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Holden Equinox


Jeep Wrangler

Summary

Holden Equinox

It has been a long time coming, but this is it - the replacement for the Holden Captiva.. sort of. It’s the 2018 Holden Equinox, a new mid-sized model that will take the fight to some of the most established and successful SUVs on the Australian market.

The competitive set is daunting for a newcomer - we’re talking the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V… Some big selling models from some big name brands.

It’s not as though Holden hasn’t had a presence in this market in the past, though. The company has had the Captiva in the medium segment in the past, and there’s still going to be the seven-seat Captiva, which will soldier on as the brand’s offering in that space until the all-new Acadia arrives later in 2018.

As such the Equinox is purely a five-seat offering, and a roomy one at that - plus, there are five different versions for customers to choose from: the base model LS, the safety-focused LS+, the mid-spec LT, well-equipped LTZ and flagship LTZ-V. 

So, how does it stack up? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Jeep Wrangler

A fast-setting sun, the temperature poised to plunge from 10 degrees, zero phone reception, we were halfway up the remote west coast of Tasmania at least an hour away from our destination and there was a Jeep Wrangler bogged up to the axles halting us in our tracks.

If we were in a LandCruiser, Patrol or Defender, this would signal an opportunity to score some brand brownie points by saving the day with a snatch strap. But given this was our first taste of the new JL Wrangler on Australian soil and we were among almost a dozen other Wranglers queued up behind the bogged lead car, you’d forgive our hosting Jeep executives for feeling a tad nervous at this point. This sort of thing seldom happens on media events thanks to impeccable planning of every possible contingency.

But reality couldn’t have been more contrary, with smiles all round as snatch straps, Maxtrax and a shovel were mobilised and all hands hit the deck to get us out of there.

This is the thrill of off-roading and Jeeping at its very core, adhering to the popular mantra that you’re not going properly off-road until you get stuck.

It probably sounds mad to 95 per cent of the car-buying public, but the anxiety of apparent failure followed by the elation of extrication can be one hell of a buzz.

The longer this recovery takes, the greater the thrill, and this one took the best part of an hour, in professional hands, so we’d been pretty damn stuck.

Given the new Wrangler had proven itself as arguably the most capable off-road vehicle straight out of the box at it’s international launch on the infamous Rubicon Trail in the US last year, we should also take pride in the fact that it took Aussie soil to halt it.

But how does it go on Aussie bitumen, in local spec? Read on.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.6L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

Holden Equinox7.4/10

The Holden Equinox 2018 range has a lot of choice for buyers, and that will be enhanced even further when the diesel models arrive later in 2018. As it stands, there is no denying the Holden magic touch has been applied to the Equinox, and it drives confidently and comfortably in almost every situation.

It is let down by a bland interior with some questionable finishes, and an exterior design that looks a little dated for a brand new model in one of the most important segments in the market. 

It isn’t a class leader, then - but it is among the better options in the class. This writer’s pick would be the LS+, which has the best comfort, peace of mind and a more-than-adequate drivetrain for most people’s needs.

Would you go for the 1.5-litre model? Or do you subscribe to the notion that there's no replacement for displacement? Let us know in the comments section below.


Jeep Wrangler7.8/10

The new Wrangler is a rare example of a new product that's been designed from the start to be exactly what it is, without outright sales as the number one priority.

Yes it brings some compromises for everyday use, like the on-road ride and handling and that question mark over its safety.

But this is all so it can be uncompromised off the road, and there isn't anything else on the market so capable, straight out of the box.

It's impossible to nominate a sweet spot of the range without having driven two-thirds of it, but it's hard to imagine the Rubicon not being it. 

Could the new Wrangler tempt you into the world of Jeeping? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Design

Holden Equinox6/10

I guess you could say that it is interestingly styled, in that it doesn’t really look very much like anything else in the Holden stable. 

I mean, if you squint you can see a bit of Astra sedan (Chevrolet Cruze) about it, and maybe some Trax, too. Some makers are nailing the whole 'brand identity' thing, but that’s not so easy for Holden, which has sourced from the European market and the North American market. The Equinox, for instance, is built in Mexico, primarily for the US, where it sells in big numbers.

