UTE WITH ALL THE FRUIT

Toy­ota Hilux trio de­liv­ers ul­ti­mate off-road pro­tec­tion and func­tion­al­ity

The Northern Star - - MOTORING - JOSHUA DOWLING

Tradies and fam­i­lies can’t enough of burly-look­ing utes, so mar­ket leader Toy­ota has in­tro­duced three HiLux mod­els to make the top-sell­ing pick-up even tougher and more ca­pa­ble.

The flag­ship Rugged X – with a desert-racer-style bull­bar, LED high­beam driv­ing lights, heavy duty tow hooks, side rails and a sports bar that can ac­tu­ally take a load – starts from $61,690 plus on-road costs.

The lux­ury Rogue model – in au­to­matic only – is also $61,690. The cheapest ticket into Toy­ota’s tough­est trucks is the base model Rugged, from $54,990.

There is no ex­tra power for the 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylin­der and the steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and brakes (front discs and rear drums) re­main un­changed, so it drives the same as a stan­dard HiLux.

The only mi­nor vari­a­tion: mod­els equipped with the nudge bar or bull bar get heavy duty front springs to off­set the ex­tra weight over the nose, but these are the same springs that have been part of the gen­uine Toy­ota bull bar pack since this model was launched in 2015.

The Rugged X comes with 17-inch wheels and tyres – rather than the 18s fit­ted to the SR5 on which it is based – be­cause there is more af­ter­mar­ket choice of gnarly off-road rub­ber in 17-inch for­mat. This way, hard­core buy­ers don’t need to shell out for a new set of rims, too.

It may look like a bolt-on ac­ces­sories pack but all the ex­tras were in de­vel­op­ment and tor­ture-tested long be­fore this gen­er­a­tion HiLux went on sale.

For now, the parts will not be avail­able off the shelf for peo­ple to dress up their ex­ist­ing HiLuxes.

The Rugged and Rogue mod­els are made in Thai­land along­side the rest of the HiLux range and shipped to Aus­tralia in a par­tially com­pleted form be­fore the spe­cialised and lo­cally-made heavy duty parts are fit­ted in an assem­bly fa­cil­ity in Mel­bourne.

All the ex­tra gear adds about 200kg, which in turn has been lopped off the pay­load. The reg­u­lar HiLux can carry about 950kg, the Rugged X can carry 750kg.

Dur­ing de­vel­op­ment Toy­ota re­alised there was room for a more af­ford­able ver­sion of the Rugged X – which is based on an SR5 – so it added the Rugged based on the next model down, the SR.

The Rugged gets cloth seats in­stead of leather, a cheaper look­ing in­stru­ment dis­play and the stan­dard Toy­ota steel bull­bar for bet­ter pro­tec­tion from an­i­mal strikes on ru­ral roads.

An­other small de­tail: the Rugged gets the SR5’s smooth ute tub body side, not the SR’s tub with ex­ter­nal hooks along the top edges.

The top-of-the-line Rogue gets car­pet in the ute tub; “marine grade” to han­dle wa­ter and dirt.

In­stead of a bull bar the Rogue gets a sportier look­ing nose and grille, new 18-inch wheels, a heavy duty sports bar and hard lid, among other lux­u­ries.

To get reac­quainted with the HiLux, Toy­ota held a me­dia pre­view drive in Wilpena Pound in the Flin­ders Ranges about two hours’ drive north of Ade­laide.

The sealed roads are long, flat and straight so we can’t give you an assess­ment of how Toy­ota’s tougher HiLux han­dles bends, how­ever given that it drives iden­ti­cally to the reg­u­lar HiLux mod­els we know it’s a safe bet.

It was a worth­while ex­er­cise to be re­minded just how quiet and re­fined the HiLux is – for a diesel – hav­ing just clocked up 600km in the nois­ier HSV Colorado be­fore ar­riv­ing.

Off road the HiLux is at home. With the ex­cep­tion of the HSV and the up­com­ing Ford Ranger Rap­tor, it has the best wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion in the busi­ness.

The power and torque fig­ures may not look im­pres­sive, but the HiLuxis un­stop­pable when the go­ing gets tough, chug­ging up hills, over sharp rocks and de­cent sized boul­ders with­out rais­ing a sweat.

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