Suzuki Equator RMZ-4
What's Hot: Simple, rugged, fuel efficient, modest pricing
What's Not: Pedestrian interior, slow steering, squeak, squeak
Our Take: A new Frontier for Suzuki
From the Logbook:
* "Like a comfy old pair of shoes."
* "Wow, that is some chassis flex-the bed almost punched a hole in the cab."
* "The driver steers, the vehicle doesn't."
* "Best in slow-speed terrain, fast and rough excites the in-cab rodents."
* "A great little truck that does everything well."
We began our test by returning to the Auto Club Dragway at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, for our performance testing, which included 0-60 mph, 1/4-mile time, and 60-0 mph measurements, as well as a few good old-fashioned smoky burnouts-in the interest of data collection, of course.
In the race from a standstill to 60 mph, it was the Dodge Ram and its hairy-chested Hemi, helped by a smooth, fast-shifting transmission, that smoked the field with a run of 7.45 seconds. Behind the Ram was the Equator at 7.96 seconds. The F-150 was next at 8.56 seconds, followed by the H3T at 8.92 seconds.
By the end of the quarter mile, the Dodge was still out in front with a run of 15.68 seconds at a trap speed of 86.59 mph. Still running in the same order as they came through 60 mph, the Suzuki with its 4.0L V-6 at full song went through the lights in 16.15 seconds at 84.18 mph, followed by the Ford with a run of 16.33 seconds at 84.27 mph and the Hummer with a still respectable run of 16.59 seconds at 81.54 mph.
While the 5.4L is outgunned against the fullsize competition in the numbers game, Ford's new six-speed transmission really breathes new life and flexibility to the 5.4L. While it wasn't the fastest, the extra cog really allows the 5.4L to make the most of its impressive 390 lb-ft of torque, allowing this version of the mod motor to hold its own in the crowd, feeling much stronger than the track data and power numbers might insinuate. We also scored Dodge's transmission high on shift quality, while the Suzuki tended to shift quickly, but short of the engine's redline. The H3T, feeling slower than it actually is, left us wishing for more gears.
As for exhaust notes, the Ford engineers must have taken a page from Dodge's book, because the F-150 had one of the best exhaust notes in the test, sounding more like a hopped-up Mustang than your typical F-Series. Whether we were at the dragstrip or in the sand dunes, listening to the mechanical symphony emanating from the F-150 and Ram as they battled it out was pure auditory ecstasy.
Back on the track, the Equator scored the shortest 60-0 mph braking distance with an excellent 135.88 feet haul down, despite a mushy brake pedal, besting the next-best Ram by almost 5 feet with its own impressive run of 140.41 feet. The H3T finished strong with a 146.14-foot stop, while the F-150 took an extra 15 feet of asphalt to drag itself down to a 160.85-foot finish. We attribute the F-150's longish stopping distance to wearing the most aggressive tires in the test. We would gladly keep the more aggressive tires and take the trade-off, but more mild Wrangler AT/S, the same as those found on the Ram, are also available on the FX4.
Over the course of our aggressive testing, the fuel-economy champion was the Suzuki with a test average of 13.55 mpg, followed by the Ford with 12.88 mpg, the Hummer at 12.27 mpg, rounded out by the Dodge at 11.51 mpg. Surprisingly, the highest single tank in the test went to the Ford with an all-highway tank achieving a remarkable 19.29 mpg.
Ford F-150 FX4
What's Hot: Solid chassis, high build quality, interior, value
What's Not: Stiff rear suspension, slow front traction control
Our Take: A 3/4-ton in 1/2-ton clothes
From the Logbook:
* "Tailgate step a godsend for old fat guys."
* "Needs a payload to smooth the ride."
* "The capless fuel filler attracts a lot of dirt around its mouth."
* "Lots of ABS brake barf on loose surfaces."
* "Best F-150 ever-great styling."