That aside, there’s something about the look of it that has a familiarity to it. I personally think it would have been right at home in a 2005 model range line-up, because there are a lot of deep character lines and swooshes, stuff that has seemingly gone a bit out of fashion in recent years as companies push for 'European styling'. And in the same breath, I’d say that the D-pillar is more than a bit reminiscent of a Mercedes-Benz GLE

The entry-level models have 17-inch wheels with big chubby tyres that look a little naff, but 18s and 19s on the higher-spec versions, not to mention the LED headlights on the flagship LTZ and LTZ-V (models below have LED daytime running lights).

The interior falls short of the styling highs we’ve seen in competitor cars, too. It isn’t as high-tech or sexy as, say, a CX-5, Tucson or Sportage. But it does have the practicality side of things sorted.


Jeep Wrangler9/10

More than 13 years after the previous JK first appeared, you’d certainly hope the new model brought improvements across the board.

And it has, with more off-road cred, better fuel efficiency, power, tech, refinement, and a few kilos off its beltline. What’s most impressive though is how it’s stayed true to its core values after what's arguably the most comprehensive redesign in its 77-year evolution.

Key to this core is the continuation of solid axles and coil springs front and rear to maximise off-road articulation.

This combo is notoriously difficult to tune for on-road handling, and even the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has given up the ghost for an independent front end.

The Wrangler’s classic removable doors and folding windscreen also remain, even though both are illegal to use on Australian roads because each makes the driver’s mirrors redundant.  

The all-new ladder chassis have scored longer wheelbases mainly to allow room for the new eight-speed auto, with the two-door growing 35mm to 2459mm and the four-door by 61mm to 3008mm.

To lower the kilo count, the JL uses aluminium for the bonnet, doors, hinges, fenders, windscreen frame, and tailgate skin, with the latter also boasting a magnesium frame. Australian Wranglers were tipped to use a steel bonnet for pedestrian safety reasons, but clearly the lighter bonnet ended up passing ADR certification anyway.

Other weight-reduction steps include hollow suspension bars, aluminium engine mounts and steering gear and a lighter brake master cylinder. Net savings are up to 90kg, with tare weights ranging from 1762kg for the two-door models, to 1900kg for the four-door Sport S and Overlands, to 1992kg for the petrol Rubicon and 2160kg for the diesel.

The external bonnet latches have been moved closer to the front of the car to meet pedestrian safety requirements and now feature a winch cable retention slot to keep it tidy during off-road recoveries.

The windscreen has been slightly laid back to improve aerodynamics, which may sound futile for a car of this shape but among numerous other detail changes they’ve resulted in a nine per cent improvement to a still brick-like 0.54 Cd.

Passenger visibility has also been improved through enlarged glass openings and the lowering of the tailgate-mounted full-size spare tyre.

You probably wouldn’t expect Star Wars to influence Wrangler design, but the LED headlight internals on the Overland and Rubicon have been styled to reference the electrobinoculars from the original trilogy.

The new vents behind the front wheels are functional, with the role of reducing under-bonnet air pressure at speed. The Rubicon’s bonnet vents are also designed to extract heat during lengthy low-speed off-road climbs.

Overall clearance has also been improved, with all variants boasting a 34.8-degree approach angle, 26.2-degree breakover (for the two door Overland, 20.8 for the Rubicon) and 29-degree departure angle, with 252mm of ground clearance (Rubicon). All versions also carry a competitive 760mm wading depth rating.

Clearance levels:

 Sport S 2dr Overland 2drSport S 4drOverland 4drRubicon
Running clearance235mm260mm232mm242mm252mm
Approach34.8 deg34.8 deg 19.2 deg 34.8 deg34.8 deg
Breakover23.9 deg26.2 deg19.2 deg20 deg20.8 deg
Departure 29.2 deg29.2 deg29.2 deg29.2 deg29.2 deg

Roof options have now grown to three, with the soft top and hard top to be joined later this year by the Sky One-Touch powertop, which folds its soft centre section back to open the whole roof turret at the touch of a button.

Previous Wrangler interiors have felt like a bit of an afterthought, stripped back for simplicity, but every inch of this new one has been considered to pack in all of the modern conveniences while still being tough as nails and able to hose it out if you need to.

