The Holden Acadia Equinox testing at Holden Proving Ground.
The Holden Acadia Equinox testing at Holden Proving Ground.

Holden jumps aboard the SUV bandwagon

DRUM roll, please. Holden, having identified SUVs as the next sales opportunity, reckons it will pad out its soft-roader range accordingly.

That'd be a big deal if it happened two or three years ago; now it is a case of the Red Lion playing catch-up against ... pretty much every other brand.

As the hype breathlessly if belatedly notes, "Australia has fallen in love with SUVs and Holden is giving the market what it wants”.

To be fair, the North American-built newcomers, the Equinox and Acadia should do well.

The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.
The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.

Arriving in November to replace the oft-derided Captiva, the Equinox promises sharper performance, smarter looks and the latest safety and infotainment technology.

Holden has tweaked what it can, such as steering feel, suspension stiffness, transmission shifts and braking software.

A quick spin around the company's Lang Lang proving ground shows the local engineers' collective genius at making the most of what they're given to work with.

What they can't do is overcome the fact the Equinox is built for a global market so the plastics are tough and durable rather than soft-touch desirable.

The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.
The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.

That's not a deal-breaker but it is a telling fact that the two top-selling cars in this class, the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson, aim to impress with interior sophistication.

The Equinox's software helps soften the blow, with enough shock-and-awe features to tempt technophiles, from Android/Apple smartphone mirroring, to wireless phone charging, kick-to-open tailgate, satnav and powered grille shutters to improve engine heating and aerodynamics. Holden also made sure the Equinox can tow two tonnes and the trailer sway control has been tuned for local conditions.

The Equinox will have three four-cylinder engine options - 1.5- and 2.0-litre turbos plus a 1.6-litre turbo diesel - and will have front or all-wheel drive guises.

The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.
The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.

The 2.0-litre will be the volume seller and is packaged with a nine-speed auto (the others are coupled with six-speeders).

Due early next year, the Acadia is an up-market seven-seat people-mover to tempt Toyota Kluger and Mazda CX-9 buyers.

First impressions are positive, with no lack of pace. There are soft-touch plastics on the key surfaces, tri-zone airconditioning with roof-mounted vents for all three rows of seats and second row seats that slide and recline.

The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.
The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.

The five USB ports include two in the second row and one in the third, invaluable for keeping devices powered up and kids quietened down.

Holden is being coy on the Acadia's engine. GMC-badged vehicles sell in the US with a 3.6-litre V6 and 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine.

A US-spec GMC on hand at Lang Lang serves to illustrate just how comprehensive the suspension changes are - it rolls and wallows to the point where you'd swear it was a different vehicle to the local version.

The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.
The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.

Holden spokesman Sean Poppitt says the Acadia will add "some real American swagger” to Holden showrooms.

Red Lion execs will be hoping the swagger proves more endearing to Australians than that of the Hummer.

The Equinox and Acadia will be bookended by the solid selling Trax at the small end of the SUV spectrum and the Trailblazer as the off-road biased seven-seater/tow vehicle.

The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.
The Holden Acadia and Equinox in testing at Holden Proving Ground.


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