2009 Suzuki Equator
Late 2008 might not seem like the best time to launch a new truck. Gas prices remain high, emissions standards are becoming increasingly stringent and the credit crisis has hit new heights. All together, if you’re trying to move pickups off dealer lots, you’ve got your work cut out for you. So why is Suzuki launching its all-new Equator
now? Simple: brand loyalty. Given Suzuki’s massive power sports ownership base along with the fact that motorcycle and marine owners are 50 percent more likely to own a pickup, the thought goes that transporting your Suzuki motorcycle or ATV would best be done in a Suzuki truck. If the Equator looks familiar to you, it’s for good reason – to curb development costs, Suzuki has based the truck on the Nissan Frontier. Good thing, that, because the Frontier is about as rugged and reliable as a mid-size pickup can be. Despite its Nissan roots, the Equator will occupy its own space as an individual model and comes across as a truck that doesn’t sacrifice everyday versatility – both extended and crew cab models are on offer. With a model lineup running the gamut from the basic four-cylinder extended cab to the full-on, hardcore off-road RMZ-4, as well as crew cab models, there’s an Equator for just about everyone.
What's to Like
Buyers will be able to sleep easily knowing their truck is backed by Suzuki’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. Crew cab models are offered with both standard and extended beds, giving owners the exact level of versatility they’re looking for without forcing them to drive an overly large vehicle. Towing capacity of 6,500 lbs gives this mid-size truck full-size ability.
What's Not to Like
Rear leg and headroom may be somewhat limited for taller passengers – best to keep them up front for longer rides. While the four-cylinder model may attract some looking to eek out a few more mpgs, it can only be had in two-wheel drive, extended cab form. If you’re looking to go off-road, prepare to pay for it at the pumps.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The Equator manages to blend the abilities of a true off-road pickup with the comfort of a daily highway driver. The high driving position lends itself to good visibility and the turning radius, a typical gripe with trucks, leaves nothing to complain about. The V-6 engine provides ample grunt and emits a fittingly metallic rasp under load, and the steering is well-weighted and properly dampened for a truck, inspiring confidence on any variety of surfaces. If you’re looking to tackle fire roads, sand dunes or mud-slicked hills, the RMZ-4 model will handle just about any obstacle you throw at it, thanks to its stiff chassis, Bilstein shocks, skid plates and rear locking differential. Hill Descent Control easily takes care of any steep descents you may encounter. It’s not the softest ride on asphalt roads, but given its capabilities, the trade-off is minimal.
Engine and Drivetrain
In two-wheel drive form, the Equator comes equipped with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, which can be mated to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Also available is a 4.0-liter V-6 engine producing 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque, sold exclusively with a five-speed automatic that puts power to either two or four wheels.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Just because you drive a truck doesn’t mean you have to live with a utilitarian interior. Items such as keyless entry, cruise control and power mirrors are included in all but the base-model Equator. Bluetooth, a detachable navigation system and a thumping eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with XM radio are all available as well. An in-bed “channel system” uses bed-mounted rails to secure a wide variety of cargo, including the ubiquitous motorcycles and ATVs.
Key Technology Evaluation
The Equator’s off-road equipment can make any amateur look like a seasoned rock climber. The RMZ-4 off-road package comes with an electric locking differential, which can be engaged at the flip of a switch to give the rear wheels additional traction by forcing them to rotate at the same speed. Downhill navigation is made simple thanks to Hill Descent Control, a system by which the vehicle applies proper braking force automatically, ensuring safe descents down rugged grades. Hill Hold Control will keep you from rolling backward when starting on hills.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Being a pickup, and a quite capable one at that, doesn’t bode well for environmental and efficiency ratings. Having a four-cylinder on option helps though, and while EPA figures aren’t yet available, the ULEV rated 2.5-liter engine is currently available in the Nissan Frontier where it achieves 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway with a manual transmission and 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway with an auto. V-6, two-wheel drive models return 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway with the manual and 15 mpg/20 mpg highway with the auto, those figures declining by one mpg each if you opt for four-wheel drive. The V-6’s emissions are also rated ULEV.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Inside, drivers are greeted with attractive orange and red gauges, a perfectly sized steering wheel with good tactile feel and a simple control cluster on the center console. The seats are soft yet rugged, and RMZ-4 models get bespoke red-stitched seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
While the Equator is based on the Nissan Frontier, a few key visual cues outside have been changed giving the truck a taut, aggressive appearance. Aside from the obvious addition of Suzuki badges, the front grille, splitter, headlights and fenders are among the items unique to the Equator’s design.
Market Segment and Pricing
Official pricing for the Equator hasn’t yet been announced, but we wouldn’t expect it to deviate greatly from Frontier pricing, which runs from $17,460 for the four-cylinder extended cab to $24,930 for the RMZ-4 equivalent. This puts the base Equator up against the $17,325 Ford Ranger
, $21,555 Toyota Tacoma
and $22,150 GMC Canyon
. Suzuki will not competing directly with the Frontier, but quotes their power sports owner base and 100,000-mile/seven-year warranty as key advantages in the segment.
What We Think
While it might not be the best time to buy a truck, some people flat-out need pick-up capability and versatility. For them, the Suzuki Equator presents a good proposition. The chassis has already proven its abilities with the Frontier, the interior is ergonomic and comfortable and build-quality is spot-on. Whether or not Suzuki ATV, motorcycle and marine owners decide to pick one up (no pun intended) remains to be seen, but it’s certainly hard to argue with Suzuki’s industry-leading warranty.