A great pick-up line

The lat­est in­car­na­tion of Toy­ota’s Hilux In­vin­ci­ble double-cab pick-up, with a re­fined en­gine and a more spa­cious in­te­rior, is still a rugged work­horse to be reck­oned with

Country Life Every Week - - In The Driving Seat -

IDON’T know whether it says more about the Toy­ota Hilux or the type of ‘no-good boyos’ we have in our cor­ner of East Anglia, but, about an hour af­ter the 2017 in­car­na­tion of this most iconic of ru­ral work­horses had been de­liv­ered to me and 10 min­utes af­ter I had parked it be­side my lo­cal trout stream, I got a text on my phone from an­other mem­ber. ‘Poach­ers,’ he wrote ex­cit­edly, un­der a pho­to­graph of the bright­blue and brand-new Toy­ota.

If it says some­thing about the poach­ers, then they must be a classy lot round our neck of the woods, swan­ning about in show­room-con­di­tion twin-cabs. I mean, I hadn’t even had time to get the wheel arches muddy. How­ever, if, as I sus­pect, it says more about the car, then it was a com­pli­ment. Poach­ers, af­ter all, know what they’re about. I re­mem­ber the Lin­colnshire po­lice telling me how ve­hi­cle-fussy the poach­ers were over in the Wolds and, in­deed, the Hilux was one of their car­riages of choice.

You get the im­pres­sion, look­ing at the rather well-groomed lines of the lat­est model, that this kind of un­der­world rep­u­ta­tion might be some­thing Toy­ota is keen to lose. Or per­haps there is sim­ply an ex­tra slice of mar­ket pie the firm is keen to take a bite at? Farms and build­ing sites not­with­stand­ing, the UK is sub­tly dif­fer­ent from the Aussie Out­back or the Namib­ian desert where func­tion­al­ity will be all. Out there, the Toy­ota’s leg­endary im­mor­tal­ity will be all the ad­ver­tis­ing the Hilux needs.

In­deed, I wan­dered into a hand­ful of in­ter­net chat fo­rums while re­search­ing this lat­est ver­sion, all of which were stud­ded with com­ments by African and Aus­tralian farm­ers stat­ing that they wouldn’t drive any­thing else, no mat­ter how much more com­fort­able it was. Where they come from, a car that keeps on go­ing no mat­ter what keeps you alive.

In the UK, how­ever, the roads are less ex­act­ing and the AA is only a phonecall away. Here, the dou­ble­cab pick-up is in­creas­ingly ful­fill­ing a sec­ondary role as a fam­ily car or life­style car: at work in the week, but full of kids and be­decked with moun­tain bikes and surf­boards at the week­end. This is a hotly con­tested fore­court, full of Ford Rangers, Volk­swa­gen Amaroks, Nis­san Navaras and, soon, a very high-end pick-up in the Mercedes X-class.

Toy­ota has re­sponded with a host of changes, from a more re­fined en­gine to a more spa­cious in­te­rior, all aimed at civil­is­ing this by­word for rugged prac­ti­cal­ity. I drove the top-of-the-range In­vin­ci­ble, which maxes out on the lux­ury. The dash now looks like some­thing from a reg­u­lar pas­sen­ger car and a smart one at that. We have a 7in touch­screen, sat­nav, Blue­tooth, DAB ra­dio, cli­mate con­trol and a key­less start. The last will, no doubt, be a win­ner for farm­ers hop­ping in and out all day long— just pop the key in a zip-up pocket and for­get about it.

The ride was com­fort­able, al­though, of course, it was a lit­tle choppy with­out a load bay full of sand. The steer­ing was easy, too: nicely weighted, ac­cu­rate. And the en­gine was also im­pres­sive. Cut down to 2.4 litres in or­der to cir­cum­nav­i­gate UK emis­sion lev­els, I thought the new four-pot might strug­gle to push around what is, in re­al­ity, an enor­mous ma­chine. How­ever, some­how, the torque— which is what re­ally mat­ters in a car like this—has climbed con­sid­er­ably to a bat­tle cruiser’s

400Nm. It’s not go­ing to win any drag races, but it will drag a gun­trailer out of a muddy field.

Could I live with a car like this, day to day? I’m no pick-up afi­cionado, yet I drove the new Hilux for a week with this ques­tion in mind. Af­ter all, it would be use­ful for those times when I try to fit a strim­mer, 15 fence posts, a roll of gal­vanised wire and a sledge­ham­mer into the back of my Audi.

The an­swer was a re­sound­ing yes. The fact that Toy­ota has now built a stag­ger­ing 18 mil­lion Hilux pick-ups since 1968, of which I bet a con­sid­er­able num­ber are still run­ning, is tes­ta­ment to their dura­bil­ity. I read about one Dan­ish farmer who had racked up 387,000 miles on the orig­i­nal en­gine and gear­box of his. That sort of statis­tic makes the Hi-lux’s 100,000 mile and five-year war­ranty seem rather cau­tious.

‘One Dan­ish farmer racked up 387,000 miles in his’

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