2009 Suzuki Equator First Drive
Keeping All the Toys in the Same Family
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.
A topline Equator 4WD carries the RMZ-4 label in reference to Suzuki dual-sport bikes. It uses electric-shift 4WD with traction control all around, stability, hill descent, hill-start assist, and a locking rear differential to get to the single-track; if you could lock the rear end in 2WD you'd need to use 4WD a lot less often.
Bilstein-shocked suspension on the RMZ-4 is that used by the PRO-4X Frontier, not too expensive and quite effective on street or trail in that it swallows bumps and retains composure; you might prefer different tires if towing closer to the 6100-pound limit. The four-wheel vented discs with ABS certainly get the job done.
We expect one of the more popular options on the Equator will be the pop-up, portable navigation system supplied by Garmin. Likely priced around $600, it would be included in truck financing, adds navigation for a reasonable price, and can be swapped out to your dirt bike/ATV handlebars or your boat cockpit, or you can take it with you for theft-prevention and to find your parking spot after a long day hiking or at the mall.
Pricing was not announced at press time but figure Equators to start at less than $20,000 and go out in the low $30,000s for a loaded, topline 4WD Crew Cab. Unfortunately, you'll have to finance the $10,000 ATV and $20,000 4.0-liter outboard through a different dealer.
|2009 Suzuki Equator Crew Cab RMZ-4|
|Location of final assembly||Smyrna, Tennessee|
|Body style||4-door pickup|
|EPA size class||Special purpose|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, 4WD|
|Airbags||Front, front side, side curtain|
|Engine type||60° V-6, alum block/heads|
|Bore x stroke, in||3.76 x 3.62|
|Valve gear||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl, VVT|
|SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm||261 @ 5600|
|SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm||281 @ 4000|
|Transmission type||5-speed automatic|
|Final drive ratio||2.82:1|
|Crawl ratio (1st x axle gears x low range)||33.9:1|
|Recommended fuel||Regular unleaded|
|Track, f/r, in||61.8/61.8|
|Headroom, f/r, in||40.0/38.7|
|Legroom, f/r, in||42.4/33.6|
|Shoulder room, f/m/r, in||58.3/58.3|
|Cargo volume, behind 1st row, cu ft||38.8|
|Ground clearance, in||8.9|
|Approach/departure angle, deg||32.6/23.3|
|Base curb weight, lb||4491|
|Weight distribution, f/r, %||57.0/43.0|
|Max payload capacity, lb||1105|
|Max towing capacity, lb||6100|
|Fuel capacity, gal||21.1|
|Suspension, f/r||Independent, double A-arm, coil spring, anti-roll bar/solid axle, leaf spring|
|Turns, lock to lock||3.6|
|Turning circle, ft||43.3|
|Brakes, f/r||11.6-in vented disc; 11.3-in vented disc, ABS|
|Tires||P265/75/R16 BFG Rugged Trail|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy, mpg||15/20|
|CO2 emissions, lb/mile||1.22|
|Base price||$29,750 (est)|
|Options||$1450 (est: airbag pkg, portable nav, bed extender)|
|Price as tested||$31,200 (est)|