My Week with Eq: Engine and Fuel Economy Fun with the Chevy Equinox

Sections: Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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A 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ and a Piper turboprop on the tarmac at 8A3

The 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ is a handsome devil, in my opinion. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

My week with the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ has come to a close, and I’ve said goodbye to the handsome crossover. I’ve also said goodbye to a powertrain with a split personality and a hard-won 22 MPG average fuel economy.

As I noted in other “My Week with Eq” posts, our tester was equipped with the 301-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine with gasoline direct injection and variable valve timing. This marvel of modern engine technology may sound like whole a lot of motor for an SUV of the Equinox’s size– and it is. But only if you show the skinny pedal who’s boss.

This is a blessing for drivers like me, who prefer to have a docile, efficient commuter for runabout duty but who also appreciate a powerful engine when, for instance, I need to make a quick pass on a two-lane road. But on the other hand, some drivers may be put off by the easygoing– they may call it “slow”– nature of progress away from a stoplight under throttle pressures that in other vehicles I’ve driven would have easily kept the pace with traffic.

Car and Driver pretty much nailed it in this description:

We had a chance to drive all-wheel-drive Equinoxes with old and new V-6s back-to-back, and we found no difference in drivability beyond the extra kick in the pants. The upshift-happy six-speed automatic carries over, as do high output peaks that encourage a heavy right foot and make frugality difficult. (The previous V-6 offered maximum power and twist at 6950 and 5100 rpm, respectively; the new motor churns them up at 6500 and 4800.)

While I have never driven an Equinox with the previous V6 engine referenced by C&D, the description of the transmission and engine power delivery is spot-on. Get this new 3.6-liter mill above 3,500 RPM, and it’s a beast. Below that, it can be underwhelming– and the transmission conspires with the peaky power delivery of the engine to make sure you really have to try to get the revs that high. That makes most drivers pile on more throttle, resulting in worse fuel economy than you could be getting if perhaps the engine was retuned to make more usable power lower in the rev range.

The 25-mile fuel economy score display

This is the 25-mile fuel economy display in the multi-mode center information pod of our 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ tester. I managed to squeeze out 25.2 MPG for my best 25-mile segment, but for much of the rest of the week, the best I could do was 24 MPG or less. Another display that showed cumulative average fuel economy wavered beteween 22 and 23 MPG for most of the test week. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

As for my fuel economy? According to the ‘Nox’s onboard computer, I averaged 22-23 MPG on mostly highway commuting at speeds of 45 to 65 MPH. I’d estimate that about 95% of the time, I was very judicious with my right foot, trying to see just how close to the EPA rating of 23 MPG highway I could get. Turns out I got pretty close.

There was a cool feature within the many-layered trip computer of our Equinox tester that showed my best fuel economy for any given 25-mile segment alongside a constantly changing number that was reported to be my fuel economy over the most recent 25 miles. A day after taking delivery of the tester, I was able to peg a 25-mile best segment just above 25 MPG after a 20-mile jaunt down a divided highway with the cruise set at 65 MPH. The rest of the week, I didn’t have occasion to take that same route again, and as a result, the best numbers I achieved according to that display would be in the low 24 MPG range from that point on.

All this analysis of my fuel economy in the V6 model makes me wonder how I might have fared in an Equinox equipped with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine instead. An all-wheel drive model like our tester should ring in at about 29 MPG highway, according to the EPA. I also wonder if the engine power characteristics for the four-cylinder are the same as the V6.

That is a question for another day, as GM’s fleet representatives picked up our 2013 Equinox LTZ today…and left us a larger, more luxurious crossover with the same 3.6-liter V6, albeit tuned somewhat differently. What do we have? More about that in another post, coming soon!

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

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