Toy­ota re­vamps its Hilux ute. We look at the changes be­ing made to this com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle icon.

TOY­OTA HAS REVAMPED ITS-TOP SELL­ING MODEL, THE HILUX ute, shuf­fling the model line-up, tweak­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions and work­ing to ad­dress its Achilles’ heel, the ride qual­ity.

The re­vised range in­cludes more au­to­matic gear­box vari­ants, a com­mon 3.5-tonne tow rat­ing across all Pre­run­ner and 4WD pow­er­trains, and a dif­fer­en­tial lock added to the Pre­run­ner range.

Toy­ota New Zealand says that all of the changes are in re­sponse to mar­ket feed­back.

“Cus­tomers will tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know about sat­is­fy­ing their needs and we are de­lighted to be able to re­spond with these en­hance­ments,” says Toy­ota ex­ec­u­tive, Spencer Mor­ris.

“We’ve also spent con­sid­er­able time work­ing with the fac­tory to en­sure the ride qual­ity de­liv­ers greater lev­els of com­fort.”

The five new au­to­matic trans­mis­sion vari­ants in­clude a 2WD Pre­run­ner SR Ex­tra Cab and four SR 4WDS.

They come in Sin­gle Cab Chas­sis, Ex­tra Cab chas­sis, Ex­tra Cab ute and Dou­ble Cab chas­sis con­fig­u­ra­tions.

Fall­ing cos­tumer de­mand has seen Toy­ota drop V6 petrol en­gine vari­ants from the range, along with the man­ual gear­box 4WD Ex­tra Cab ute.

“Light truck cus­tomers are look­ing for more au­to­matic trans­mis­sion op­tions while the de­mand for the petrol utes has fallen away,” says Toy­ota NZ’S out­go­ing gen­eral man­ager of sales, Steve Prangnell.

“We’re sell­ing more Hilux than ever be­fore in Toy­ota New Zealand’s his­tory.

“Hilux is Toy­ota’s top-sell­ing model, a sit­u­a­tion we could not have imag­ined five years ago when the Corolla led sales.

“The mar­ket swing to utes is un­re­lent­ing,” Prangnell adds.

In other changes, Hilux S and SR mod­els have black, rather than chrome ex­te­rior door han­dles. They also gain vari­able in­ter­mit­tent-speed wind­screen wipers.

In re­sponse to the tough en­vi­ron­ments they typ­i­cally work in all S and SR vari­ants come with eas­ily clean­able PVC floor cov­er­ing in­stead of car­pet.

Toy­ota has added a re­vers­ing cam­era to all cab/chas­sis mod­els, mak­ing this safety and con­ve­nience item stan­dard across the Hilux range.

The front fog­lights on SR5S have been up­graded to LED , and air vents have been added to the cen­tre con­sole for rear seat pas­sen­gers.

A key-lock mech­a­nism has been added to the tail­gate of all Ex­tra Cab ute and SR5 vari­ants to im­prove se­cu­rity.

All 4WD SR Dou­ble Cab au­to­matic mod­els have added Down­hill As­sist Con­trol to their suite of driver aids.

Stan­dard equip­ment on all Hilux S mod­els in­cludes cruise con­trol, five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion, Day Time Run­ning Lamps (DRL), and Ve­hi­cle Sta­bil­ity Con­trol.

They also get Hill start As­sist Con­trol, Trailer Sway Con­trol, Emer­gency Stop Sig­nal, seven airbags, air-con­di­tion­ing, and eco/power drive modes.

The SR vari­ants add a six-speed man­ual or au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, rear dif­fer­en­tial lock and black al­loy side steps. The 2WD vari­ants gain Pre­run­ner ride height.

Fea­tures on the SR5 in­clude In­tel­li­gent-man­ual Trans­mis­sion (I-MT) for man­ual trans­mis­sions, 17-inch al­loy wheels, smart key en­try and start, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, and LED head­lights, fog­lights and Day Time Run­ning Lights.

They also get leather-wrapped steer­ing wheels and gearshift knobs, cli­mate-con­trol air-con­di­tion­ing, an alarm and car­pet floor cov­er­ing.

Let’s hope that the 2018 Toy­ota ute is a more cred­i­ble all-rounder than its im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor.

Be­cause the new-gen­er­a­tion Hilux, in­tro­duced at the end of 2015, proved to be a mixed bag.

On the one hand there was a su­perb new en­gine and ex­cel­lent six-speed man­ual and au­to­matic gear­boxes.

