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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Steering feels weighty and direct, but is slow to react in tight turns and parking spots
The same towing and payload capacity as the Frontier, you can lug up to 6500 pounds
Traction is plenty good enough for a sensible driver to crawl around, uphill and down
It's one of the only trucks left with a four-cylinder option, and still we'd recommend the 2011 Suzuki Equator in V-6 form if it fits your budget.
The base engine in the Equator is Nissan's 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which churns out 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. It can be teamed with a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, but in either union it feels hard-pressed--and worse, it's not much more fuel-efficient in everyday driving than Nissan's excellent 4.0-liter DOHC V-6. Available in all Crew Cabs and the Extended Cab Sport, the six hooks up only with a five-speed automatic, though rear- or four-wheel drive can be specified. The V-6's 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque are quick to respond around town or while towing, and passing power is good.The automatic transmission is swift to respond, but Nissan's manual transmission is nicely weighted and easy to shift.
As with most pickups, the Equator can feel quite different depending on how you appoint it. Base Extended Cab models feel quite sprightly and handle well, but Extended Cab models—particularly with 4WD—feel ponderous. With its true body-on-frame design, the Equator has big-truck toughness for off-roading and towing, but that comes at a cost. The cabin is narrow, and the ride gets rather busy when the road surface turns choppy.
Those downsides turn into upsides when the Equator goes off-road: the truck's tough live axle, leaf springs, and ladder frame carry their extra weight with ease and give the Equator real off-road capability, especially with the Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Hill Start Assist (HSA) that are packaged into V-6 models. The same V-6 Equator, in 4x2 configuration, can tow up to 6,500 pounds.
Four-cylinder versions of the 2011 Suzuki Equator are a big compromise, while the V-6 versions can tear it up with the best of the big trucks.