UTE WITH ALL THE FRUIT
Toyota Hilux trio delivers ultimate off-road protection and functionality
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.