Inwood searches for problems; returns empty handed
AH THE three month itch. Typically this is the time in a car’s journey through the Wheels Garage when the excitement of running a new long-termer begins to wane and some frustrations of familiarity begin to rise. It’s a key reason we run long-term test cars: to unearth the niggles and quirks that only begin to surface after prolonged use – the very same journey you’d experience if you bought the car yourself.
The only problem is that, in this instance, there aren’t any frustrations to report. Not yet anyway. Three months in and the XC60 T8 is proving the near-perfect companion. Quiet, comfortable and fantastically frugal (it sipped just 4.9L/100km this month; an impressive effort for a 2174kg SUV), the T8 has slipped seamlessly into my life.
It’s effortless to drive. The steering is light and crisp, which bestows a sense of wieldiness in tight urban spaces. Visibility is excellent courtesy of an airy glasshouse and parking is a painless process, even in cramped underground spots, thanks to three camera views (choose between rear, side or overhead), which are displayed in high resolution on the central screen.
And then there’s the powertrain, which manages to achieve the usually mutually exclusive traits of being efficient while also feeling muscular and responsive. The instant torque of the electric motor helps here, yet even when the battery seems fully depleted, the T8 captures and stores enough energy in general driving to add small bursts of battery-assisted shove as you move away from the lights or gun for a gap in traffic.
Even annoyance-prone areas like the infotainment system remain bugbear-free. All of the buttons are where you’d expect, the menu structure is logical and detailed (allowing you to navigate between different song playlists without needing to touch your phone), and the portrait-orientated touchscreen swipes like a smartphone.
The only niggles are delivered by the stumpy Orrefors gear selector (T8 specific), which requires a double pump to move from drive to reverse. And the infotainment system can lag slightly on start-up if you’re impatiently pressing the screen to ignite the seat heaters on a cold morning. I’ve long since adjusted to the sensitive brake pedal, which I now find easy to modulate.
And that’s it. After 12 weeks of everyday use, they’re the only criticisms I can level at the T8, which further validates its COTY win. Even better is that on top of delivering the ease-of-use and functionality you expect, the T8 does so with just enough Swedish flair and x-factor (through neat design touches and quality materials) to feel interesting and desirable. Which aren’t words often used to describe medium SUVS.
LAST month we detailed how our latest longtermer had started life as a humble $37,490 Equinox LT, only for it to be upgraded in a matter of weeks to the full-fat LTZ-V.
The latter sits at the top of an Equinox range that starts at $27,990 for the LS manual, and steps up progressively through seven models to this, the $46,290 flagship.
The entry-level LS and better-equipped LS+ make do with a 127kw/275nm 1.5-litre fourcylinder turbo-petrol, hitched to a six-speed manual that drives the front hoops.
The rest of the Equinox range benefits from a punchier 2.0-litre turbo/nine-speed auto combo and the choice of front- (LT and LTZ) or adaptive all-wheel drive (LTZ and LTZ-V). All-paw traction costs $4300 as an option on the LTZ, but comes standard on ‘our’ LTZ-V.
Thus equipped, the top-spec Equinox presents with a highly competitive drivetrain that blows away key rivals like the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and Nissan X-trail when it comes to power and torque.
With 188kw/353nm on tap, the LTZ-V isn’t only the most powerful SUV in its class but the quickest too, with its sharp shifting ninespeed auto helping it hit 100km/h in 7.3sec.
That’s a good start and it’s backed by an impressive list of standard equipment designed to turn the heads and open the wallets of consumers who probably don’t yet know what an Equinox is, let alone have it on their shopping list.
For the record, it’s either of the two points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator intersects the ecliptic… Got it? Good.
For anyone at that stage in their new car journey, it’s worth investigating the entire Equinox range, since even the base LS has 17-inch alloys, six airbags, rear camera and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The latter could, of course, be dead handy if the sundial packs it in.
For buyers more safety than budget conscious, the $32,990 LS+ adds a suite of active safety features including AEB, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Blind Spot detection, Rear Cross Traffic alert, and a Safety Alert driver’s seat (see above).
The trend continues up and through the range, until you arrive at the seriously wellkitted LTZ-V, which adds goodies like 19inch alloys, an 8.0-inch screen, panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled leather seats, power tailgate, wireless phone charging, Bose premium audio and more.
It’s a competitive package, yet it’s clear Holden has its work cut out to increase its share in this saturated segment, which currently sits at just two percent.
In coming weeks our patented Bulmer Family Torture Test will reveal if the Equinox has what it takes.
THIS GLX Turbo was only meant to be a stop-gap until I step into a Swift Sport next issue, but in the two months it’s spent in my hands a trend became quite apparent – virtually everyone who came into contact with the little Suzi loved it.
And it wasn’t the kind of affection that only revealed itself after the inevitable “so whaddya think?”. No. These feelings were almost always voiced without prompting, and often before the driver’s seatbelt was unlatched. Remember how I said last month that the Swift makes a profoundly positive first impression? Turns out I’m not the only one who feels that way.
So what endears it to people? Interestingly, no single attribute seems to stand out. Rather it’s how complete and well-rounded the whole package feels. “It just works”, was one morsel of feedback, which sounds like the response most non-tech-savvy people give when asked why they like iphones.
It’s also made me a convert to smartphone mirroring. Suzuki’s multi-fit touchscreen infotainment package is a good example of how entry-level infotainment should be done, with plenty of features, clear graphics and an intuitive user interface, although some in the office have had issues with wired smartphone connection. Once cranked up, Android Auto has added functionality on top of to the Suzi’s system like being able to preselect a drive route on Google Maps via my work computer before I get in the car. Once I’ve sent the route to my phone and plugged it into the Swift, I’m ready to go as soon as I start the ignition. Touches like that just make life a little bit easier.
The Swift isn’t perfect, mind you. Trips on coarse-chip highways saw me cranking up the audio volume to antisocial levels to drown out the tyre roar, and it’d be nice to have some kind of rubbery or flocked lining in the centre console to stop phones and keys k from sliding on the rock-hard plastics. The three-pot is also a little vibey at idle, but hey, triple-cylinder engines have always had tricky harmonics, and the laws of physics are hard to cheat.
There’s also the issue of price – $22K buys you a lot of kit and capability in the GLX Turbo but a cloud has recently appeared on its horizon in the shape of the just-landed sixth-gen Volkswagen Polo, which has a topspec model at an identical price point. Sure, the Polo 85TSI misses out on climate control, standard sat-nav and a few other luxuries, but it feels properly premium.
Had I not driven it right after handing back the Swift GLX Turbo, I would have said Suzuki had a solid position of leadership in the light car segment. Damn.