The material quality seems to be excellent for a Jeep product, and there's some nice touches like the rubberised surround for the multimedia screen.

Another Jeep design tradition that continues with fervour are the design ‘Easter eggs.’ With JL, the Torx bit size required to remove the doors is embossed into each door hinge, there’s three little notches on the steering wheel centre that refer to the tri-spoke wheel of the original Willys, there’s a little climbing Willys printed on the base of the windscreen, another Willy’s on the gearknob, and info plaques in the tailgate that mimic the Willys.

One you may not heard of though is the tiny pair of thongs (or flip flops) subtly etched into the left-hand side of the windscreen surround as a nod to notorious Jeep tragic and hot rodding legend David Freiburger’s preferred footwear.

Payload ratings are about average for an SUV of this size, with two-door models able to carry 551kg, while four-door Sport S and Overlands step up to 560kg, the petrol Rubicon notes 570kg, but the heavier drivetrain of the diesel Rubicon drops its payload down to 570kg.

Two-door Wranglers carry a braked tow rating of 1497kg, while four-doors step up to 2495kg.

Practicality

Holden Equinox8/10

The Equinox is undoubtedly one of the more practical and spacious models in the segment - up there alongside the brilliantly practical Honda HR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan - and a lot of that comes down to the fact that there aren’t seven seats squeezed in, and it’s on the bigger side of things for the class.

With dimensions of 4652mm long, a wheelbase of 2725mm and a width of 1843mm, it certainly has the supersized American market in mind. For context: Toyota RAV4 is 4605mm long (2660mm wheelbase) and 1845mm wide; Hyundai Tucson is 4475mm long (2670mm wheelbase) and 1850mm wide; Mazda CX-5 is 4540mm long (2700mm wheelbase) and 1840mm wide.

The result of the Equinox's extra footprint is a roomy cabin, easily large enough for a family of five. There are three top-tether anchor points and dual outboard ISOFIX attachments, and Holden claims a massive, class-leading boot capacity of 846 litres with the back seats in place, and 1798L with them folded down in a 60/40 fashion.

The higher-spec models have remote release levers in the boot area to drop the seats, too, and the LTZ and LTZ-V versions have a hands-free tailgate, which is handy if your digits are otherwise occupied.

There are cupholders up front and in the back, and the door pockets are a good size, too, with space for a bottle or (fold-up) umbrella. A central storage bin in front of the gear selector allows enough space for wallets and phones, while the console between the front seats is massive.

High-spec models (again, LTZ and LTZ-V) have four USB ports to keep the kids’ devices charged on road trips, plus there’s a 230-volt powerpoint in the back seat. The rest of the range makes do with a single USB port, and a couple of 12-volt plugs. 

The media system you get depends on the model you choose. LS and LS+ models have a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring tech and Bluetooth, while the LT, LTZ and LTZ-V have a slightly more attractive (but no more intuitive) 8.0-inch touchscreen with the same tech, plus sat nav (including live traffic updates).

The interior presentation is a little bland and dated, and there’s an array of hard plastics throughout that don’t imbue the cabin with a sense of luxury - while competitor SUVs like the Volkswagen Tiguan can feel like expensive cars that have been de-specified, the air the Equinox gives off is one of a more affordable car that has been tarted up.

That’s not to say it’s unpleasant - I liked the leather on the seats in the up-spec models (and the seat cooling on the humid day of my test drive), but I reckon the fabric trim in the lower-spec models has a bit more character and charm to it.


Jeep Wrangler8/10

As I found at the Wrangler’s international launch, the JL has taken big strides in terms of passenger comfort and practicality.

One highlight up front is the rubberised gap between the cupholders to hold your mobile phone, which comes in very handy when you’re rock hopping.

Instead of bottle holders in the doors, there’s flexible nets to grasp all sorts of things. Similar nets can be found on the back of the front seats.

The back seat has plenty of room for my 172cm height behind my seating position, although the backrest is a bit upright for an SUV. Taller drivers might also get a bit nervous about the overhead speakers poking out of the roof.

All versions score directional air vents in the back of the centre console, along with twin USB and USB-C connections, and the 230V inverter plug of the Overland and Rubicon is bound to come in very handy for all sorts of power needs.  

