Hit­ting the dust in an Hilux Ex­tra­cab man­ual.

Not tied down by a fam­ily and a tribe of kids? Then check out the Hilux Ex­tra-cab!

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS FRASER STRONACH PHO­TOS MARK BEAN

The Toy­ota Hilux Ex­tra-cab range starts with the base-spec Work­mate, avail­able only as a cab-chas­sis. Be­ing a Work­mate, it’s pow­ered by the en­trylevel 2.4-litre turbo-diesel en­gine and six-speed man­ual. Above the Work­mate are the SR and SR5 grades, both with the 2.8-litre diesel and man­ual trans­mis­sion. No auto, which is a sur­prise, es­pe­cially in the top-spec SR5. The SR and SR5 Ex­tra-cab mod­els ar­rive with smooth-sided tubs. Here, we’re driv­ing the mid-spec SR. It’s the first time we’ve driven the new six-speed man­ual (ex­cept for the launch drive last year) as all our pre­vi­ous test­ing (in­clud­ing our re­cent eight-ve­hi­cle ute com­par­i­son and 4X4 Of The Year) has been with Dou­ble-cab au­to­mat­ics.

The SR Ex­tra-cab comes with 17-inch black steel wheels, so to some eyes it looks more base-spec than mid-spec. To oth­ers, the satin black wheels are a step for­ward from decades of sil­ver, look­ing cool enough to not be re­placed by af­ter­mar­ket al­loys.

ON-ROAD PER­FOR­MANCE & HAN­DLING

The cen­tre­pieces of this eighth-gen­er­a­tion Hilux are Toy­ota’s new turbo-diesel en­gines, a 2.4 and the up-spec 2.8 that also pow­ers the Prado and For­tuner wag­ons.

This new 2.8 diesel’s 130kw is only 4kw more than the 3.0-litre it re­places, but max­i­mum torque jumps from 360Nm to 420Nm when mated to the six-speed man­ual gear­box.

The sur­pris­ing thing about the 2.8-litre diesel is that it pro­duces this ex­tra torque de­spite be­ing smaller in ca­pac­ity and run­ning a much lower com­pres­sion ra­tio than the old 3.0-litre en­gine. It does this off the back of bet­ter com­bus­tion ef­fi­ciency thanks to new, higher-pres­sure com­mon-rail in­jec­tion and a low-in­er­tia (fast­spool­ing) turbo.

Hav­ing a smaller en­gine run­ning a lower com­pres­sion ra­tio reaps re­wards in terms of re­duc­ing noise and re­fine­ment – this en­gine is no­tably smoother and qui­eter than the old 3.0-litre diesel.

What’s not much of an im­prove­ment on the 3.0-litre is pedal-to-the-metal per­for­mance, which is noth­ing to get ex­cited about – it’s def­i­nitely not as strong as many of the Hilux’s com­peti­tors. Bet­ter news comes in the form of this en­gine’s im­pres­sive flex­i­bil­ity, some­thing you ap­pre­ci­ate with the man­ual-equipped ve­hi­cles. 420Nm is avail­able from a just-off-idle 1400rpm and re­mains undi­min­ished un­til 2600rpm. This fat­ness in the torque curve means power de­liv­ery is per­fectly pro­gres­sive through th­ese most-used en­gine speeds. It also makes the man­ual feel punchier than the au­to­matic (avail­able in Dual- and Sin­gle-cab mod­els), de­spite the en­gine be­ing tuned to of­fer more torque (450Nm v 420Nm) when mated to the au­to­matic ’box. The six-speed man­ual is all-new for the Hilux – it’s not the six-speed man­ual used in re­cent Toy­ota Pra­dos. With this man­ual ’box both fifth and sixth are over­drive gears (fourth gear is a di­rect 1:1), with sixth be­ing par­tic­u­larly tall and giv­ing around 67km/h per 1000rpm (1500rpm at 100km/h). This is the sort of gear­ing you’d ex­pect of an auto, not a man­ual. With sixth be­ing that tall you’d think it’d be hardly use­ful, but the flex­i­bil­ity of this en­gine makes up for it. Fifth is also tall, with the en­gine spin­ning at less than 2000rpm at

100km/h.