It was a clear ad­vance on its pre­de­ces­sor in terms of me­chan­i­cal and cabin re­fine­ment and on-road dy­nam­ics. It han­dled well, and had good re­spon­sive steer­ing.

The pro­trud­ing nose frontal styling po­larised some as did Toy­ota’s choice to go with black-painted steel wheels on some vari­ants.

Some felt the for­mer made it a lit­tle odd-look­ing; the lat­ter made it look like a less pre­mium prod­uct.

But the real prob­lem was the ride qual­ity or – more cor­rectly – lack of it.

Sub­jec­tively, aside for the SR5 vari­ants, the new Hilux was un­ex­pect­edly harsh and out of synch in an era when pick-up trucks are ex­pected to do dou­ble-duty as work­horses and ur­ban fam­ily trans­port.

You could ar­gue that those are di­a­met­ri­cally-op­posed re­quire­ments and I wouldn’t ar­gue with you.

But that’s what the mar­ket ex­pects, and the Hilux didn’t de­liver.

Where oth­ers, no­tably Ford with the smooth (by ute terms) rid­ing Ranger wowed ur­ban cow­boys, Toy­ota’s mind­set seemed to still be with the ru­ral or fleet user.

And that was at a time when the ute was mor­ph­ing from be­ing pri­mar­ily a work­horse into a ve­hi­cle that could dou­ble as a fam­ily car for ur­ban dwellers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-toy­ota. I still have a beloved 1993 Corona EX1800 that con­verted me to the brand, but sadly has to go the au­to­mo­tive knacker’s yard.

It was a bril­liant car, if not 100 per­cent re­li­able (yes, Toy­otas can have their prob­lems too), a car with com­mon­sense de­sign, a lit­tle con­ser­va­tive maybe, but an ab­so­lute joy to drive.

Han­dling was ad­e­quate, road­hold­ing un­shak­able, the con­trols in­tu­itive, the steer­ing wheel just about the best I’ve ever en­coun­tered. The rim thick­ness was spot-on just as the di­am­e­ter was.

Clearly the de­sign­ers had thought about the end-user. Here was a car in-synch with its po­ten­tial buy­ers.

Which was what as­tounded me about the 2015 re­vamp of the Hilux. The de­sign­ers didn’t seem to be cog­nisant of the change in buy­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions of a ute. And Toy­ota missed the boat with the 2016 Hilux.

It should have been able to meet the Ranger on equal terms – Toy­ota NZ did its best to do that, plug­ging gaps in the range where the Ford had an edge.

But Toy­ota’s truck with its lumpy ride just wasn’t equipped to stick it to the Blue Oval’s truck, even though in all other re­spects it was an on-the-ball chal­lenger.

Dur­ing the launch and sub­se­quent home en­vi­ron­ment test­ing, I drove Hiluxes maybe 2000 kilo­me­tres.

The low point came when I tested one and took it over an ap­par­ently-in­nocu­ous sub­ur­ban street on my reg­u­lar com­mute.

This piece of tarsealed road is the best test of ride qual­ity

that I’ve ever found, and on it the Hilux failed mis­er­ably.

So much so that I con­tem­plated leav­ing it at home and us­ing my Corolla com­pany car in­stead.

As a Toy­ota fan – yes, I truly am – I just hope that with the sus­pen­sion re-tune, Toy­ota has fi­nally brought the Hilux into the mod­ern ute era.

I can’t wait to drive it.

Toy­ota says it has worked to im­prove the Hilux’s ride qual­ity. Bet­ter ride is key to greater suc­cess with ur­ban buy­ers but all of Toy­ota’s press kit pho­tographs showed the revamped model pos­ing or romp­ing off-road.

Above right: Toy­ota says it’s now sell­ing more Hiluxes than ever and the truck is its big­gest seller.

Above left: All Pre­run­ner 2WD and all 4WD Hiluxes now have a max­i­mum tow rat­ing of 3500kg.

Right: Much of the sales ac­tion may be with fleets and ur­ban buy­ers look­ing for dual-pur­pose trans­port, but Toy­ota is clearly de­ter­mined to show it won’t be aban­don­ing the farm­ing sec­tor by soft­en­ing up the Hilux (right).

Above right: Re­vers­ing cam­eras are now stan­dard on all Hiluxes, in­clud­ing cab/chas­sis like this one.

Above: Toy­ota has dropped petrol en­gines from the Hilux range, say­ing there’s sim­ply no de­mand.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.