There's the usual two ISOFIX and three top-tether child-seat anchorage points on the back seat, regardless of whether you’re in the four-seat two door or five-seat four door.

The back, the four-door’s boot is quite a decent size at 897-litres with the rear seats up and 2050 with the seats folded almost flat, with nice and squared off edges for cramming as many eskies and camping chairs in there as possible. Jeep Australia is yet to specify cargo capacities for the two-door versions.

Price and features

Holden Equinox8/10

The new Holden Equinox 2018 model range isn't the outright most affordable mid-size SUV on the market, nor is it pushing the limits in terms of pricing. It's a middle-ground player. 

The entry-level Holden Equinox LS is the only model available with a manual transmission, and it starts things off at $27,990. The automatic version adds two grand ($29,990). It's powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, and is only available in front-wheel drive (FWD).

The LS has 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points, and the automatic has what Holden calls 'Active Noise Cancellation'.

Next up in the range is the LS+ at $32,990, which runs the same 1.5L auto drivetrain as the LS. The LS+ adds a leather steering wheel and power folding side mirrors.

It also adds a heap of safety equipment - some of it, arguably, that should be included in the low-spec car.

The list is topped by auto emergency braking (AEB), but packaged alongside that tech is a range of other potentially life-saving stuff: lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning.

Additionally, there’s blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and auto high-beam assist, and Holden’s 'Safety Alert' driver’s seat, which will vibrate to warn the driver of potential hazards.

Next up the list is the LT, at $36,990, which gets a bigger engine than the two lower-spec models - a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit with plenty of extra poke: 188kW and 353Nm, or about 48 per cent more power and 28 per cent more torque than the entry-level cars. Gone, too, is the six-speed automatic, with a new nine-speed auto transmission taking its place. A diesel will be available later in 2018.

The LT builds on the LS+ model, upgrading to 18-inch alloy wheels, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, sat nav with live traffic updates, four USB points (two front, two rear) a 230-volt powerpoint in the second row, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, HID headlights and provision for roof-rack mounting.

The LTZ uses the same 2.0L drivetrain, and is available in FWD at $39,990 or all-wheel drive (AWD) at $44,290. A diesel will come for it, too. 

It upsizes to 19-inch alloy wheels, while also adding a hands-free power tailgate, semi-automated parking (parallel and perpendicular), rain-sensing wipers, leather-appointed seats, wireless phone charging, heated front and rear seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, roof rails, DAB+ digital radio, LED headlights and tail-lights, and a Bose premium sound system.

The flagship LTZ-V comes solely in AWD and costs $46,290 - which effectively makes it a $2000 jump over the LTZ AWD, running the same 2.0L/nine-speed auto. A diesel will be offered later.

The LTZ-V adds a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, power adjustable passenger seat, and ventilated (cooling) front seats.

So, there’s something for everyone, really. I just reckon maybe the LS and LS+ should have been merged into one model with the safety kit…


Jeep Wrangler8/10

Jeep announced local price and spec in January, and while prices have risen from the previous $38,990-$53,990 MSRP spread to now span $48,950-$68,950, there’s a whole lot every new Wrangler gets that wasn’t available in the past.

For Australia, the range is split into three trim levels and a choice between short-wheelbase two-door, and long-wheelbase four door bodystyles, as with the previous JK-generation.

This time around, the base model has been renamed Sport S, and kicks off at $48,950 for the two-door and steps up to the four-door for $53,450.

The rough and ready Sport S makes do with cloth seats and a soft roof with plastic windows, but does have a leather steering wheel, carpet on the floor and alloy wheels, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time, albeit in the smaller 7.0-inch multimedia screen. It’s also got auto headlights and rear parking sensors.

Note that the Sport S won’t get auto emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring until closer to the end of 2019.  

Sport S options include $745 for premium paint, the ($2250 2dr, $2750 4dr) Sport S Group and the $1950 Off-Road Pack.

The Sport S Group includes a black hard top with removable freedom panels up front, Alpine premium audio, tinted windows and remote start functionality.

The Off-Road Pack brings an upgraded Dana M220 rear axle with LSD, specific 17-inch alloys and all-weather floormats.

The more luxurious Overland is also available in either bodystyle, with the two-door costing $58,450 and the four-door follows the same $4500 premium to total $62,950.

It brings details like leather seats, colour-coded removable hardtop and wheelarches, 18-inch wheels, active cruise control, LED lights all round, proximity keys, nine-speaker Alpine audio, a bigger 8.4-inch multimedia screen with built-in sat nav, a 230V inverter in the back of the centre console and front parking sensors.

The Overland also comes with AEB and blind-spot monitoring straight out of the box.

Premium paint is still optional, but you can also add the $350 Trail Rail cargo management system to four-door models.

The top of the range and more rugged Rubicon is four-door only and the only trim level to offer the option of the new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. List pricing for the V6 petrol version is $63,950, but the diesel adds a full $5000 to cost $68,950.

The Rubicon scores hardcore off-road gear like BF Goodrich mud-terrain tyres, shorter 77.2:1 low range gearing, front and rear diff locks with stronger axles and a swaybar disconnect system and chunky mud-terrain tyres. It also comes with a winch-ready steel front bumper not seen on the early-build examples pictured here.

The Rubicon reverts to cloth seats, but comes with Rubicon bonnet, sturdy rock slider sidesteps, specific 17-inch alloys, black hardtop and wheelarches but retains the Overland’s AEB, bind-spot monitoring, active cruise control, Nine-speaker audio, LED lights, 230V inverter, bigger multimedia screen with sat nav, but adds off-road pages.

Premium paint continues as an option alongside the Trail Rail system, but you can also add the $1950 Rubicon Luxury Package, $750 Electrical Group, and an alternative Rubicon set of wheels for $950.

The Rubicon Luxury Package brings back leather seats, gearknob and handbrake handle, heated front seats and steering wheel, plus colour-coded wheelarches.

The Electrical Group brings integrated AUX switches for four extra aftermarket electrical accessories like driving lights or a winch, upgraded 240 Amp alternator and 700 Amp maintenance battery.

On top of these options, there’s 100 other MOPAR accessories available.

As with the international launch, we’ve only been given access to the Rubicon so far, but we’ll follow up with tests of the Sport S and Overland ASAP.

Engine & trans

Holden Equinox8/10

The entry-level engine offering is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 127kW of power and 275Nm of torque. It comes with a six-speed manual (LS only) or six-speed automatic, and is FWD only. 

The other drivetrain on offer is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with a class-leading 188kW of power and 353Nm of torque. It is solely mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, but can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive (the LT is FWD only, the LTZ is FWD with the option of AWD, and the LTZ-V is AWD only).

The AWD model employs a clever system that can allow the driver to effectively disconnect the rear drive axle, in order to help save fuel - it is controlled by a button near the gear selector. If the car is in AWD mode it will generally default to front-drive, but can split torque up to 50:50 front to rear if slip is detected. The AWD model also has revised suspension and a higher ride height.

A diesel model will be added to the range later in 2018, with that drivetrain being a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 100kW/320Nm. It will come exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, but will be offered in FWD or AWD.

Towing capacity is 750kg for an unbraked trailer on all models, while the 1.5-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel have towing capacity of 1500kg for a braked trailer, and the 2.0-litre petrol has a 2000kg braked towing capacity. That’s good, but not a benchmark for the segment (Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI:  2500kg).


Jeep Wrangler7/10

The default Wrangler engine is a revised version of the 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol V6 we’ve seen before, which now produces a healthy 209kW and 347Nm. However, the only revision seems to be the incorporation of a stop/start system in the name of efficiency.

The Rubicon is finally available with a diesel option, but this time it’s the only trim level to offer it.

The new unit is a 2.2-litre unit, which is significantly smaller than the 2.8 it replaces, but also much quieter and more refined and generates the same 147kW of power but 10 fewer Newton metres at 450Nm. The latter is available from a useful 2000rpm though.

The 2.0-litre turbo petrol four available internationally isn’t on the cards for Australia for now, but could be added if there’s sufficient demand.

The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 also available overseas is a definite no-go though, as it’s only been engineered for left-hand drive.

