2009 Suzuki Equator

Don Sherman

Suzuki has an avid following of customers plus one major problem: loyal constituents thrilled with Suzuki outboard, ATV, and motorcycle products don't give a hoot about Suzuki cars and crossovers. To provide a walk from the stuff customers love to the products that the world's twelfth-largest automaker hopes they'll consider, some bridge building was in order.

That bridge is the Suzuki Equator. Sharp-eyed browsers will note a suspicious resemblance to the Nissan Frontier; that's because the Equator and the Frontier are fraternal twins. They share the same chassis, powertrain, and Tennessee manufacturing facilities. But the liaison goes deeper than simple badge engineering. The Equator has its own front-end design (hood, grille, bumpers, front fenders), six airbags as standard equipment, a longer warranty, and a different (likely cheaper, but not yet finalized) price structure.

Suzuki's timing is perfect. Compact pickups have left the building and the full-sized bruisers are practically unsalable because of the expensive gasoline they guzzle. So those who really want or need a truck are herding towards the mid-size category. Like the Frontier, the Equator lives at the XX end of the midsize range with major components shared with Nissan big kahuna Titan. But with no V-8 under the hood, respectable gas mileage is possible. All Equators carry a 20-mpg or better EPA highway mileage rating and the most accomplished fuel sipper in the lineup clocks in at 19 mpg in city driving.

Two body styles are offered: a longish two-door called Extended Cab and a slightly squished four-door called Crew Cab. The smaller Equator rides on a 125.9-inch wheelbase and comes standard with a 6-foot bed. The Crew version rides on a 139.8-inch wheelbase with the long bed or the shorter wheelbase with a 5-foot bed. The powertrain choices include a 152-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine and a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6, both with five-speed transmissions. While the four-cylinder can be mated to a manual or automatic gearbox, all V-6s are automatic equipped. The optional 4WD system is a dual-range, shift-on-the-fly design. While two trim levels are available, leather upholstery is not in the Equator game plan. A spray-in bedliner is standard and a handy cargo-tie-down system is optional. Tow ratings start at 3500 pounds with the four-cylinder engine and peak at 6500 pounds with a two-wheel-drive V-6. Both 16- and 17-inch wheel and tire combos are offered.

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