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Suzuki Equator – Rough and Ready Performer.


Rough and Ready Performer. 

Editor / Photo: Eric Bewley 

SAN ANTONIO, TX – If you’re going to launch a new pickup truck, what better a place to do it from than the self-proclaimed home of the pickup truck, Texas. We joined American Suzuki Motor Corporation at an impressive ranch just outside of San Antonio. The Knibbe ranch is a cattle ranch that has been owned and operated by the Knibbe family for well over 100 years and the pride and caring they show for their ranch and guests is inspiring. There were two main agenda items to tackle during the short time we were there. First, the newly redesigned Grand Vitara and the new release of the Suzuki Equator pickup. 

The Grand Vitara for ’09 has been improved mainly by the introduction of two new power plants. The  base model comes with a 2.4 liter 4 cylinder engine rated at 166hp and can be coupled with a 5 speed manual gear box or a 4 speed automatic. All other Grand Vitara models are powered by a new 3.2 liter V6 rated at 230hp. The highlight of this engine is that it gets slightly better fuel economy, delivers 20% less emission, and is obviously more powerful. For us, the real gem was the new 4-cylinder. This engine will deliver 26 mpg in the Grand Vitara and by the ‘seat of the pants’ feel, accomplishes this without giving up any performance to last year’s 2.7 V6. Other improvements include the addition of rear disc brakes, a long awaited option that does make a significant difference. We will be covering the ’09 Grand Vitara more in a subsequent article. Now, on to the pickup.

Many may be surprised to know that the Suzuki Equator is not the company’s first pickup. In the early eighties Suzuki made a long wheel base version of the venerable SJ410, the Samurai predecessor, where a cab was made out of the same sheet metal as the normal ‘tub’ and a utilitarian flat bed style box was bolted to the back. Only a few of these gems made it into the States through mostly gray market sources so most would have never seen one. There is no comparison between that early base utilitarian vehicle and this new refined mid-sized pickup. Suzuki has made no secret of the fact that this pickup is being made for them by Nissan. Why would they? Nissan is a very reputable automobile manufacturer and to couple them with some Suzuki design and refinement should make a great product and this collaboration does just that. 

Hill Descent Control tested.

On the highway: The Suzuki Equator is a completely comfortable and fully capable pickup that demands respect by delivering a top notch performance. On road is smooth and quiet making the freeway miles melt away nicely. Conversations are not strained or even challenged because the interior cabin is very quiet during normal highway driving. Larger framed people will enjoy the appropriately sized and well supported front seats, however, as with most mid-sized pickups, the rear passengers will need to be smaller or very fit and flexible. 

Deep water fording, Check!

4.0 liter 261hp V6, Check!

Rear selectable locker functionality, Check!

On the test track:

Suzuki provided us with a very enjoyable, although a bit too mild for our tastes, off-road test track. We decided to color outside the lines just a bit to really push the Equator to see how it would hold up and the results were fantastic. Cruising at speeds that would make a desert racer proud, we rung out the Equator on the bumps, turns, rocks, and ruts provided and the pickup performed superbly. Our test Equator was equipped with the RMZ-4 off-road package which includes a set of Bilstein shocks, larger and more aggressive BFGoodrich tires, and a rear selectable locker. All of these items mean business and add substantially to the off-road prowess of the vehicle. A drive train tweak that we would like to see is a lower gear set in the transfer case. We were easily able to do 80 mph in low range and feel that there is an opportunity here to enhance ‘crawlability’ on the trail. 

The suspension is tuned quite well for the terrain we tested on. Most pickups when pressed hard will really begin to behave badly. The Bilstein equipped Dana 44 rear-end held the ground well and really enabled us to get the most out of the independent front suspension. 

One item that struck us later as we were mulling over the driving test is just how quiet and un-invasive the engine is. Wide open running with several full throttle bursts and there was never a roar, grunt, or whimper to draw attention to itself. The exhaust is very quiet and drive train isolation on the Equator is exceptional.

Dinner and a show – Suzuki provided some wonderful entertainment by showing off their championship winning quad team.

Dustin Wimmer – “2008 AMA Pro ATV Motocross National Champion”

On paper: The 2009 Equator is available in both Extended Cab and Crew Cab body styles and rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive (4WD) configurations.  To accommodate loads ranging from ATVs to motorcycles, Suzuki offers Crew Cab variants in both Short Bed and Long Bed configurations.  Equator also incorporates class-leading standard safety features into the truck, including roof-mounted curtain side-impact and rollover supplemental airbags and seat-mounted side-impact supplemental airbags. The 2009 Equator offers a standard 2.5-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine with 152 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque or an available 4.0-liter, V6 DOHC engine producing an unbeatable 261 horsepower with 281 lb.-ft. of torque.  Designed for outstanding performance and durability, the Equator’s V6 engine features an aluminum block with cast iron cylinder liners, Teflon®-coated pistons, micro-finished forged steel crankshaft, micro-finished camshafts driven by a silent two-stage timing chain and variable valve timing. The Equator comes equipped with either a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission or five-speed manual transmission available only on four-cylinder models, and offers an available shift-on-the-fly 4WD system that features an electronically controlled part-time two-speed transfer case.  For enhanced off-road capability, the rugged Equator offers a comprehensive off-road traction system, including four-wheel active limited slip traction control, electronic locking rear differential, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Hill Descent Control and Hill Hold Control. The Equator has a 125.9-inch wheelbase (Extended Cab or Crew Cab/standard bed) and a maximum towing capacity rated at 6,300 pounds (V6 2WD Sport Package). 

Onward: The new Suzuki Equator pickup fit in nicely with the rugged surroundings of this fine Texas ranch and performs exceptionally well. General population pickup users will appreciated the overall smooth and quiet operation of this pickup. With plenty of power and a fine suspension, economy minded toy-haulers have found their answer. Off-road enthusiasts could easily use this vehicle as a capable adventure vehicle with just a few aftermarket upgrades. Although pricing hasn’t been announced yet, all indications point to the Equator being a value packed asset that will not stretch wallets on purchase or operation. Competitors like the Ridgeline, Colorado, Tacoma, and Dakota should take note… There’s a new Sheriff in town.

Discussion Thread.

Gallery images below.



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One comment

  1. Heck yeah ba-ybee keep them coming!

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