All Australian Wranglers have stepped up to the familiar ZF-designed eight-speed torque converter auto found in the Grand Cherokee. The transfer case is still controlled by a stubby lever next to the auto selector.

Fuel consumption

Holden Equinox7/10

Claimed fuel consumption for the 1.5-litre drivetrain is 6.9L/100km for the manual and automatic variants. Our launch drive saw a much higher return, due to some pretty spirited driving: 10.4L/100km.

The 2.0-litre version is a bit thirstier, thanks to its extra grunt. It is claimed to use 8.2L/100km for the FWD model and 8.4L/100km for the AWD. On our launch drive, we saw 9.7L/100km

The diesel, when it comes, will be the most frugal in the Equinox line-up - exact figures haven’t been revealed at this stage, however.


Jeep Wrangler7/10

This is another area of net improvement, with the petrol Rubicon dropping from the previous model’s 11.9L/100km to 10.3.

The diesel Rubicon is rated at an impressive 7.5L/100km, while the rest of the petrol V6 line-up spans 9.6L/100km for the two-door Sport S and Overland, and 9.7L/100km for the four-door Sport S and Overland.

Driving

Holden Equinox8/10

It’s as though Holden’s engineers have waved a magic wand and made the Equinox - a big-for-its-class SUV - drive much smaller, and with much more confidence than you might expect.

The steering is the highlight - Holden has nailed the electric power steering system for feel and weighting, with excellent response whether you’re simply twirling the wheel at low speeds to park, or pushing it through a series of corners. There’s bugger-all in the way of torque-steer, too (that’s where the steering wheel will tug to the side when you accelerate).

The suspension, too, is a compliant and comfortable balance of control and plushness. Only in the models with the 18- or 19-inch wheels do you start to notice some terseness, and that comes down to both the extra weight of those variants and the lower profile tyres.

The LS and LS+, then, are the models that are the peachiest of the five variants. With 17-inch wheels and chubby 65 profile Continental rubber, the pliancy was excellent, as was the grip. 

That said, the turning circle in the LTZ-V, in particular, is poor - 12.7m, which is worse than a lot of much bigger dual-cab utes.

The drivetrain in the LS+, too, was a fuss-free affair: it never felt underdone with two burly adults and some luggage on board, easily dealing with pushing away from intersections and rapid-fire overtaking moves without hassle.

The 2.0-litre is undeniably faster, and it’s also pleasantly refined. There’s a level of effortless to the way it pulls away, but it never really feels quite as potent as, say, the Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI (with 162kW/350Nm) - and that is, in part, down to the weight of the Equinox. It’s a bit of a tubby thing, tipping the scales at 1778kg (kerb weight) in the top-spec LTZ-V. For comparison’s sake, the aforementioned top-spec Tiguan is 1637kg…

The moral here is, then, that less can be more. Make sure you drive the 1.5-litre…


Jeep Wrangler9/10

It was always going to be hard to match the Rubicon Trail as a launch venue for the new Wrangler, but Jeep Australia did a mighty fine job by pitting us against 17km of the iconic Climies Track on the west coast of Tasmania. 

Starting at the southern end, the track builds in complexity from easy 2WD progress, through high-range 4WD and ultimately low-range 4WD and very much needing the swaybar disconnect system and both diff locks. All aids were certainly active by the time we got stuck, right near the end of the track.

The surface is largely granite, but there’s plenty of muddy rutted sections, wheel-deep creek crossings, steep climbs, and sharp dropoffs. Trust me, it’s good.

It sounds cliched, but the Wrangler felt right at home here. Having said that, the undercarriage kissed the ground on numerous occasions, which you’d expect with such a long wheelbase, but it’s all well tucked and protected in between the wheels.

One weak point is with the export-spec rear bumper, where the plastic number plate mount extends beyond the rest of the bumper and forms a scoop when dragged along the ground. I can see a lot of Rubicon buyers taking to it with a sawzall shortly after purchase.

The 4WD High goes a lot further than you might expect, but the ultra-low range gearing also helps you to plan your wheel placement and path over obstacles carefully and enables heaps of wheel torque for adjusting your speed on the fly.

