What’s in the garage?
The term sleeper is usually reserved for high-performing cars with unsuspecting visuals, and the Holden Equinox LT is a pretty nice fit for that definition. With a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 188kW and 353Nm, it is the most powerful mid-size SUV you can buy today. While it’s easy to go mad with power, the Equinox’s real purpose is to be a volume seller in one of Australia’s favourite new car segments. We take the pick of the range for a spin to find out if it is up to the task.
What we reckon
Power and performance
Nothing in the class can match the Equinox in terms of sheer power, though the Mazda CX-5 turbo has a few more newton metres. The class-leading 188kW is evident off the line and with an extensive local tuning process, the Equinox isn’t easily embarrassed on twisty roads either. But keep in mind the 2WD variant does have a propensity to serve up wheelspin in large doses if prodded too hard from a standstill - the same engine can be mated to an all-wheel driveline for better grip.
The 2.0-litre petrol feeds power through a nine-speed automatic transmission, with a 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds. Only the Mazda CX-5 turbo, which starts at $47,000 (a circa $10k premium), can offer similar performance in this segment with its 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre petrol motor.
Ride and handling
Holden spent a large amount of time fine tuning the Equinox for Australian conditions, and it shows. The ride is excellent, and walks the line between too plush and too firm nicely. In both urban and rural environments the Equinox is a winner, with a dual personality that is as comfortable on a rat run as it is crushing the miles on the open road. Even on winding back roads, the Equinox can put a smile on your dial with communicative steering and delightful poise.
Interior and comfort
One of the Equinox’s strengths is its interior packaging, with the cabin being both spacious and comfortable.
Rear leg room is incredibly generous while the driver seat has haptic function, which uses vibrating bolsters instead of sounds to warn the driver of obstacles when reversing. It’s a little funky at first but you get used to it.
A neat trick used by some manufacturers now, Holden engineers reduced unwanted sounds by using noise cancelling technology found in headphones. It emits a sound wave through the audio speakers that cancels out tyre and wind roar and it seems to help hush noise in the cabin. It also helps clarity from the stereo system which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and has some punch to it.
However, these positives are undone by the materials and design of the interior, which are disappointing. Hard and thin plastics dominate the dash, while the centre console sits too high, prompting you to use a claw-like posture to use the gear shifter.
The LT 2WD is the pick of the Equinox range, but it still falls short of being a class leader due to the disappointing interior quality. If driving enjoyment is the top of your priority list, then the 2.0-litre Equinox is a must-drive. For those who favour practicality above looks, the Holden is also worth a test drive. But the unfortunate reality for Holden is that many buyers want a car that looks and feels premium as much as a nice driving experience, and it’s here where the Equinox struggles to win any favours.