Twice a year, (March and September) the plane of the Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk. The Equinox a derivative of the Latin word aequinoctium – Aequus/Nox (equal/night) and is said to be when both day and night are equal. New Plymouth had an Equinox pass through it last week, it wasn’t March or September and the sun wasn’t really shining but equally, the event was quite a phenomenon and it was all thanks to Holden.
New Plymouth is not the normal place to hold a vehicle launch, but from what I can tell, Holden is not a brand that simply follows the herd. It is a smallish city in the Taranaki and has a population of around 58,000 – equal to a little over one packed All Blacks game at Eden Park. Just like Houston Texas, it’s famous for being an oil town and is overlooked by Mt Taranaki which looks equally as impressive as Mt Fuji. Len Lye created a Wind Wand Sculpture on the waterfront (that has a striking appearance to the one in Wellington a few years later) and he also created the Len Lye centre that more than equals any funhouse mirror attraction. What we did discover though, is that the surrounding roads are hard to equal – but I’ll get to that soon.
We stayed the night in luxury at the King and Queen boutique style hotel a stone’s throw from the waterfront. Dinner was at the White Hart courtyard and the plethora of tasty tapas more than hit the spot. Up earlyish the next morning (and after breakfast at Monica’s), it was time to get better acquainted with the Equinox.
Mid-Sized SUV’s are a very large part of the motoring landscape now and are still growing rapidly and it’s a segment that Holden have been out of for more or less 2 years – and that, of course, is a hole that the Equinox is out to plug.
Although it’s new to NZ, the Equinox is now in its 3rd generation and the nameplate already comes with a vast unit sales number of 2million to boast about. This new generation sits on the new Astra platform and is lighter and more rigid (22%) over its predecessor. It’s also very aerodynamic, claiming to have a cd (drag coefficient) of 0.333 which is equal or better than many small cars. With those sorts of credentials it would be easy for Holden to slap on their logo and start shipping straight away, but not so. As most of you would be aware, our (Australasian) roads are, let’s say, unique and required more than its fair share of suspension fettling.
The Equinox is sturdy looking 5 seater SUV and comes with Front or All-Wheel Drive. Holden NZ are bringing in nine model variants (from LS to LTZ-V), have 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol (127kW) or 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol (188kW) powertrains and 6 or 9-speed boxes. It also comes in variety of cool name colours, from ‘Son of a Gun’ Grey and Blue Steel, to Glory Red and Tuxedo Black.
To appease the family, it comes with a full-length panoramic roof, rear heated seats (all model dependent) and 1798 litres of cargo space with hands-free access. To keep the wallet in check the AWD models come with a fuel-saving (rear axle disconnect) button.
We left the big city (ahem) in our rearview mirror and headed for the country. Highways quickly turning to winding tarmac before a couple of gravel stages. The Equinox was a joy to drive on all surfaces. Intermittent showers did nothing to slow any enthusiastic runs either. We swapped from 1.5 to 2L and back again, and jumped across the spec ranges. The 1.5L felt strong enough and didn’t complain too much being pushed but the 2L’s superior uptake is noticeable – as it should be. I did enjoy the huge glass roof, and although the interior trim has paid a visit to the hard plastic factory, the overall feeling is certainly leaning towards upmarket. The NVH team have been quashing noise wherever possible too, you are more than sheltered from the engine bay, but road noise (probably tyres) is still there.
We stopped at Whangamomona, a republic of New Zealand that has its own currency and passport (just the like the Vatican city?) and also lays claim to having outstanding presidential figureheads such as Billy Gumboot the Goat, Tai the Poodle and Murtle the Turtle (Just like the US?) We feasted on Burgers and received our passports from the hotel before heading off toward the forgotten highway, and sanity?
The combination of the road’s tight twist and turns and our close vehicle grouping had me driving by the seat of my pants – quite literally. Introducing the Safety Alert Seat. The vehicle proximity sensors that normally sound alarms when parking (or in this case, too close to the SUV in front) have been replaced with several vibrating seat pads. Get too close to an object on your right-hand side and the right side of the seat starts to pulse (same goes for left and centre) – it really does grab your attention – and puts a whole new slant on the term ‘turn the other cheek’.
The last stop on the event was the Holden Hillsborough Car Museum in Egmont road – Just like the Louvre in Paris it holds fine works of art, however, these are the automotive type and sport the Holden Badge. From perfectly preserved early models to modern day masterpieces plus memorabilia as far as the eye can see, this is THE place to go for all Holden fans as it was created by one of the brands most avid admirers. This tourist attraction also has an 18 hole golf course same, an equal number to St Andrews but this is a crazy golf (mini putt) and its theme pays homage to Bathurst.
With our Holden brand immersion on overload we mounted up and took the ten or so minute drive back to the airport, the Equinox launch event was at its end.
‘All things being equal’ is a phrase that essentially means ‘provided all things remain the same’. And if they do, I must say that having driven the new Holden across the vast array of roads that surround the Republic of Whangamomona; when it comes to the mid-sized SUV segment, Equinox will no doubt be quite the shining star.