The man­ual driv­e­line is blessed with light, quick and pre­cise shift ac­tion and a nicely pro­gres­sive clutch. It pro­vides im­pres­sive on-road fuel con­sump­tion, too, with the man­ual Ex­tra-cab re­turn­ing close to 9.0L/100km in sit­u­a­tions where pre­vi­ously tested Dual-cab au­tos showed mid-10s.

Like all of the new Hilux range, the Ex­tra-cab steers and han­dles well, but the ride is firm when un­laden – even more so than the Dual-cab mod­els.

OFF-ROAD

The man­ual gear­box works a treat off-road thanks to the en­gine’s im­pres­sive flex­i­bil­ity and deep 44.0:1 crawl ra­tio, cour­tesy of the six-speed’s low first gear (4.784:1) and the re­spectable 2.566:1 trans­fer ra­tio car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion Hilux.

Like oth­ers in the range, the Ex­tra-cab ben­e­fits from the im­proved rear wheel travel of this gen­er­a­tion Hilux (it’s now more than half-a-me­tre of travel) and an ex­tremely ef­fec­tive trac­tion con­trol sys­tem specif­i­cally tuned for of­froad con­di­tions. This new Hilux also has bet­ter ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles and more ro­bust un­der­body pro­tec­tion.

The SR Ex­tra-cab comes with a rear diff lock, but when it’s ac­ti­vated (via a dash­board switch) the trac­tion con­trol across both axles is can­celled. This, in some sit­u­a­tions, can make the Hilux less ef­fec­tive rather than more ef­fec­tive off-road.

CABIN AND AC­COM­MO­DA­TION

Up front the Ex­tra-cab is just like a SR Dual-cab, which means it feels more pas­sen­ger- than com­mer­cial-car thanks in part to a tablet-style multi-func­tion touch­screen. There’s also tilt and reach steer­ing-wheel ad­just­ment and, at this SR spec, seat-height ad­just­ment, which makes it very easy to get com­fort­able.

At the rear Toy­ota has (at last) adopted rear-hinged doors for its Ex­tra-cab. This is now the in­dus­try stan­dard for ex­tend­ed­cab utes. Th­ese can only be opened once the front doors are open, and they give ac­cess to two small fold-up seats and a de­cent amount of stor­age space. Th­ese seats can ac­com­mo­date a good-sized adult, but are only suit­able for short dis­tances – even for chil­dren.

PRAC­TI­CAL­I­TIES

The Ex­tra-cab has a 300mm longer tray than the Hilux Dual-cab, mak­ing it a much bet­ter propo­si­tion for car­ry­ing mo­tor­bikes and the like. With more tray in front of the rear axle there’s also slightly bet­ter weight dis­tri­bu­tion when car­ry­ing heavy loads than with a Dual-cab. The Ex­tra-cab also has more space for valu­able items to be car­ried and locked within the cab.

Be­ing a man­ual, the Ex­tra-cab can tow 3500kg – Dual-cab au­tos are lim­ited to 3200kg. With less body and pas­sen­ger weight, the SR Ex­tra-cab also has a higher pay­load than the equiv­a­lent Dou­ble-cab – 1005kg com­pared to 920kg.

SUM UP

For a bloke with­out a fam­ily there’s plenty to like about the Ex­tra-cab Hilux. It may es­sen­tially be a two-seater, but it’s more prac­ti­cal in many ways than a Dual-cab. And it’s cheaper! And if you need to carry two ex­tra peo­ple over short dis­tances you can, both legally and safely. For what it’s worth, the Ex­tra­cab has the same five-star rat­ing as the Dou­ble-cab mod­els.

It must be said, though: As sweet as the six-speed man­ual gear­box is, it’s sur­pris­ing Toy­ota doesn’t of­fer an Ex­tra-cab auto… at this stage, at least.

Black steel wheels (left) have their foes and fans, but it’s a re­fresh­ing change from sil­ver.

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