Suzuki Equator is one hot pickup
First impressions can be important when it comes to cars and trucks.
The 2009 Suzuki Equator pickup sure made a good one.
Not on me.
On my wife.
"I like this truck," she said, looking around the spacious cabin while settling in for her first extended ride in the Equator, which sported a silver paint job and big, honkin' wheels.
We were heading up for a weekend in the Santa Ynez Valley just north of Santa Barbara. It's a scenic drive and a good place to see how all manner of vehicles behave once outside the city limits.
It's wine, ranch, cowboy and truck country.
"You know, I really like this truck a lot," the wife said as we began motoring up the Ventura Freeway. There was a good handhold on the windshield frame for her to grab, the higher ride offered a good view of traffic around us and the Pacific off to our left, comfortable seats and a pretty smooth ride for a truck.
"Let's buy one," she said while we were winding down San Marcos Pass on the way home.
"We don't need two cars and a truck. Besides, it doesn't fit in the garage. We'd have to park it in the driveway," I said.
"So what. All the neighbors do," came the reply.
OK, I liked the truck, too. We aren't the only ones, either.
Rick Pewe, editor in chief of Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, and his staff picked the 2009 four-wheel version its 4x4 of the year.
"It's not a luxury pickup nor is it supposed to be," he said. "I honestly think my hair is going to turn from gray to black because it's such young fun."
He said the Suzuki handily won this year's test, even though it faced top-of-the-line competition.
That came from the Dodge Ram 1500 TRX4 quad cab, Ford's F-150 FX4, the Hummer H3 Alpha, Hummer H3T Adventure, Kia Borrego EX V-8 and Toyota's Sequoia Platinum.
Mr. Pewe said the Suzuki consistently placed well ahead of the competition in most areas and is a great value.
The magazine's staff drove the vehicles about 1,000 miles throughout Southern California.
The Equator's bed had a factory sprayed-on liner, which got high marks from the magazine's staff and myself.
"We abuse the heck out of the bed," Mr. Pewe said. "We load engine blocks and construction material. Our magazine caters not only to people who four-wheel but also who actually use their truck."
The Equator is Suzuki's first 2009 midsize pickup. In fact it's so new that pricing has not even been set.
It was developed as part of a joint effort with Nissan North America Inc., so it has a Frontier-like feel to it.
We had the crew cab, non-4x4 version, and the rear seat will easily hold two or three adults or lots of stuff.
The Equator's V-6 provided nice acceleration, and the truck handled nicely on tight canyon roads.
The utility of this pickup was readily evident, too. In addition to the bedliner that kept things from sliding around, Suzuki included a nifty tie-down system with adjustable cleats that slid along tracks atop each side of the bed. There were also two rails in the bed.
The tie-down cleats are removable. This system would be good for securing motorcycles or other kinds of cumbersome loads.
One drawback, though, is the dash lighting. For some reason, at night the dashboard was reflected in the driver's side window.
Suzuki rated the towing capacity at 6,500 pounds, but the automotive Web site Edmunds says it's closer to 5,000.
"The Equator isn't intended to be a heavy-hauler, after all; it's meant to be the kind of truck you'd use to pull a trailer with a lighter boat, a couple of ATVs or a pair of Jet Skis," according to Edmunds' review.
The Equator comes with a 100,000-mile, transferable warranty.
First Published February 11, 2009 12:00 am