Think Nissan, but with a better warranty
What it is
2009 Suzuki Equator – 2008 Chicago Auto Show: It should come as no surprise that people who like motorized toys own trucks. After all, it’s a little difficult to haul your dirt bike on the roof of a Camry, and the Chevrolet Malibu, for all its improvements, it just can’t tow very much weight. Suzuki, as a major player in the toy department, is aiming a rebadged version of the Nissan Frontier at its bike and boat buyers. Funny thing is, with a better warranty and a restyled front end, they just may have improved Nissan’s mid-sized pickup. Debuted at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show as three concepts -- the Suzuki Equator Quad, Quay and RMZ-4 -- the Equator will go on sale this fall.Why it Matters
While it seems strange that Suzuki would go after such a low sales segment with someone else's product, perhaps they're counting on the big "S" grille to attract all those shoppers who couldn't find the Frontier they wanted. It is an attractive truck, and, with no mechanical changes (the Suzuki will reportedly be built at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee), it should be a very capable vehicle.
What’s Under the Hood
Powertrain offerings are the same as what one would find in a Frontier. This includes a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder with 152 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque, or an optional 4.0-liter, V-6 engine making 261 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque. Transmission choices include a five-speed automatic, five-speed manual or six-speed manual. Off-road capability features four-wheel limited slip, electronic locking rear differential, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), hill descent control and hill start assist.
What it Looks Like
Changes to the Frontier include the front fascia, rear tailgate and front grille. Most notable is the giant “S” on the snout, surrounded by a ring of chrome and what looks like a billeted grille. Otherwise, the Equator stays pretty true to its Frontier roots, and perhaps has improved the overall look.
On display at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show were three unique Equator concepts, none of which offered an exact representation of the interior. Until we actually get to sit in the thing, we’re assuming that the interior will be exactly the same as the Nissan Frontier, but with Suzuki Equator badges.
What Suzuki Says
Suzuki is trying hard to make people think of Suzuki and note Nissan when it comes to the Equator. Note that Suzuki isn’t actually “producing” the Equator: “Since Suzuki has continued to strengthen its brand equity among outdoor enthusiasts, we thought now was the right time to produce a vehicle that meets the additional needs many of these people have,” said Mark Harano, president American Suzuki Automotive Operations.
What We Think
Why not? The Frontier is a capable pickup truck with proven off-road credentials and a very nice V-6 that can tow over 6,000 lbs. Suzuki sees an opportunity to sell a few trucks to customers who are already familiar with Suzuki products, without the massive costs of research, development and manufacturing. If you like the styling, and want a better warranty, check out the Equator. Just don’t park it next to your friend’s Frontier. Then again – maybe you should.
By Brian Chee
Photo credit: Suzuki Motors