First Drive: 2009 Suzuki Equator
Label Conscious: Badge Engineering Brings a Pickup to Suzuki's Stable
For the entire time Suzuki has sold ATVs, motorcycles, dirt bikes, and outboard motors in the USA, it'd had to watch these toys being towed by other manufacturers' trucks. For 2009, that's changing, as Suzuki made a deal with Nissan for its own version of the Frontier. Called the Equator, Suzuki hopes to lure sand, mud, and marine enthusiasts to its automotive showroom for a truck with its own name brand.
There are few differences between the Equator and Frontier, which are manufactured side by side in Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Both come with a choice of a 2.5-liter four or 4.0-liter V-6; five-speed manual or automatic transmissions (the Frontier adds the option of a six-speed manual); two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with VDC, HDC, and Hill Start Assist; short or long bed; and extended cab or crew cab. Interior and exterior dimensions are nearly identical, but presumably because of the different front fascia, the Suzuki is about an inch longer overall. The Equator provides the same towing and payload capacity as the Frontier, you can lug up to 6500 pounds of adventure gear.
We drove the two-wheel-drive short-bed V-6 Crew Cab and weren't surprised to find that the Equator not only looks like the Frontier, but drives like it, too. The V-6's power delivery is excellent, but the engine is somewhat crude and noisy. The Equator's rough ride could be helped by filling the bed with cargo, but there's nothing that can be done about its 43.6-foot turning circle-that just about guarantees three-point turns where U-turns would suffice in other trucks. The cabin has plenty of room, but the only noticeable visual difference is the Suzuki badge in the center of the steering wheel. The Equator's truck bed benefits from Nissan's Utili-track bedrail system and spray-on bedliner.
As a smaller automaker, Suzuki doesn't need high-volume sales to be a success. Gas prices have scared off a lot of would-be truck buyers, but if just enough people who once looked at full-size pickups turn to smaller models, Suzuki could benefit. This one provides towing capacity, interior room, and off-road capability, all with a seven-year/100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty, which is better than that of the Frontier.
|2009 Suzuki Equator|
|Base Price||$23,000-$29,000 (est)|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, RWD/4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup|
|Engine||2.5L/152-hp/171-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 4.0L/261-hp/281-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Curb weight||3700-4500 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||206.6-220.1 x 72.8 x 68.7-70.1 in|
|0-60 mph||7.7 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||15-19/20-23 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.94-1.15 lb/mile|
|On sale in U.S.||December 2008|