Debuting at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, the 2009 Equator marks Suzuki's first entry into the midsize pickup truck market.
After a week in a test '09 Equator, I applaud Suzuki for doing their homework well. Of course, Suzuki had a great foundation to begin with, as the Equator was developed as a joint effort with Nissan North America, and based on the Nissan Frontier.
Assembled in Smyrna, Tenn., the Equator is available in both Extended Cab and Crew Cab body styles and rear-wheel-drive or shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive configurations.
Visually, Equator is distinguished from its Nissan cousin by an angular profile, muscular fender flares, different hood, grille, front fascia, bumpers and tailgate.
Engine selections are the same for both makes, which include an inline 4 and a V-6, each featuring all-aluminum construction.
Standard on the rear-wheel drive Equator, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder delivers 152 horsepower, and comes fitted with either a 5-speed manual or available 5-speed automatic.
The 4.0-liter V-6 produce a class-leading 261 horses with 281 lb.-ft. of torque, is optional on the Equator 4x2, and standard of the 4-wheel-drive 4x4, driving 2-wheels or 4 through a silky 5-speed automatic with overdrive.
My test truck was finished in Black Onyx, with excellent body panel fit and finish. It came equipped with the V-6 mated to the automatic gearbox and rolled on BF Goodrich Radial Long Trail T/A all-terrain tires wrapped around 16-inch alloy wheels.
I grew fond of driving the Equator, as the V-6 performance is as strong and peppy as a small V-8, and the truck's handling is agile, easy to maneuver through traffic, providing smooth, comfortable rides.
Because Equator is built for off road duties, the suspension easily absorbs surface street potholes and weather-beaten highways, while the cockpit remains calm and controlled.
Though I had a lead foot, my averaged city mpg was 14, and 18 on the highway.
The functional 5-passenger interior provides all occupants' ample shoulder, hip, and legroom, though some found the rear-seat room tight in the Crew Cab.
For extra interior cargo capacity the front passenger seat folds flat, and removable storage bins are flush with the floor under the rear seats. When needed, the 60/40 split rear seats also flip-up and out of the way. Additional convenience features include dual glove box with lock, center console storage and one-liter bottle storage integrated into the front doors.
I found the driver's seat to be well-bolstered and non-fatiguing after extended periods of intense driving. The well-lit gauges are easy to read, and all major knobs and buttons within easy reach.
Power amenities included driver's seat, exterior mirrors, door locks, windows (express down for driver) and remote entry. Other Suzuki goodies you'll like on the Equator are cruise control, air conditioning, tilt adjustable steering column, quality cloth seats, map/reading lights, a four-speaker sound system for AM-FM radio, Sirius satellite radio, compact disc and MP3 players.
Specialized bed accessories make loading, securing and transporting just about any payload easier than in many competitive trucks. Standard bed offers 27.1 cu. ft. of cargo room. The long bed stretches it up to 33.5 cu. ft., and all Equator models offer an available high-utility bed that includes a factory-applied spray-on bedliner and an innovative tie-down system with adjustable tracks. The detachable tailgate gives even more versatility, but may prove heavy for some owners.
Retail prices range from $17,220 - $36,600, and Equator is backed by a 100,000-mile/seven-year, fully transferable, zero-deductible powertrain limited warranty.
Since it's recent introduction, the Suzuki's Equator has earned high praise from owners and the media, as well as awarded Peterson's 4Wheel and Off-Road Magazine's 2009 4x4 Of The Year title.
Not too shabby for the new kid on the street!
2009 SUZUKI EQUATOR
Vehicle: four-wheel-drive, off-road, crew cab, short bed
Type: body-on-frame small pickup truck
Wheelbase: 126 inches
Length: 206 inches
Width: 73 inches
Height: 70 inches
Ground clearance: 10 inches
Weight: 4,350 pounds
Fuel: unleaded regular
Competitors: Toyota Tacoma, Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado