4WORD

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

ONE OF the key things to come out of last month’s nine-way ute test was just how much vehicles like the Mercedes-benz X-class and Volk­swa­gen Amarok are rais­ing the bar in this seg­ment and chang­ing peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions of what to ex­pect in a dual-pur­pose 4x4 pick-up. And those ex­pec­ta­tions will only get higher with the re­lease later this year of utes like the X350d V6 X-class, Ranger Rap­tor and even the up­dated Ranger with its 10-speed au­to­matic gear­box.

Along with height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions come higher prices, but the mar­ket has shown that it is pre­pared to pay for more fea­tures and per­for­mance. Top-of-the-range mod­els like the Wild­trak, SR5 and now the V6 vari­ants have been big sellers and the man­u­fac­tur­ers are only too happy to load them up and raise the prices.

While vehicles like the Ranger, X-class and Amarok have shown they can up-spec and carry a higher price tag, our test­ing showed the once-dom­i­nant Toy­ota Hilux would need some pretty se­ri­ous re-engi­neer­ing work to main­tain the same level as this trio.

The new top-of-the-range Hilux, the Rugged X, is a nice look­ing piece of kit and its ac­ces­sories work well, but they also eat into the pay­load and there’s no step up in per­for­mance. The 1GR 2.8litre diesel en­gine is the only en­gine of­fered in the Hilux and it goes al­right, just not great; it’s no pow­er­house and is buzzy in its op­er­a­tion at high­way speeds. Com­pared to the other top-spec utes men­tioned, the Hilux still feels like a tradie-truck and, while that’s not a bad thing, there’s no way it could ever match the per­for­mance and re­fine­ment of th­ese new V6 diesel mod­els – and in no way can it com­mand the same higher prices.

We had a Rugged X along for the ute test in the Flin­ders Ranges for this is­sue and it had some re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues. It isn’t the first time, as we’ve seen sim­i­lar prob­lems in a cur­rent Hilux/for­tuner with the 1GR en­gine. This begs the ques­tion, is Toy­ota’s long-held rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity start­ing to fray un­der the pres­sure of the new com­pe­ti­tion?

Toy­ota needs a good V6 diesel or even a V8 petrol en­gine, as well as im­prove­ments in sus­pen­sion and NVH, if the com­pany hopes to sell in the $70K+ ute seg­ment. Let’s hope it can come up with some­thing.

Time will tell Toy­ota’s story, but the 4x4 ute mar­ket isn’t show­ing any signs of slow­ing, so it will be test­ing times ahead.

4WORD MATT RAUDONIKIS

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