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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.