TOYOTA has definitely stamped its authority on the ute market with the recent release of the all-new HiLux.
The new model builds on the ‘unbreakable’ idea and claims to be even more unbreakable than its predecessor, which has stood the test of time for over 10 years. However the time was definitely right for the Japanese manufacturing giant to release a new model to compete with numerous similar vehicles from other manufacturers.
That being said, I’m fairly sure Toyota’s proven track record of unbeatable reliability, which has ensured a devoted following over many years, was not the reason for the new release.
It seems more likely that Toyota was keen to upgrade the towing capacity of the HiLux to remain competitive in this tough segment, and this has indeed been done with the new model boasting a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kg in six-speed intelligent manual guise and 3200kg as a six-speed auto in top-spec four-wheel-drive SR and SR5 versions.
I recently tested the SR5 turbo diesel 4WD with six-speed auto. Toyota has achieved the increased towing capacities by upgrading the underside of the vehicle with an all-new frame and chassis that is stronger and more rigid. I noticed this straight away as I pulled out of the carpark at Motorama Toyota and jumped on the gas to get up to speed.
It was not an uncomfortable ride, far from it, especially with the buckets seats in the front wrapping around your body and giving you plenty of support, but it was very different to my usual set of wheels (76 Series LandCruiser). In fact the HiLux felt quiet nimble and responsive, with an immediate reaction from the steering wheel as I gave it a few tweaks while getting comfortable.
As I continued to familiarise myself with the car, my attention was drawn to the very large colour display in the centre stack that housed the radio and GPS. Fortunately it was very similar to the wife’s Prado, so navigating around it was easy. Another noticeable change was the introduction of an in-dash computer screen that could be controlled by buttons on the steering wheel.
Included in the SR5 were a couple of fuel monitoring displays, a compass and the ability to change the radio station on the steering wheel.
Despite being some way off a tech geek, I do like to have a play with these kinds of features, so it was interesting to see how the HiLux performed, especially in terms of fuel economy in a mix of driving situations. For this test I managed to put just under 600km on the clock at an average of 9.5 litres per 100km. These kilometres included highway driving to the Sunshine Coast and then heading the back way over the range to Kilcoy. This was followed by a bit of driving around the in-laws’ farm, which required some low-range 4WDing through boggy and hilly country. A couple of trips around town were added to the mix too.
And of course I also had to do a few solid acceleration runs from a standing start to get a real feel for the car and engine.
Interestingly, the new HiLux doesn’t sound that different to the old one, but on-road noise was definitely lower. I had to keep an eye on the speedo because it was easy to find the car hovering around the speed limit, even though it didn’t feel like I was travelling that fast.
A feature of the new HiLux and something I used was the mix of power, normal and economy drive modes. When on the highway and driving around town I slipped it into economy mode, which according to the fuel consumption gauges did make a difference to fuel usage. In saying that, the engine also lost a bit of power when in economy mode, but I guess that is the obvious trade-off. This didn’t mean it was sluggish and it was still reactive to the throttle, but if you wanted to go a bit harder you needed to plant the foot a little more.
Conversely, while in power mode the throttle response was very direct and you only needed to touch the pedal and you were off.
While swapping between modes requires you to press a button, I liked the fact I had the option and it made the car more enjoyable and practical to drive. Overall, the 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine, while obviously smaller in capacity than the old three-litre version, met my expectations and the more I drove the car, the more my appreciation grew for what the HiLux had to offer.
Some people may question the move to a smaller engine, but technology has come a long way and these days you are able to get excellent performance out of a smaller engine, which in this case produced 130kW of power and 450nm of torque. In comparison to the older model, peak power is delivered a little later in the rev range and doesn’t last as long, but the increase in torque means you have ample grunt when required.
The six-speed auto gearbox was definitely smoother than the old auto, with gear changes performed almost seamlessly. An anti-rollback feature was also incorporated to aid with hills starts. While the performance quickly got a tick of approval, I must admit it took me a little while longer to get used to the new look. This was probably because I was so used to and familiar with the old car, which I liked, so it took some time for me to gain an appreciation of what Toyota is offering with the new model. And that is a totally sleek new car that incorporates LED park lights into what I eventually concluded was a stylish new look. Add a bullbar and you’ve got a classy but tough car that not only stands out but delivers as all previous HiLuxes have done.
In terms of its workhorse capabilities, the payload has been increased by 90kg to 925kg and the style side’s tub area has also been increased slightly with an overall width of 1.64m and length of 1.57m. Even though it has been a long time coming, Toyota has delivered yet another comprehensive vehicle that is stylish throughout and has the performance to match.
If you’re interested, give the team at Motorama Toyota a call on 07 3000 9797 or drop in and take a new HiLux for a test drive. I’m sure you will be impressed. As a bonus, mention this article or the Motorama ad found elsewhere in this magazine and you will receive a $500 BCF voucher when buying a new or demo car.