Sports utility vehicles will be of increasing importance to Holden over the next few years. We’ve had a chance to check out the first of the new breed – and discuss what’s following.
TALK that Peugeot’s takeover over Opel has cost Holden access to a luxury sports utility has been detuned.
“It’s wrong. There is no such vehicle – it doesn’t exist,” says Kristian Aquilina in response to reports that a car based on the ZB Commodore was the first project kyboshed by the French since they took control of the German marque two weeks ago.
Talk was that the Holden product was expected to be drawn off an upcoming SUV version of the Insignia, which is the Opel sister to Commodore.
What fuels the speculation is that Holden has identified that it will have five new sports utilities coming as part of a model revival plan.
Four of the five have been identified: There’s the Trax and Trailblazer that are already on sale, the Acadia seven-seater arriving next year and the Equinox, a five-seater four-cylinder that goes on sale on December 1 and was subject of a media reveal in Auckland last night.
And the mystery fifth car? It’s been assumed that was the Opel and, while Aquilina says it definitely is not, neither will he identify what it might be.
However, he assures none of the cars was coming out of Europe.
“There are a range of places and what we have talked about so far are SUVs out of North America and Asia … we have one more to go.”
When will that mystery fifth SUV be identified? “In good time.”
Aquilina has confirmed that sports utilities will be more vital than ever for Holden once it rebirths – after the Adelaide plant producing VF Commodore closes next month - as a seller of effectively badge-engineered product.
Holden has promised it will deliver 24 new or facelifted models between 2015 and 2020.
Equinox is set to come on sale just weeks before the ZB Commodore appears here and next June or so comes the larger Acadia, which is also a rebadged and re-engineered edition of a North American market GMC.
Equinox and Acadia are together charged with replacing the archaic Captiva.
Holden recently made clear that the seven-seater Acadia, which will come out of Mexico, will step away from the sector norm by only being provisioned in petrol format – just like two of its main competitors, the Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9, which also are out North America.
Aquilina doesn’t believe that will be a problem. “Diesel is a shrinking and small component of the segment. We have our diesel in our Trailblazer.”
Meantime, Holden has confirmed a three-engine line-up for Equinox, the most powerful being a derivative of the 188kW/353Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that we will also see in the next Commodore. This marries to a nine-speed automatic.
Also coming are a 127kW/275Nm 1.5-litre petrol-turbo entry-level engine mated with either a six-speed auto or manual transmission and a 100kW/320Nm 1.6-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder.
Holden will also offer front-wheel-drive as well as on-demand all-wheel-drive versions of the Equinox.
Aquilina has indicated this market will see four variants of Equinox. The car shown to media was an LT, so one up from the base grade, but still with cloth seats.
There is no indication yet of pricing, but it is thought the cheapest two grades will compete with the Astra wagon, which is on sale from November 1 in a $35990 entry format and a higher-level edition, priced at $39,990.
The latter was also on show and, from comparison, the design and quality of presentation between it and the Equinox is stark: the European product is simply more sophisticated in appearance and finish.
However, Equinox should not be under-estimated. The equipment level is impressive.
The car comes with autonomous emergency braking, forward collision alert with head-up warning, following distance indicator, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert and even an alert via vibrating seats.
There’s also a reversing camera, park assist, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, push-button and remote start, wireless phone charging, hands-free powered tailgate, embedded sat-nav, LED headlights and daytime running lamps, ventilated and heated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a two-panel panoramic sunroof, four USB ports, three aux power outlets, 230-volt universal power outlets and fold-flat seats.
The model is based on the new General Motors D2XX monocoque architecture and has had its suspension, electric-assist steering and powertrains tuned for local conditions.
With 17-, 18- and 19-inch rubber available across the Equinox range there are three different suspension tunes.
Holden engineers have also upped the braked towing capacity to 2000kg for the 2.0, from 1585kg in the USA.
Also set to sell it is the size. Equinox is 102mm longer than the CX-5 at 4652mm, 3mm wider (1843mm) and 14mm lower (1661mm). Its wheelbase is 25mm longer than the top-selling Mazda at 2725mm; which means it has a lot of rear seat leg room.
Luggage capacity is claimed to be 846 litres with both seat rows in-place. It carries a space saver spare wheel.