Anyone who's into petro-powered recreation from dirt bikes to bass boats knows the Suzuki name, and now those fans will have a new option to carry those toys in--or behind. Some regular pickup buyers will like it, too.
True, a few parts may be labeled Nissan and everything but the badges and front-end styling looks like a Nissan, but when you need a midsize pickup in a hurry, the Frontier is a good place to start. And since Nissan and Suzuki already had existing joint partnerships, getting boardroom approval was easy.
We think Suzuki's U.S.-influenced styling studio in Japan made the Equator's face look more like that of a Toyota Tacoma than a Nissan, yet the slab sides, creased fender flares, and even the re-skinned tailgate maintain the functional, square guise of the Frontier. Other cosmetic changes include wheel styles, colors inside and out, and seat fabrics, and in light of its intended buyers it's worth noting that the bed tie-down systems remain and the bed extender is specific to Suzuki with motorcycle cargo as a design priority.
Although the two trucks are mechanically similar, there are variances in packaging. For example, an extended-cab Equator offers a 2.5-liter I-4 or 4.0-liter V-6 standard on the Crew Cab but only the 2.5-liter is available with a manual transmission. Equator keeps wheel choices in the working-truck 15- to 17-inch range; none of that low-profile street strutting here. What are options on one may be standards on another, and while the Equator offers a few less versions it has a longer warranty--the same seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty offered on their other road vehicles.
The undersquare 2.5-liter feels torquier than the numbers suggest and is capable of towing up to 3500 pounds; for the two-wheel-drive workday commuter contractor and weekend watercraft rider, it should be more than sufficient and decent on gas. The VQ 4.0-liter makes the Equator run and sound like a small-scale Titan, its 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet on regular unleaded outgunning most similar-size normally aspirated V-6s (Tacoma 236/266, Ranger 207/238, Colorado/Canyon 195/260, Dakota 210/235). It also falls just 24 pound-feet behind GM's 4.8-liter V-8 and about 40 horses behind Toyota's $4500 supercharged 4.0-liter. Gearboxes are well-matched to the truck's chores and the automatic 4.0-liter matches revs at downshifts for smooth compression braking.