We’re flung the keys to the SR5+ and SR+ to sam­ple the re­jigged Hilux range.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

RIGHT now Toy­ota’s Hilux is Aus­tralia’s sec­ond best­selling 4x4. Up un­til as re­cently as last year, and for the 11 years be­fore that, it was Aus­tralia’s best-sell­ing 4x4, but the Ford Ranger 4x4 has now sur­passed it. De­spite the Hilux still be­ing Aus­tralia’s num­ber-one best­seller over­all – thanks to Hilux 4x2 be­ing well ahead of Ranger 4x2 – Toy­ota isn’t con­tent. Toy­ota doesn’t like be­ing ‘num­ber two’, es­pe­cially any­where in the 4x4 mar­ket, which is its heart­land and tra­di­tional strong­hold.

To ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion Toy­ota has shaken up the Hilux range by in­tro­duc­ing 10 new mod­els, seven of them 4x4s, and in­creased the num­ber of 4x4 mod­els in the over­all mix, with 20 of the 31 Hilux vari­ants now be­ing 4x4.

New 4x4 mod­els in­clude the SR+ Dual Cab, which brings al­loy wheels and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion in an oth­er­wise mid-spec model, and a Work­mate 2.4 au­to­matic, pre­vi­ously only avail­able as a man­ual. There’s also four new Ex­tra Cab 4x4s, three of them au­to­mat­ics, mark­ing the first time an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion has been of­fered with the Ex­tra Cab. All three new mod­els in the 4x2 range are also au­to­matic, which fur­ther high­lights the shift away from man­u­als to au­to­mat­ics that this up­date brings.

To help make way for the new mod­els, the 4.0-litre petrol V6 has been deleted from both the 4x4 and 4x2 range. Plus, there have been run­ning changes to the sus­pen­sion and ad­just­ments to the equip­ment on a num­ber of mod­els. The SR, for ex­am­ple, swaps more ser­vice­able vinyl floors for car­pets and gains down­hill as­sist; all SR5S gain LED fogs and a tail­gate lock; dual-cab SR5S gain rear air cabin vents; and SR5+ mod­els gain heated front seats to go with their leather.

To sam­ple the range we have driven a dual cab SR5+ (man­ual) for a week, fol­lowed by a dual cab SR+ (au­to­matic), again for a week. The SR+ is a sig­nif­i­cant model in the range, as the SR al­ways looked more like a base-spec model with its black steel wheels, rather than mid-spec where it was po­si­tioned in the range. It meant buy­ers want­ing al­loys had to move up to the top-spec SR5, which brings a less func­tional smooth-sided tub (no ex­ter­nal tie-downs hooks or rails) and a chrome sportsbar in­stead of a more prac­ti­cal head­board that helps with car­ry­ing loads and pro­tects the rear win­dow.

Both these dual cabs, like most in the range, have new sus­pen­sion dampers all ’round, which make for a more com­pli­ant and sup­ple ride than be­fore and fur­ther im­prove this new Hilux’s gen­eral road man­ners, which are far bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Hilux. The softer dampers ad­dress the crit­i­cism that the pre­vi­ous sus­pen­sion tune was too firm.

As ever, the con­trast be­tween the six-speed au­to­matic and the man­ual trans­mis­sions of­fered with the 2.8litre diesel is in­ter­est­ing and, while the au­to­matic is cer­tainly the pop­u­lar choice now, the man­ual has much to rec­om­mend it, not least be­ing the fact it’s more eco­nom­i­cal. We recorded around 9.0L/100km for the man­ual and 10.0L/100km for the au­to­matic.

Both the two new six-speed­ers have two over­drive ra­tios (fourth is 1:1 in both) and, while the re­spec­tive fifth and sixth gears in the au­to­matic are taller than the fifth and sixth gears in the man­ual, the over­all gear­ing is sim­i­lar given the man­ual has a taller fi­nal drive.

In both cases, “tall” is the word and, if any­thing, the au­to­matic is a tad too tall for le­gal-speed high­way driv­ing on un­du­lat­ing give-and-take coun­try roads and tends to drop from sixth to fifth and then change back up into sixth, only to re­peat the process soon af­ter, too of­ten. If the le­gal open-road speed in Aus­tralia was a bit higher then all would be good, but it’s not.

De­spite the en­gine claim­ing a max­i­mum of 420Nm with the man­ual and 450Nm with the au­to­matic, the man­ual holds the taller gears much bet­ter, which makes it a much more en­joy­able drive on coun­try roads away from stop-start driv­ing, where the au­to­matic is ob­vi­ously still more con­ve­nient. The au­to­matic also feels live­lier in town, which may be just the gear­ing ad­van­tage of the torque con­ver­tor or per­haps the ex­tra 30Nm.

As ever, the 2.8 is very quiet and re­fined (an­other big dif­fer­ence from the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Hilux), with only the Amarok V6 amongst its com­peti­tors bet­ter­ing it in this re­gard. More grunt would be nice, how­ever, as oth­ers in the class, no­tably Amarok V6 but also Colorado, Ranger and BT-50, are more mus­cu­lar, even if the Hilux is both flex­i­ble at low revs and quite will­ing to rev if asked.

This sliced and diced Hilux 4x4 range went on sale early in Oc­to­ber and out­sold Ranger 4x4 in that month by 322 units; although, in year-to-date sales the Hilux 4x4 is still 1644 units shy of the Ranger – a lot to make up in the one month left in the year. It will be an in­ter­est­ing run to the line.

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