly schlep the kids to school, and look handsome enough to stand out at the office parking lot. On all three counts, the Equinox is a winner. High-speed cruising is quiet, kids– even my 18-month old son in his huge, space-eating baby seat– have plenty of legroom thanks to the sliding rear bench, and the LTZ’s abundance of chrome combined with our tester’s Crystal Red Tintcoat paint (a $395 option) make a visual pop that is flashy yet decidedly not gaudy. In all, our Equinox seems to be a vehicle that excels at all of the things a modern crossover in the $30,000 to $40,000 range should.

Disclosure: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

A 2013 Chevrolet Equinox sits on the tarmac at 8A3 as a Piper single-engine turboprop lifts off

(Lyndon Johnson photo)

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