Hold your horses

The new HiLux is much im­proved for off-road, writes Fraser Stronach

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

IT TOOK a while, but Toy­ota has fi­nally added elec­tronic trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol to its HiLux SR5 dual-cab diesel. There are ad­di­tional changes to the SR5 as well, and some other up­grades down the model range, but the ad­di­tion of the elec­tronic chas­sis con­trols to the SR5 is re­ally the main-event news.

You may think that this isn’t any­thing to get too ex­cited about and, if this is the case, you prob­a­bly need to think again.

Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol is a sig­nif­i­cant on-road safety bonus while trac­tion con­trol can make a huge dif­fer­ence off-road.

In the case of a ve­hi­cle such as the HiLux, the ad­di­tion of these elec­tronic con­trols are even more deeply felt be­cause of the de­sign com­pro­mises that are in­her­ent with all utes.

Toy­ota, of course, is not the first to in­tro­duce these up­grades to main­stream Ja­panese utes. Both Mit­subishi, with its Tri­ton and Nis­san with its Navara, beat Toy­ota to the punch.

Nis­san’s sit­u­a­tion is much the same as Toy­ota’s with the elec­tronic con­trols avail­able only on its top-spec dual-cab 4WD diesel (the ST-X), whereas Mit­subishi has trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol avail­able right across its 4WD Tri­ton range, ei­ther stan­dard or as an op­tion.

We drove the HiLux on some mod­er­ately dif­fi­cult off-road tracks, and while a HiLux with­out trac­tion con­trol would have prob­a­bly made it through, the ad­di­tion of trac­tion con­trol makes it that much eas­ier for both the driver and ve­hi­cle.

The es­sen­tial off-road lim­i­ta­tion

The ad­di­tion of trac­tion con­trol has pushed the HiLux right up to the front of the off-road pack once again.

with all utes (at least when they are un­laden) is a lack of weight on the rear wheels. Add in the fact that a leaf-sprung live axle, stan­dard fare on the rear of all the utes in this class, doesn’t have the travel of a good coil-sprung live axle, and you can quickly strug­gle for trac­tion in more slip­pery or de­mand­ing ter­rain.

To over­come this, most driv­ers sim­ply use a lit­tle more mo­men­tum to get up, over or through any tricky bit.

In prac­tice this gen­er­ally works well, but it does risk more dam­age to the ve­hi­cle. The beauty of trac­tion con­trol is that you can tackle the worst bits at a far eas­ier pace. If one or more wheels start to lose trac­tion and spin, the trac­tion con­trol will in­ter­vene as good as in­stan­ta­neously to stop the wheel spin­ning with­out any in­ter­ac­tion by the driver.

The ad­di­tion of trac­tion con­trol has pushed the HiLux to the front of the off-road pack once again.

The only notable change for 2011 is the wheel and tyre pack­age has been changed from the 255/70R15s used pre­vi­ously to 265/65R17s.

The 15s were good in terms of off-road prac­ti­cal­ity, but the everdi­min­ish­ing choice of 15-inch tyres was a prob­lem.

The 17s also im­prove the on-road steer­ing and han­dling, es­pe­cially the turn-in pre­ci­sion.

As ever, the HiLux diesel of­fers an ex­cel­lent spread of power, even though it may be down on claimed max­i­mum power, and high lev­els of re­fine­ment.

At this stage, how­ever, Toy­ota is yet to up­grade the tow­ing ca­pac­ity which, at 2250kg, is now well be­hind the class av­er­age.

In con­trol: The Toy­ota HiLux tack­les a rut­ted track with se­ri­ous abil­ity.

Pic­ture: BOB SEARY

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