HILUX SR5

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

TOY­OTA’S Hilux has plenty to de­fend. It’s been the top seller for decades, but in 2016 it’s come un­der more pres­sure than ever thanks to an at­tack by the Ford Ranger. Nev­er­the­less, the Hilux re­mains the top seller in the class to July 2016, some­thing bol­stered by the ar­rival of this new model late in 2015.

WHAT YOU GET

STEP­PING into the flag­ship SR5 Hilux is a $56,390 propo­si­tion once you fac­tor in the six-speed auto. For that you get a gen­er­ous spread of sat-nav, dig­i­tal ra­dio, auto lights, auto air-con­di­tion­ing and a seven-inch touch­screen. The Hilux also gets smartkey en­try and push-but­ton start, although the prox­im­ity key re­quires you to press a but­ton on the front door han­dles to un­lock it. A re­cent up­date adds the draw­bar for the tow bar, though you still have to pay ex­tra for the tongue and wiring.

Leather is part of the $2000 Plus pack that also brings an elec­tric driver’s seat.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

FOR AN all-new en­gine, the 2.8-litre donk that slots un­der the bon­net of the Hilux, For­tuner and Prado is noth­ing to get ex­cited about on pa­per. There’s 130kw to play with, along with a more con­vinc­ing 450Nm.

It’s that torque and a well-mated sixspeed trans­mis­sion that en­dows the Hilux with solid per­for­mance. The torque peak ar­rives at just 1600rpm, so there’s plenty to play with without high revs. The trans­mis­sion works with it nicely, with the torque con­verter slip­ping to help it set­tle into that sweet spot in the revs.

Push on and the Hilux’s four-pot also revs cleanly, en­sur­ing de­cent, if not scin­til­lat­ing, per­for­mance. It’s also rel­a­tively re­fined for com­fort­able tour­ing, while im­pres­sive claimed fuel use of 8.5L/100km en­sures it’s a de­cent all-rounder.

HAN­DLING AND RIDE

THE Hilux feels stout and sturdy. The sus­pen­sion is firm, par­tic­u­larly in the rear end, where suc­ces­sive high-speed bumps can have oc­cu­pants jig­gling around. Big hits, though, are shrugged off with ease, re­in­forc­ing the Hilux’s tough image. We’ve done plenty of driv­ing with hun­dreds of ki­los in the tray and the pay-off is in its abil­ity to main­tain com­po­sure when carrying a de­cent load.

No ex­cuses for the hydrail­i­cally-as­sisted steer­ing, though. It’s quite light, mak­ing for easy low-speed ma­noeu­vring, but the down­side is min­i­mal feel at speed; not much of an is­sue on a free­way, but less en­dear­ing on snaking coun­try roads where it’s dif­fi­cult to get a taste for what’s go­ing on at ground level.

For­tu­nately the whole thing is con­trolled well enough and the Hilux re­mains faith­ful and pre­dictable in a wide range of con­di­tions. The Dun­lop Grandtrek tyres also pro­vide re­spectable on-road grip.

When it comes to loads, the Hilux lags, although for most peo­ple not in a gamechang­ing way; its 3200kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity (300kg less than the man­ual) trails class lead­ers, and the 925kg pay­load falls short of the tonne.

OFF-ROAD

OFF-ROAD is where the Hilux wins back big points, and it starts with the ba­sic hard­ware. Toy­ota has popped solid steel pro­tec­tion un­derneath, as well as 225mm of ground clear­ance along with an ex­cel­lent 700mm of wad­ing depth.

Toy­ota has also put plenty of ef­fort into the ba­sic de­sign. Like most dual-cabs, the rear over­hang means it’ll scuff its tail on steeper stuff, but the tow bar brack­ets bear the brunt, while the rear bumper is tucked well out of the way. Up front, too, the pro­trud­ing snout has enough of an an­gle to it so you can at­tack some se­ri­ously steep pinches.

The part-time four-wheel drive sys­tem has a good re­duc­tion gear for slow speed work, and it doesn’t take long to es­tab­lish that the trac­tion con­trol is beau­ti­fully cal­i­brated. Sure, it’ll spin wheels, but with brakes quickly ap­plied it soon sorts out where the trac­tion is.

We tried it through a sloppy mud hole and while it was threat­en­ing to get bogged, it trudged on, helped by en­gag­ing the rear diff lock, which eked out the last hints of trac­tion to help it scram­ble its way out. Up a tricky rocky climb, too, the Hilux sim­ply worked its way over each ob­sta­cle, paus­ing oc­ca­sion­ally but eas­ily am­bling up. Com­bined with great ar­tic­u­la­tion, it makes for an im­pres­sive off-roader.

CABIN AND AC­COM­MO­DA­TION

TOY­OTA has done a great job with com­fort­able yet sup­port­ive pews. It’s the start of a good driv­ing po­si­tion that in­cludes full ad­justa­bil­ity to the steer­ing wheel and de­cent vi­sion. We’re less con­vinced by the touch­screen, with its push but­tons and shiny screen that eas­ily col­lects dust.

Slide into the back seat and the Hilux is less ac­com­mo­dat­ing. The rear seat is quite up­right, some­thing that en­croaches on head room. At least there are size­able grab han­dles to make it eas­ier to drag your­self in there.

SUM UP

THE Hilux is a solid ute that gets bet­ter the more you pun­ish it. Yet de­spite its rep­u­ta­tion for rugged­ness and re­li­a­bil­ity, it’s los­ing mar­ket share. Blame that on im­prove­ments in the com­pe­ti­tion and also a re­al­i­sa­tion that other brands make tough trucks. Still, there’s plenty to like about the Hilux, with its off-

Top-spec SR5 Hilux gets sat-nav, dig­i­tal ra­dio, smart-key en­try and a 7.0-inch touch­screen with fid­dly vol­ume con­trols for the au­dio sys­tem.

Styling is al­ways sub­jec­tive and the lat­est Hilux with its pro­trud­ing snout, has proven to be po­lar­is­ing.

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