More Details on Chevy Equinox's 'Eco' Mode


Hop in the redesigned Chevrolet Equinox, and you may notice an “Eco” button ahead of the automatic gearshift. It comes in four-cylinder versions of the Equinox. In other cars, “Eco” or “Econ” buttons can limit A/C usage or, in the case of the Honda Insight and Toyota Highlander Hybrid, scale back accelerator sensitivity. The goal is the same: Improving fuel efficiency.

The Equinox’s example is one of the few such buttons we’ve seen in a non-hybrid that actually influences the way the engine and transmission react. Thanks in part to that button, GM says the four-cylinder Equinox achieves an impressive EPA-rated 32 mpg on the highway. Eco mode doesn’t come without a cost to the driving experience, though. At a press event last Friday near our Chicago offices, GM program engineering manager Doug Smith gave us a rundown.


Specifically, Eco mode locks up the Equinox’s torque converter at lower speeds — most automatics do this at highway speeds — and changes shift patterns in the four-cylinder’s six-speed auto. It cuts the engine’s speed at idle, too, but it doesn’t affect the accelerator pedal. The net effect? About 1 mpg more with it on, Smith said.

“It could have a broader range,” he said. “We could get a lot more out of it than we did … but drivability has to be within certain acceptable limits.”

What are the compromises? For starters, in Eco mode the engine may start lugging at 40 or 50 mph, Smith said, like a manual transmission that’s shifted too early into its topmost gear. At idle speed, the engine can come off a bit coarse-sounding. The Equinox has an Active Noise Cancellation system that can lower undesirable sounds by up to 20 dB at certain frequencies, according to GM engineer Jim Vallance.

Smith’s characterizations may have been too harsh. We puttered around in a four-cylinder Equinox all over Chicago, and the Eco button doesn’t appear to cause any noticeable changes — until you get on the highway.

When Eco mode is engaged on the highway, there isn’t a burst of acceleration when you hammer down the gas pedal to pass; there's no big kickdown in gears by the transmission. Instead, you must learn to push the accelerator with gusto, and you’ll be greeted with steady acceleration but not enough to get out of the way of barreling traffic. Since the fuel efficiency gain in Eco mode is relatively minor, most drivers will likely leave it off in highway traffic.

The four-cylinder isn’t the most potent drivetrain, but for EPA highway mileage in the 30s, it would have to be far pokier to merit more complaints.

Stay tuned later this week for’s full review of the Equinox.

Mike Hanley contributed to this report.


Is the ECO button a set-it-and-forget-it or do you have to push it each time you turn on the car? If the former, people will bring in their cars to the dealer with complaints; if the latter, few will likely remember to activate it.

it remains on after you shut off the car yes. And a green light is lit on the gauge cluster when it is engaged as well.


"Since the fuel efficiency gain in Eco mode is relatively minor, most drivers will likely leave it off in highway traffic."

So, if it is left off, how can it be considered towards the EPA rating?

Dave Wuss

This past weekend my wife and I test drove the 4 and 6 cylinder versions, LT and LTZ. The 4 is the better choice of the two as the 6 felt somewhat slow and on the heavy side. While test driving the 6 the check engine light came on and the salesman tried to say this was normal. It was probably something minor but on a new vehicle you don't expect to see such a thing. Both interiors were the best I've ever seen from GM, however the center stack was quite busy with all of the buttons. I didn't have a problem with it but the sales rep said they've heard other similar comments.
I think the 4 drove the best as it felt balanced and was very quiet. I can see the FWD 4 cylinder possibly being a hit if people can get over GM being bankrupt. The only thing I really didn't like was the steering but that could be due to me being use to my 5 Series. Personally I would avoid the LTZ model as it stickered at $34k and change as that's way to expensive for a midsize GM suv. I couldn't fault anyone buying the FWD 4 cyl version as it's an impressive package all around. My wife wants to think it over as she was considering the RDX and an Outback before this test drive. I'm looking forward to the review as maybe it'll offer additional insight.

