When GM launched the second-generation Chevrolet Equinox, it chose to offer the crossover with a six-cylinder as well as a four. Customers, however, didn't think that the 264-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 was worth the dollar and fuel economy hit and the take rate barely topped 15%. For 2013, GM is sending that mill packing. In its place comes a new 3.6-liter V-6 that brings more power to table -- and hopefully, for GM, more customers as well.

The new engine is essentially a modified version of the 3.6-liter, direct-injection V-6 found in numerous GM offerings. For the Equinox, the engine is tuned to produce 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque, up 37 hp and 50 lb-ft over the outgoing 3.0-liter V-6. (The six-speed automatic carries over.) Even better, the EPA has rated the stronger engine with the same fuel economy as the old one: 20 mpg combined for front-wheel drive and 19 mpg combined for all-wheel drive.

The respectable performance at the fuel pump is even more impressive when you compare the 0-60-mph times between the two engines. Chevy claims the Equinox with the outgoing 3.0-liter engine needed 7.7 seconds to get to 60 mph in front-drive configuration; 8.2 seconds with all-wheel drive. The 2013 Equinox V-6 is said to do the deed in just 6.9 seconds for front- and 6.7 for all-wheel drive, respectively. In case you missed that, the heavier all-wheel-drive model is quicker, now that the more-powerful six can better take advantage of the AWD's grip.

On a recent visit to GM's Milford Proving Grounds, we drove the new 2013 Equinox V-6 as well as the outgoing Equinox V-6 back-to-back, both with all-wheel drive. When accelerating from a stop, the 3.0-liter is brisk, but the 3.6-liter is more eager and willing to jump off the line. Additionally, the new engine has a better, deeper, and sportier soundtrack, and sounds much more like a V-6 compared with the outgoing engine, which could almost fool some drivers into thinking they are behind the wheel of a four-cylinder.

After our day at GM's proving grounds, Chevy provided the four-cylinder model for the drive to the airport. We won't say the difference is night and day, but it's much more discernible, as it should be. While the four-banger would be fine for solo commuting and errand runs, we would definitely recommend spending the extra $1500 for the V-6 if you like your crossovers with more guts, or if shuttling passengers and gear is part of your daily routine.

Aside from more power, opting for the V-6 also means adding Dual Flow Dampers (DFD) for the front shocks. The DFDs improve ride quality and handling by varying the softness or stiffness of the shocks according to road conditions. Compared to the 2012 Equinox V-6, the 2013 model with DFDs really shone on a section of the proving ground that included a fast, right-hand turn with numerous chatter bumps. The non-DFD Equinox hopped and slid a couple feet away from the intended path, transmitting quite a bit of vibration into the cabin. The new 2013 Equinox with DFDs did a much better job of absorbing the bumps. The DFDs are not available on the four-cylinder and are standard on V-6 models equipped with 18- or 19-inch rims. The V-6 is also equipped with hydraulic steering, which feels more precise and responsive versus the four-cylinder's rack-mounted electronic assist unit.

Our LTZ tester was the range-topping model with a long list of standard features, including a rear-backup camera, automatic climate control, leather seats, power adjustable driver and passenger seats, Forward Collision Alert, and Lane Departure Alert. New options offered for 2013 include a rear DVD entertainment system and GM's new MyLink infotainment system, which adds a number of wireless features such as Internet radio and streaming audio. The Equinox V-6 is also offered in lower 1LT and 2LT trim levels.

In a segment filled with strong competitors, the Equinox's V-6 option provides an asset few can match. (Its platform-mate, the GMC Terrain, also gets the updated engine.) And with the Equinox V-6 crossover's stronger engine and new DFD shocks, the $1500 price premium over the four-cylinder is now an easier-to-justify upgrade.


2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ V-6
BASE PRICE $32,000 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.6L/301-hp/272-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4000 lb*
WHEELBASE 112.5 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 187.8 x 72.5 x 66.3 in
0-60 MPH 6.7 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 16/23 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 211/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.05 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. August 2012