Dakar de­sires in the Kala­hari

Road Trip - - CONTENTS - Story by Ferdi de Vos | Im­ages © Toy­ota SA

An an­niver­sary edi­tion Hilux in­tro­duced over­seas has given Toy­ota South Africa the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate an­other Dakar-edi­tion to cel­e­brate its suc­cess in the world-renowned race. It also de­liv­ered the fastest (off-)road trip Ferdi de Vos has ever ex­pe­ri­enced, courtesy of Giniel de Vil­liers and his South African-built Ga­zoo Rac­ing Hilux …

Toy­ota in Europe re­cently in­tro­duced a lim­ited-edi­tion Hilux model to cel­e­brate the fifti­eth an­niver­sary of the iconic Ja­panese pickup. This spe­cial model (also em­u­lated in South­east Asian coun­tries) pro­vided Toy­ota South Africa with an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate its own spe­cial de­riv­a­tive – an­other Dakar-spe­cial edi­tion. How­ever, un­like pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions, the lat­est Dakar is dis­tin­guished from its “nor­mal” com­pan­ions by an at­trac­tive all-new face with a more prom­i­nent trape­zoidal grille and ‘squared­off’ de­sign.

This large gloss-black hon­ey­comb grille, in­cor­po­rat­ing two hor­i­zon­tal sec­tions, gives the Dakar more pres­ence and a sense of strength. The in­ner grille area is bor­dered by a metal­lic grey sur­round with three­d­i­men­sional ap­pear­ance, which blends into the LED head­lamps. A match­ing black ac­cent strip on the bon­net and stylised Dakar insignia at­tached to the grille com­plete the front de­sign.

Other dis­tinc­tive fea­tures in­clude a dif­fer­ent lower bumper de­sign with large hon­ey­comb mesh pat­tern and in­ter­sect­ing hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal fog lamp gar­nishes, in match­ing gloss black. The fog lamps utilise LED el­e­ments and a metal­lic grey skid plate puts a fin­ish­ing touch to the bold new front fa­cia. Gloss-black treat­ment for the door han­dles, power-re­tractable side mir­rors, and a grey rear bumper also sets it apart, while its in­te­rior fea­tures all-black treat­ment – a black roof headliner, metal­lic black trim ac­cent pan­els, and black leather up­hol­stery with light grey con­trast stitch­ing.

The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem of the Dakar-model is up­graded with satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, while the touch-screen sys­tem also in­cludes an on-board trip com­puter and cus­tomis­able home screen. It has a unique in­stru­ment clus­ter with white­faced gauges, or­ange nee­dle point­ers, and be­spoke graph­ics.

Kala­hari meet­ing

In Toy­ota speak, the acro­nym ‘QDR’ refers to qual­ity, dura­bil­ity, and re­li­a­bil­ity – terms that un­der­pin the global Hilux mar­ket­ing mantra. It is also em­bod­ied by the tor­tur­ous and wildly vary­ing con­di­tions of the Dakar off-road race where South African built Hilux off-road race ve­hi­cles have al­ready amassed four podi­ums …

So, what bet­ter place to get ac­quainted with the new Raider-based Dakar-model than on a des­o­late pan in the Kala­hari Desert … dur­ing a test ses­sion of the Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing South African team? We made our way to­wards Go­era Pan, just over 100 km North of Uping­ton in the North­ern Cape, in a Dakar-model with ex­clu­sive In­ferno Or­ange Metal­lic jacket (other colours in­clude Glacier White, Chromium Sil­ver or Graphite Grey) and black de­cals on the front doors and rear tailgate.

Em­ploy­ing the proven 2.8 GD-6 tur­bod­iesel pow­er­train cou­pled to a sixspeed man­ual trans­mis­sion (130 kw and 420 Nm) with se­lectable imt-func­tion (in­tel­li­gent Man­ual Trans­mis­sion) and switch-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, the Hilux made the tar road jour­ney feel short. Once into the red Kala­hari sand, the spe­cial edi­tion again ver­i­fied the off-road prow­ess of the Hilux, tack­ling the un­du­lant dunes in com­fort, but with gusto and aplomb. The six-speed auto ver­sion proved an even bet­ter choice in the var­ied ter­rain – owing to the well-cho­sen ra­tios of its slick trans­mis­sion sys­tem.

Fastest over­lan­der

Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the Dakar pro­duc­tion-model, we were in for an­other treat: a ride in the pur­pose-built Hilux rally-raid ve­hi­cle – with none other than the 1999 Dakar cham­pion Giniel de Vil­liers be­hind the wheel. The lat­est ver­sion of this space-frame ve­hi­cle that notched up a sec­ond and third place in the Dakar Rally of this year, has a pow­er­ful nat­u­rally as­pi­rated five-litre V8 mo­tor with mid-en­gine lay­out,

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