Original sheth

$34k is not too expensive for what you get. A loaded RAV4 is about $31-$32k with far less content. $354k is basically fully loaded for the I4 LTZ model and you get a lot of stuff for that money.

I dont think the center stack is any busier than the Accord or a host of other current models. Based on the pics I've seen everything seems logical.

Original sheth


The Equinox will be in production long after GM exits bankruptcy. If someone has a problem buying from a bankrupt automaker they can just wait until August to buy an Equinox. GM should be out in a couple of weeks.

I think the June sales will be a shock in regards to people buying from GM. I don't think they're worried about it at all. I doubt many people are equipping an Equinox with dual TV screens et al to get it up to $34K. The 4 cyl will be the big seller and even a 2LT is $25,400.

This is by far one of the most anticipated models I've noticed in terms of search here on the blog. So when you see a lot of coverage about it this week we're not going overboard, people want to know more.


At $34,000 you are getting into GLK territory. The Equinox is no GLK or RDX for that matter, not even close.

While you can certainly get an Acura RDX for around $30K these days you're not getting a GLK off the lot for under $40 and inventory is really limited. The top price in Chicago for a GLK is $51.

I'm not saying $34K for a 4 cyl Equinox isn't high, but again, it's the fact that you get one well equipped for $25 is the big deal.

Original sheth

Saying the Equinox is overpriced without comparing it to other similar fully loaded small/medium crossovers is just silly. A loaded Murano is about $37k. A loaded RAV4 is over $30k. A loaded Edge approaches $40k. The Venza is a little larger but offers similar drivetrains and hp and tops out at over $35k. You just cant compare a fully loaded vehicle from a mainstream brand to a stripped down luxury vehicle of similar price and say the former is "overpriced".

Original sheth

Loaded RAV4 is over $31k and loaded Vue Redline is about $35k.


We just bought a loaded LTX 'Nox with the I4 stickered for $33k. After the normal GM rebates and other incentives, we paid only about $28K for it. You'd never do that with a RAV4! And, you'll have a lot more features and luxury in the 'Nox!


I bought the 2011 Chev. Equinox going on what the salesperson told me and sticker information, that the Equinox got 23-32 mpg. I've been driving it for three months and have yet to get gas mileage over 23.4. The salesman and service appt. setter says it may be because of my driving habits. But, I think that's bull. I've decreased my speed and drive under the speed limit, don't jackrabbit start, drive a mix of highway and city. I don't know where the mpg is determined but it's not in the real world. I expected to get at least 28 mpg and was told by the service guy that I can expect 25 at best. So, how can one believe what the salesman and sticker says is true? I will be trading the gas guzzler for a much higher gas mileage vehicle. No more Chevy's for me.


we have a 2011 nox and my wife gets 30 mpgs around town...sometimes 29...we are very pleased..way to go GM!!!



How is 23 mpg a gas guzzler? My old Mazda 3 got around 26-27 in town with very little stop and go and I didn't feel the hit at the pump. Remember, it's still more or less an SUV so getting 23 with all it comes with in the class is damn good, especially when you are lucky to get 18 19 in some of those vehicles. That al being said, I can see why you might be disappointed.

You probably short hop it everywhere without getting on the interstate much. When I did that, mine got the lower 20's. When I moved and started getting it up to speed it jumped out to the high 20's and made 30 if I was more or less sedate when I hit the surface streets.


I have to agree with Debbie..I purchased a 2011 Equinox 3 months ago based on the advertised mpg. 95% of my driving is highway, I don't floor it, or drive over the speed limit. I set the cruise and drive. Best I've got is 25 mpg. I use the Eco button. Why advertise 32 mpg if it's not the case?


I agree with Debbie and Teresa. I' bought the 2011 11 Equinox 2 weeks ago. The advertizement says 600 miles to the tank. When it's full it only shows 440 miles. The best I ever got was 24 miles to the gallon. 98% of mine is highway driving. Called the dealership and they said after 6000 miles it should improve. I bought this vehicle for the mileage it was supposed to get. 26 to 32 not 24. Very disappointed.


