Think of a dual- cab 4x4 and you probably think of Hilux. Most people certainly do
The Hilux comes into this contest as Australia’s best-selling ute and best-selling 4x4. Throw in the 2WD models and it’s Australia’s best-selling vehicle, bar none. Not that Hilux has had it all its own way, as last year it was pipped by the Ford Ranger as the best-selling 4x4 ute and best-selling 4x4, which has prompted Toyota to tweak the model range with the addition of SR+ models and more kit for the SR5+, among the key changes late last year.
Last year, Toyota also launched the TRD variant and has, more recently, introduced the accessorised Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X models.
This generation Hilux first appeared in late 2015 as the eighth-generation Hilux and was effectively all new from the ground up, although not notably bigger than before.
It brought a new-generation 2.8-litre diesel (replacing the long-serving three-litre diesel) and new six-speed automatic and manual gearboxes, replacing the previous five-speeders.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
Compared to the Hilux’s previous three-litre engine, the 2.8 only brings an extra 4kW (now 130kW/174hp) and, while both the manual and automatic gearboxes have an extra ratio, both bring a second and taller overdrive ratio rather than tightening up the ratio gaps. As a result, when pressed, the new engine doesn’t go much harder than the old engine and the overall performance is modest in this company. More torque than before (now 450Nm, up from 360Nm), however, makes for a more flexible and agreeable engine in general driving.
This new engine is much more refined and quieter than before and, in this regard, betters most here. It’s certainly quieter than the other big sellers – the likes of Ranger, Triton and Colorado.
For its part, Hilux’s six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and generally when you want but doesn’t carry the very tall sixth gear particularly well, so there’s a bit of shuffling between fifth and sixth and locking and unlocking of the torque convertor at
legal highway speeds on undulating roads. The automatic needs lower final-drive gearing or we need higher open-road speed limits – one or the other! While the manual also has tall fifth and sixth gears, it generally does a better job of holding them and it’s a much better proposition for country and highway driving.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
The Hilux offers a much more confident road feel than the previous-generation model (one of the more noticeable improvements, in fact) and feels smaller and more nimble than the likes of Ranger, BT-50 Colorado and D-Max. It’s still only a mid-fielder in terms of its general on-road composure, however, with the Amarok, X-Class, Ranger, Colorado and BT-50 all feeling more generally settled on bumpy roads, especially unladen. Better news in terms of the excellent road noise isolation from the Hilux’s chassis, however, and, along with the Amarok and X-Class, the Hilux is one of the quieter utes here.
This SR+ is a commercial-grade Hilux (we couldn’t get an SR5), which means you get a work-spec tub
(with external tie-downs and not smooth-sided) and a safety headboard rather the sports bar of the SR5 and SR5+ models.
Given it’s a bit lighter than the more luxurious models, the payload is a useful 1,045kg, even if the 3,000kg gross vehicle mass (GVM) is lower than all but the Navara and Triton.
This commercial tray may have the external tie downs, which are handy, but there are no tie downs in the tub itself.
With our 900kg test payload on board, the Hilux’s chassis hardly flinched and felt reassuring and stable on the road; honest performance from the engine hauling all this weight, too, but it feels it more than the utes with the bigger and torquier engines. In Toyota’s conservative way, the gross combined mass (GCM) of 5,650kg is the lowest here, and the maximum tow rating, with the automatic at least, is also down on the best at 3,200kg. Hilux 2.8-litre manuals are, however, rated to tow 3,500kg.
The Hilux may not be at the front of the pack in terms of its on-road dynamics but it sure does shoot up the leader board to become a tier-one player as soon as you head off road.
Much of that is thanks to its class-leading wheel travel (as much as 520mm at the rear) but Hilux’s electronic traction control (ETC) is also particularly effective, so much so that the rear locker is redundant.
In fact, the Hilux generally performs better off road without the rear locker, as engaging it cancels the ETC on the front axle as well as obviously negating the ETC across the rear axle.
The Hilux’s relative smaller size also means it’s more manoeuvrable in tight off-road situations than the bigger utes here, while ground clearance, wading depth and visibility from the driver’s seat are all off-road positives.
CABIN AND SAFETY
The Hilux’s cabin is one of the smaller here, which, as always, makes its presence felt more in the back seat where it’s a bit tight for three adults.
The tablet-style touchscreen that dominates
“WHAT’S MORE PRACTICAL THAN A HILUX? PROBABLY NOTHING.”
the dash may not be to everyone’s liking but, as ever, Toyota’s simple and easy-to-use switchgear is a highlight – even a simple audio-volume control knob is replaced by the touchscreen and steering wheel audio controls.
The Hilux is comfortable up front and the driver has the benefit of tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment, although there’s no smart-key entry and push-button start at this spec level. For that you need to go to the SR5.
Even at this commercial-grade level, the cabin still offers a quality feel that’s better than some top-spec models here.
What’s more practical than a Hilux? Probably nothing, thanks to Toyota’s extensive dealer network, especially in country and remote areas where it counts most. There’s also a big range of factory accessories for work or play, and the aftermarket accessory support is second to none.
Relatively cheap fixed-price servicing is a bonus too, even if the service intervals are six months.
Toyota’s simple and easy-to-use switchgear is a highlight