PEO­PLE’S CHOICE

Think of a dual- cab 4x4 and you prob­a­bly think of Hilux. Most peo­ple cer­tainly do

Australian Transport News - - UTE MEGATEST -

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.

LOAD CAR­RY­ING

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.

OFF ROAD

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.

PRACTICALITIES

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

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