I have a 2011 Equinox and drive about equal city and hwy, and have never gotten less than 26 mpg. I'm looking forward to trying it on a highway trip.


I bought a 2011 Equinox 1LT about 5 weeks ago, get about 24mpg right now but it's still going up, Iknow that to get the average fuel economy to goup you have to put miles on it. I drive mainly highway toa nd from work and am not dissapointed. I get about 24mpg right now but it'll improve. I love the car and features. it's a great ride!

Manny Reyes

Hi me and my wife just bought an Equinox on Saturday its a 2012 just off the showroom floor and we got a great deal on it and much better features then the other small SUV's out there and a good price of 24,871 and we heard of all the bad reviews on the gas mileage but I also here as it breaks in the mileage will get better so I will keep you posted on the but I do have to say its a great and well built SUV! Thanks Chevy


just bought my 2012 nox today, right off the truck with 2 miles on it, love it so far, love drive and how it handles, so much more room than the 2010 hhr i had.


Hi here is an update on our Equinox we have had it for about two weeks now and love it my wife uses it for work she loves the way it handles and drives she gave up a little gas mileage for it but she loves it. We took it to Reno this week for the rib fest and it ran great and people complain about the gas mileage on this vehicle but to tell you we got 28 miles a gallon on this trip from cali san jose area to Reno so were happy with the performance and had no problems up those hills. Mileage just seems to be getting better everytime we drive it. Thanks once again chevy!


I have had my 2011 Equinox for 15 months now and have yet to get ofer 25 mpg. The whole reason why I bought it was not just for looks, but the for gas mileage. Also, the service manager says to keep eco on all the time and it will improve the mpg. It didn't. The salesman says to NOT turn the eco on and the mpg should increase to at least 30 mpg. So I turned it off and I'm getting less mpg. What the heck? Which is right? And HOW can I get the mpg they are advertising?


Just got a 2012 Equinox awd 4 cyl and been getting 26-27 on highway, 23-24 around town. Great car for the money.

Mike Brown

I bought my 2011 Chevy Equinox in March 2011, & So far good results on my '11 Equinox fwd 4 cyl. & getting 26-30 on highway, 22-26 around town. Great car for the money. I do NOT have a HEAVY Foot when it comes to Highway or City driving. Using Cruise Control, & have ECO on at ALL Times, makes a big difference. Prefer to leave ECO On all time for Better Gas Mileage if you want to get up too 600 miles on a Full Tank of Gas!! Just takes time! :-)


My father bought a 2011 Equinox 5 months ago and luckily I get to drive it now and then. This vehicle is fantastic: looks good, nice interior and the fuel economy for a SUV is good-25 mpg (10L/100km) and getting better. price was good also, thinking maybe i might buy one also


I have had my 2011 Equinox for 4 months now. It is the 4cylinder front wheel drive. I Average 24-25 mpg with mixed hwy and city driving... which is what I expected. Open highway, I get 30-32 mpg. To the ladies that have complained they are not getting mileage that they thought: If you have all wheel drive or the 6 cylinder, the expected miles per gallon is significantly less. Using your air conditioning or heat will give you less miles per gallon. You will only get 30+ miles per gallon with exclusive highway driving. If you add any kind of stop and go traffic where your average speed is less than 50 miles per hour, your miles per gallon will decrease. Never go by what a salesman says. Look at reviews online before making a purchase and you will know exactly what to expect. If you look at reviews of comparably sized vehicles, you will see that they also do not get what they thought they would and that the Equinox is just as efficient, if not more.

Robert Rockafellow

I have a 2012 AWD LT.I recently took a 3000 mile trip with it.It had 300 miles on it at the time.At 68 MPH with ECO on,it got a solid 30 MPG.This is the 4 Cyl.

Scottie Brown

Just bought my 2013 Equinox 1LT, with 4 cylinger last week. It only has 500 miles on it but it is hard to believe the fantastic gas mileage I am currently getting. Yesterday I drove a 50 mile stretch of country highway with turns, little up and down hills, and drove around 60 mph and I got 35 mpg. Have read the reviews where people have gotten bad mpg but it must be on the 6 cyclinder cause this 4 cyclinder is doing great.


