Daniel DeGasperi compares the Holden Equinox LTZ with the Jeep Cherokee Limited to see which is the better medium SUV.

2019 Holden Equinox LTZ Specifications

Price $39,990+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder Power 188kW at 5500rpm Torque 353Nm at 2500-4500rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4652mm (L) 1843mm (W) 1688mm (H) 2725mm (WB) Seats five Boot Space 846 litres Kerb Weight 1618kg Towing 2000kg (braked) Fuel Tank 55 litres Thirst 9.2L/100km combined-cycle claimed 

2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited Specifications

Price $46,950+ORC Warranty five-years, 100,000km Safety 5 stars Engine 3.2-litre petrol V6 Power 200kW at 6500rpm Torque 315Nm at 4300rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4651mm (L) 1859mm (W) 1683mm (H) 2707mm (WB) Seats five Boot Space 781 litres Kerb Weight 1806kg Towing 2200kg Fuel Tank 60 litres Thirst 9.8L/100km combined-cycle claim

WHEN it comes to buying a medium SUV, which is now the most popular new vehicle segment in Australia, locals prefer Japanese first and South Korean second.

Think Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester or Hyundai Tucson. But what about the path less travelled? Or specifically, the country less purchased – indeed the home of the Sports Utility Vehicle, the United States of America.

Here we look at two similar-but-different options, each with standout virtues. The top-spec Holden Equinox LTZ-V is basically a Chevrolet of the same name, born out of Detroit and made in Mexico but with significant Australian tuning.

The penultimate Jeep Cherokee Limited hails from Illinois and is quintessentially Yank. Both cost from just over $46,000 plus on-road costs, they are among the most powerful in their class, and each delivers about the lengthiest equipment lists you’ll find from tip to big, buxom boot. In short, there’s plenty to like on-paper and several reasons to look beyond the usual suspects.

What Are The Holden Equinox LTZ And Jeep Cherokee Limited?

First, a disclaimer: we tested the $39,990+ORC Equinox LTZ, however with the exception of front- versus all-wheel drive (AWD) it performs identically to the $46,290+ORC Equinox LTZ-V. And we can tell you from the start, you’ll want the AWD system for the potent 188kW/353Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder…

Otherwise, both LTZ and LTZ-V nab identical 19-inch alloy wheels, they get front and rear parking sensors with automatic reverse-park assistance, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, auto up/down high-beam, an electric tailgate, dual-zone climate control, leather trim, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated front and rear-outboard seats, satellite navigation, digital radio, wireless smartphone charging, plus a booming Bose audio system.

The latter then adds an electrically adjustable passenger seat, ventilated front seats and a panoramic sunroof to the mix.

Absorb all of the above as we introduce the $46,950+ORC Cherokee Limited, because it gets almost everything. Sure, it gets 18s instead of 19s, it lacks heated rear-outboard seats and a panoramic sunroof is a costly $2200 option that further erodes any closeness in price.

However, Jeep includes adaptive cruise control absent from its rival, as well as steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters for its nine-speed automatic (an identical number of ratios to the Holden), and multiple ‘terrain’ modes for the all-wheel drive system from which the driver can select. It swaps Bose for Alpine to power its premium audio unit and gets a 3.2-litre non-turbo petrol V6 up on power (200kW) if not torque (315Nm). And there are more similarities to these two than just kit…

What’s Are Their Interiors Like?

First things first, and a Silicon Valley slickness is soaked over the interiors of these two. Both infotainment systems and touchscreens are at the top of their class, beating CX-5, RAV4, CR-V, X-Trail and Tucson – only the Forester comes close.

One is better than the other, though.

The Holden’s 8.0-inch centre display is great, with clear graphics, high resolution and quick response. Likewise, its colour trip computer screen is clear and the Bose audio bests Alpine in the bass race…

However, despite this, Jeep raises the game with an 8.4in centre screen and 7.0in driver display that boasts cool (not just clear) graphics and even higher levels of intuition. Both voice control systems work a treat in order to ‘speak in’ a nav address, while syncing to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in both is a cinch.

Up front at least, the Cherokee extends its lead with far-plusher plastics, much-nicer leather and a cushier driver and front passenger seat. It feels closer to $5000 more expensive than its rival, not a mere $1000-3000 depending on options.

LTZ-V shown for illustrative purposes.

The Equinox is more utilitarian. It has greater storage including a bigger centre console bin, but harder and cheaper plastics that don’t fit together quite as well. There’s no semi-premium vibe here.

Conversely, though, it delivers a much bigger rear seat than its rival, complete with expansive legroom and headroom, a wide (if flat) bench, and decent cubbies.

