In 2018, the newest player in the hotly-contested medium SUV segment will be the fully-imported Holden Equinox. Paul Maric sampled a pre-production version to see how it stacks up.
Holden's push to create a bustling product range by 2020 continues with the all-new Holden Equinox, which goes on sale locally later this year as a replacement for the ageing Captiva.
As with a raft of Holden's latest products, a great deal of engineering work has been undertaken locally to ensure this new crop of vehicles rides, handles and performs the way a Holden should.
While the Captiva will remain on sale alongside the five-seat Equinox until early next year when the bigger seven-seat Acadia arrives, the Equinox will burst on to the scene with three engines and a stack of technology and safety features.
Holden's staying mum on pricing and specifications, but we do know Equinox will come with both front- and all-wheel drive variants, two petrol engines and one diesel, sitting on the D2XX platform, shared with Astra and Cruze.
Kicking off the petrol offering is a 1.5-litre turbocharged unit that produces 127kW of power, while the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol will be the firecracker of the range with 188kW of power on offer.
The diesel powertrain is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 101kW of power and uses an aluminium design with direct injection. While Holden didn't confirm torque figures for the engines, we do know they will all use a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
All-wheel drive models will also come with a feature that allows the rear axle to be disconnected at the push of a button to save fuel.
To give you an idea of just how quick the 2.0-litre will be, we timed it against a stopwatch during a dash from standstill to 100km/h, with the car coming in at an impressive seven-ish seconds – not far off the pace of the Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI.
In typical American fashion, there's a stack of room inside the cabin. In the front row, the driving position is typical of an SUV, sitting high with a good vantage point out the front, sides and rear.
Depending on the specification, the Equinox will be quipped with things like wireless phone charging, heated seats and steering wheel, LED headlights, passive entry with push-button start (with remote start), power tailgate and satellite navigation.
Infotainment comes in the form of Holden's MyLink system. The 7.0-inch unit sits atop the dashboard and features modern technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's quick and easy to use and comes with voice recognition too, for commands on the move.
Families with tech savvy kids will love all the power outlets. There are two USB ports in the front row and two in the second row, three 12V power outlets plus a universal 230V outlet. Each USB port is capable of charging a USB device, too.
The second row offers plenty of room for three children abreast or two adults with comfort with rear air vents. There is plenty of knee- and toe-room, which makes it easy to get settled in.
A centre armrest works in unison with split folding seats that fold flat to expand cargo capacity. With the second row in place, there is 892 litres of cargo capacity, which expands to 1804 litres when the second row is folded flat.
Holden's local development work stretches from suspension tuning through to steering tuning, with the team even working to increase nominal towing capacity to 2000kg (with a braked trailer), which requires a brake package upgrade and chassis verification.
Our drive loop around Holden's Lang Lang proving ground gave us a chance to stretch the Equinox's legs through a series of paved slalom runs, plus a challenging hillclimb circuit.
We had the chance to drive both the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol variant and the 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel.
The nine-speed automatic works a charm in the turbocharged petrol without the feeling of hunting for cogs some of these types of gearboxes sometimes experience.
The surge of torque on demand is excellent, but we did notice a hint of torque steer from the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre vehicle – mating this engine to the optional all-wheel drive system would be the way to go.
Steering assistance comes in the form of a sharp, electrically-assisted rack. It offers enough feedback for urban driving, while also providing feedback during faster, sportier driving.
While most owners are unlikely to want to throw the Equinox around, it performed exceptionally well on a tight slalom course put together by Holden. It changes direction well and doesn't feel big or bloated, with a kerb weight of around 1500kg.
Holden will push hard on the safety front, with features like autonomous emergency braking (AEB), forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert and haptic seat alerts likely to be standard across the range.
At this stage, a most of the finer details are under wraps until the car launches in November this year. In terms of pricing, one would imagine pricing that mimics the entry point of Captiva would be logical.
Either way, it will represent an impressive new entrant to the segment, especially if each of the models across the range is well equipped.