Interior-exterior awesome....bad gas mileage 23 on highway. ..shifts hard on low gears


I have a 2010 equinox and up to about a yr ago I was getting 480 miles to a tank on the highway. I took a trip this weekend and now it only averages 330 miles to a tank. It only has 47,000 miles on it. What happened to the othe 100 and something miles?


I have a 2011 equinox and was told that leaving the eco button on is damaging my cam shaft. I don't think that is true. But is leaving the eco button on a bad thing?


I bought a new 2013 Equinox 3 months now. I notice the gas mileage is very sensitive to speed and wind. Head wind or tail wind can add or subtract up to 5 mpg. Also speeds above 60 mph or below 50 mph, start to eat into the mpg quite badly. I find I can get 30+ mpg at 65 mph cruse control and eco on. One trip from Midland to Dallas I got 37 mpg with a heavy tail wind, but only got 26 mpg on the way back same wind.


I bought a 2013 nox 4 cyl fwd. and I love it.. I'm getting 25-28 city and 38 highway. I had a Jetta n there is no comparison. Love my nod..


I bought my 2013 awhile ago and I love love love it!!!! My mpg goes from 23-24. I wish it was better but that is my only negative.


I have always been a Chevy man l had a 2010 Malibu at 40.000mi it gave up
On me the But the equinox has a lot of power to be a 4 cly tower 4 life

Timothy Bryant

I just want to chime in here with a response to everyone talking about their "highway" usage and relevant mileage. While you may be experiencing an issue let's not forget "highway" mileage and interstate mileage are not the same. You'll notice a significant decrease in gas mileage on the interstate over the highway as the posted speed limits tend to be much higher and thus your engine will rev considerably higher for the duration of your drive. Perhaps this is the case for your disappearing gas mileage?

Moving Van

I have a 2014 Equinox AWD 4 cyl. My best mpg has been 33.1 at about 67 mph. I feel the mpg is good. Now if I could only find out why my AWD does not function properly.


I recently purchased the 2014 4 cylinder AWD LT and am extremely impressed! Happy to report an average of 35 mpg on a 1200 mile trip!! Love my new 'Nox!!

This is an old article (2009), but readers are still adding comments, so I will chime in...

The Eco switch does something else that wasn't mentioned here—and it almost drove me to return my new 2015 Equinox. The next paragraph may seem unrelated, but bear with me. It is directly related to the Eco feature!

I posted a review to Edmunds after driving my new 2015 Equinox for two weeks. I was frustrated with the lack of engine braking after a manual downshift. Instead, the engine revved way up and stayed at a high RPM even though I removed my foot from the accelerator. After experiencing a decade of smooth yet beautifully downshift-braking in my 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor and the same in a rented Infinity, I was quite upset with the Chevy implementation. But wait!...

Today, during week #3, I disabled the "Eco" feature (a button next to the gear shift). A 2009 article from GM explains that Eco mode squeezes only 1 additional MPG by locking the torque converter at lower speeds, lowering the idle RPM and changing the shift points (applies to 4 cyl engine only). Perhaps they have gained a few more MPG since then.

Well, guess what? Removing the d*mn Eco mode seems to have a vast improvement on the lack of compression braking. I wouldn't say that the feature is as good as my old Mitsubishi, but it is a darn sight better. The rev-reduction kicks in more slowly, but at least it is smooth and downward. What a difference!

I have only figured this out on my most recent, short drive between house and store, and so I must still play with the "feature" to verify my hunch. But at this point, I am cautiously optimistic. This may seem like a minor perq, but to be honest, I was preparing to demand that my new car lease sale be cancelled (Still under 240 miles on the vehicle). It was *THAT* bad.

Moral of the story: Mileage is important, but saving a mile per gallon only to destroy your brakes every 10,000 miles ain't worth it. Disable the Eco mode and enjoy the car!


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