Suzuki has got a loyal customer base when it comes to their line of race-winning GSX-R motorcycles, and an equally enthusiastic group of off-road riders, both two and four-wheeled. What they didn't have, until now, was a vehicle that could stow one of their motorcycles on the way to and from the track. Suzuki plans for the '09 Equator to fill the niche for those looking to complement their Suzuki motorcycles and quads.

With a focused target audience and low-volume production, a clean-sheet design just wasn't economical. Instead, Suzuki worked in partnership with Nissan to develop a uniquely-styled product based on the Frontier platform. We have been fans of the Frontier's styling since the 3rd-generation debuted as a 2005 model, and the Equator manages to be significantly different without going overboard. In fact, in terms of styling, we've had several votes in favor of the Equator over the Frontier.

Like the Frontier, the Suzuki can be had with either a 152hp 4-cylinder or the 261hp 4.0L V-6 that has plenty of power and, for the enthusiast, the best exhaust note of any truck V-6 out there. For fuel-conscious buyers, the 4-cylinder can be equipped with a five-speed manual or optional five-speed auto that's standard with the V-6. Inside the truck, the interior is functional but not flashy, and the crew cab is a bit tight for tall, rear seat passengers.

Suzuki invited us to Texas to drive the Equator prior to its launch. After a bit of freeway and rural driving, we were able to use the truck in its natural environment, off road. We buckled in behind the wheel of an RMZ-4 model, which comes with 4WD and an electronic locking rear differential. The test course that Suzuki designed for us gave us several different terrains to test the truck's capability and it handled it all very well despite the fact that Off-Road editor Jordan May kept egging us on to push the truck to its limits all in the name of photography. We got to try out rocky hill climbs, knee-deep stream crossings, and blasting down twisty, rutted dirt roads. The Equator handled it all with only one hiccup. Leave it to us to get the Equator's transfer case stuck in neutral. Once we got the truck back up to speed we found some mud to play in and put the BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires to the test. It turns out that with enough wheelspin to clear the lugs, and get the truck filthy in the process, the Equator doesn't mind a little mud.

Pricing has not been released, but since the Equator plans to be high on utility and value rather than luxury, expect the high-end models to top out around $30,000.