HOLDEN EQUINOX

Bow Tie pro­vides SUV so­lu­tion

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ANDY EN­RIGHT

THERE’S a strange sense of déjà vu about the launch of the Holden Equinox. Eleven years ago, Holden rolled out the Dae­woo-sourced Cap­tiva in an ef­fort to woo SUV buy­ers. Back then we were gen­er­ally im­pressed by Holden’s ef­forts, but time wasn’t kind to the Cap­tiva. Where its ri­vals evolved rapidly, the Cap­tiva quickly be­came an also-ran and, lat­terly, an em­bar­rass­ing ex­em­plar of Holden’s de­vel­op­men­tal sta­sis.

Now, here’s Holden again, ad­mit­ting they’re be­hind the curve on SUVS, and the an­swer is to again scour the Gen­eral’s port­fo­lio for a pret-a-porter so­lu­tion. The Mex­i­can-built Chevro­let Equinox is this year’s over­seas mar­quee sign­ing, cur­rently un­der­go­ing a rapid process of Aus­tralian­i­sa­tion at the hands of the en­gi­neer­ing team at Lang Lang.

The Equinox is a fa­mil­iar name­plate in the US, hav­ing graced the rear end of Chevy SUVS since 2004. Holden’s im­port­ing the third-gen­er­a­tion car, down­sized af­ter its pre­de­ces­sor never made the fuel fig­ures claimed for it. Stung by that, the Amer­i­can mar­ket was com­pen­sated with a smaller body and, ini­tially at least, the sole choice of a 127kw 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine.

For­tu­nately, we get a bit more lee­way. The engine choice here com­prises of that 1.5-litre en­try point along­side a 100kw 1.6-litre turbo-diesel and a bar­rel-chested 188kw 2.0-litre turbo petrol. All will drive through a nine-speed au­to­matic with a Range Se­lect fea­ture that can limit up­shifts, pri­mar­ily for tow­ing.

We drove the 2.0-litre turbo, in this in­stance in front-drive guise. The dy­nam­ics seem gen­er­ally well-sorted, with im­pres­sive body con­trol, low ef­fort but ac­cu­rate steer­ing, and a sup­ple ride. On a coned slalom course it’s pos­si­ble to feel the brake torque vec­tor­ing at work, drag­ging the car back into line. The 18-inch al­loys fea­tured 60-se­ries Bridge­stone Dueler rub­ber which helped the sec­ondary ride con­sid­er­ably. The 2.0-litre engine has enough about it to put a grin on your face. Holden ex­pects a 0-100km/ h in the mid-7s and it feels ev­ery bit that fast. De­spite the in-car Bose-en­gi­neered noise-can­celling tech, it’s not the qui­etest car in its class at cruising speeds, as the fea­ture chiefly tar­gets engine fre­quen­cies and not ex­ter­nal noises.

Holden has de­vel­oped three sep­a­rate sus­pen­sion tunes for each Equinox vari­ant. These changes in­clude front and rear anti-roll bars, bush­ings, as well as damper and steer­ing cal­i­bra­tion. Once these vari­ables have been crunched, it all has to work on 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheel and tyre com­bos. That’s quite a task. “We

prob­a­bly did more work on this car than we were ex­pect­ing,” en­gi­neer Tony Me­taxas ad­mits.

The cabin is where the Equinox could strug­gle against the best in class. The cen­tre con­sole in par­tic­u­lar looks bud­get, though it doesn’t want for stan­dard equip­ment with plenty of crea­ture com­forts ex­pected to be fit­ted.

Rear seat ac­com­mo­da­tion im­presses, with plenty of space for six-foot­ers in tan­dem and it’s easy to drop the non-slid­ing rear seats us­ing a tab in the lug­gage bay. The rear bench is creaky though and the front seats are a lit­tle in­sub­stan­tial, with rear three-quar­ter vis­i­bil­ity ham­pered by the big C-pil­lars.

The Equinox is hon­est, it’s solid, it does a job and fills a hole: all de­scrip­tions you could have lev­elled at the Cap­tiva in­tially. Much will de­pend on fi­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions and pric­ing, but the like­able Equinox looks set to have its work cut out.

Model Holden Equinox 2.0T FWD Engine 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo Max Power 188kw @ 5500rpm Max Torque 353Nm @ 2000rpm Trans­mis­sion 9- speed au­to­matic Weight 1600kg ( es­ti­mated) 0-100km/ h 7.5sec ( es­ti­mated) Econ­omy 8.4L/ 100km ( US- spec) Price $ 35,000 ( es­ti­mated) On sale De­cem­ber

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