Some may bemoan the lack of a manual for really technical off-roading, but the eight-speed auto does a great job of putting the power down and isolating drivetrain shock.

When needed, the swaybar disconnect and diff locks are easily activated via the centre console switches, and the former makes a particularly big difference to the Wrangler’s ability to keep all four wheels on the track and simply amble along.

I had a steer of both petrol and diesel versions on the track, and the diesel does a really good job for such a little unit.

It'd also no doubt be a lot more efficient when you're off road, but I'd personally prefer the linear power delivery you get with the V6, not to mention the extra power. Did I mention that it's also $5000 cheaper?

Then when you're on the road, which is admittedly where any four-wheel drive will spend most of its time, it's a significant leap ahead of any Wrangler of the past.

It's more refined, more comfortable and more stable, but ultimately there's no disguising its off-road focus.

In the US I said that it felt like it was on par with one of the better dual cab utes, but Australia's bumpier roads reveal it to be a bit more jiggly, particularly through the solid front axle.

I also reckon the chunky mud tyres take a bit of the edge off the handling too, but I am a sucker for the sound of mud tyres rolling down bitumen at speed, and these rough edges are all there for good reasons. 

Safety

Holden Equinox7/10

At the time of writing there hadn’t been an ANCAP crash test performed on the new Holden Equinox, but the brand made specific reference to an expectation of a five-star score during a presentation to media at the launch.

Still, there’s an elephant in the room - the LS. If it were 2014 we would have applauded Holden for offering a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, ESP and ABS, and six airbags in a family SUV. But it’s not 2014, and times have changed.

That’s what makes the LS’s lack of standard safety equipment disappointing, because the brand had the chance to take it to its mainstream rivals with a strong safety package across its entire model line-up. Yet here we are, and those on a tight budget will miss out on the latest tech - maybe those buyers will head to a Toyota dealer, as the RAV4 now has a pre-collision warning with auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure alert, active cruise control and automatic high beam.

You can’t get active cruise control on any Equinox, but every model from the LS+ up has safety kit coming out the wazoo. Those models have the 'Holden Eye' camera safety system with AEB, lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning. Additionally, there’s blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and auto high-beam assist, and Holden’s Safety Alert driver’s seat, which will vibrate to warn the driver of potential hazards.


Jeep Wrangler6/10

The new JL scored a significant blow with the announcement of EuroNCAP’s one-star rating, but it’s worth noting that the European model tested lacked the AEB and blind-spot monitoring of the top-two Australian models, which will also be applied to the base Sport S from later in 2019.

At this point, Jeep Australia hopes ANCAP will award it a higher score, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for five stars.  

The fact is, it’s just not possible to make a car with a fold down windscreen and removable doors and still score the same safety rating as a Volvo SUV.

Aside from these active features, all Wranglers come with dual front and side airbags, if not curtain or any rear bags, while the top models get full-speed collision warning and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Ownership

Holden Equinox7/10

If you buy a Holden Equinox (or any other Holden) before January 1, 2018 you will get the brand’s limited offer seven-year/175,000km warranty. If you buy one after that, you’ll get the bog-stock three-year/100,000km plan - another peculiar move from Holden, especially for a brand that needs a good news story at the end of a treacherous year for the company.

The service intervals for the Equinox will be 12 months/12,000km, which is better than some of the other models in the company’s showroom that require maintenance every nine months.

As with all Holden products, the company will back the Equinox with a capped-price service campaign for the life of the car. The first seven services, no matter the engine, average out at $310 per go.


Jeep Wrangler8/10

The new Wrangler is the first Jeep to introduce the brand’s new capped price servicing program, which will be rolled out across the line-up with each model year update.

This caps servicing at $299 per service for petrol Wranglers and $499 per service for the diesel. Jeep claims the new pricing will bring savings of up to $850 over the five-year warranty period than the previous JK model.

Service intervals are now 12month/12,000km for the petrols and 12/20,000km for the diesel, which on one hand is a drop from the previous 24-month gaps, but the distance element has thankfully been extended from 10,000km.  

Jeep is in line with the new five-year warranty status quo among mainstream brands, with unlimited kilometres, five-year capped price servicing and lifetime roadside assistance when serviced through a Jeep dealer.