The Limited, by contrast, is true to its name with limited headroom and crimped legroom. It’s fine for 178cm-tall types like this tester, but anyone loftier will struggle. At least the backrest reclines, as per its rival, there are air vents, as per its rival, and twin-rear USB ports … as per its rival. Okay, and nicer cow-hide plus a plush bench to boot.

And speaking of boots, the LTZ and LTZ-V both claim 846 litres from luggage floor to the roof, versus its rival’s 781L. To the eye the higher floor hurts the Jeep, but the Holden also scores handy underfloor storage only let down by cheap carpet. Yes, the former loses out to the latter’s sheer space, but the former also feels like money well spent inside – and the latter plainly does not.

What Are They Like To Drive?

Meet two of the best engines in the medium SUV class for performance and personality, at least. Particularly against the weedy non-turbo four cylinder engines in X-Trail and Forester, and even the little 1.5-litre CR-V and 1.6-litre Tucson turbos, this duo offers thumping, thunderous acceleration absent from any of them.

The most powerful of that brigade, the 140kW CR-V, still pales against either the 188kW Equinox 2.0L turbo or 200kW Cherokee 3.2L V6. And of the two, this time it’s the former leading the latter.

Both leap large off the line, aided by a short first gear. They then sweep their tachometer needles with fervour matched by a forceful shove of the back that says 0-100km/h in about 7.5 seconds (Jeep claims that; Holden doesn’t). The norm for the class is 8.5-9.0sec, by the way.

Each is also equally refined, with smoothly cultured and enjoyable soundtracks when extended, and which dull to a barely audible whisper on light throttle.

Where they differ is with torque. The Equinox makes 353Nm from 2500rpm until 4500rpm, which makes life easy for the auto as plentiful supply is always smoothly underfoot. The Cherokee delivers 315Nm at 4300rpm, and this deficit is further compounded by an 1806kg tare weight some 71kg heavier than its more relaxed rival.

While both are equally brisk from a standing start, then, if asked to move from lower-speed cruising to quick traffic-gap snatching or overtaking, the Jeep pants for breath as its auto desperately shuffles to find the right gear. The Holden’s auto is quicker, smarter, smoother, and almost always on the money.

It was also less thirsty on test, though drinking 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres is hardly economical, and well above an 8.4L/100km claim. The Limited V6 managed 11.8L/100km, but from a 9.8L/100km claim. You won’t find thirstier in this class, to be frank…

And you won’t find more ‘decent’ road manners, either. Both of these US-focused models have surprisingly sweet steering, with the Equinox taking the edge for being lighter, quicker and slicker – but only just.

The Cherokee fights back with smoother, cushier ride comfort, only to drop the ball with some oddly terse behaviour over sharp road bumps and yet with some float over larger undulations. This suspension tune is good, but it comes apart in the extremes.

The Holden is more dynamic, cutting a neater and more composed thread through corners compared with its rollier, wooden, yet still surprisingly balanced and fun competitor. But on the 19s of the LTZ and LTZ-V, urban ride quality is just way too sharp, ever lumpy and occasionally harsh. Along with higher levels of road roar, it feels like the cheaper, less refined option.

Consider the Jeep can offer a locking (versus adaptive – where computers are relied upon to judge grip levels) all-wheel drive system, and drive-select modes to help you out, as well as offering a 2200kg (versus 2000kg) braked towing capacity, and it wins this section.

What Are Their Safety Features Like?

Both get autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, auto up/down high-beam, lane-departure warning, and active lane-keep assistance, though with the latter the Holden leads the Jeep for smoothness of operation and surety of response. Its buzzing driver’s seat (to alert for reversing danger) will be an acquired taste, but it can be switched off and replaced with the beeps and bongs used by all its rivals.

So, Which One Wins And Why?

These are worthwhile medium SUV options for those wanting to wade away from the mainstream.

The Equinox is a big, roomy bus with great infotainment and strong performance, cheap servicing ($817 to three years or 36,000km) and lots of kit for the cash. It just feels cheap, however, and the superb engine and automatic are let down by ride quality that is too terse.

The Cherokee is more cramped in the rear, its V6 is thirstier, its auto dumber and handling less honed. Yet for all that it offers more than a couple of features beyond the usual set of expectations.

In Limited spec it feels semi-premium inside, that 3.2L almost feels exotically smooth and syrupy, and with multiple off-road modes it’s the one to trust off the beaten track. Even with a higher purchase price and expensive servicing ($1535 to three years or 36,000km) it just feels like a higher calibre of SUV from the US of A.

And that’s why it wins this battle of the medium SUV alternatives.


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