Car reviews - Toyota - Hilux - range
Class-defying ride quality, eerily quiet cabin, excellent diesels, endless variant combinations, typical HiLux off-road ability
Room for improvement
Tonneau tray on SR not as attractive as SR5, autos and heavier top-spec variants forfeit towing/load capacity
28 Sep 2015
OUR time in one of Australia’s most anticipated new vehicles started on a short road run from Victoria’s Surf Coast coast to the closely guarded Australian Automotive Research Centre where much of the car’s development was carried out.
Setting off into the minimal morning traffic quickly revealed the significant step forward in refinements that Toyota was so careful to introduce with the new hard-working HiLux.
The interior of our SR grade dual-cab was well screwed together and the new-look dashboard is sharp, understated and stylish – dare we say a little Lexusesque? But where the luxury branch of Toyota would opt for plush leathers and Alcantara, the HiLux has more hard-wearing materials that look sharp but would be more tolerant of a work boot or tool belt.
Sitting centrally is the 7.0-inch touchscreen, which is at home nestled in its new surroundings. Sturdy seats are comfortable and the new two-way adjustable steering column is a welcome addition for long-legged drivers.
In the back of the dual-cab versions there are seats for three more adults and while they don’t offer the same comfort as front positions, they are a feasible proposition for longer drives.
Families are also well accommodated with Isofix anchors and top-tethers for the two outer seats.
Panic-handles on the A-pillar and overhead for both front occupants is a nice reminder that the HiLux is more than just a high-riding show-pony and despite the significant improvement to refinement and cabin comfort, Toyota's pick-up is still an off-roader. But more about that later.
For the eighth generation, Toyota says it has focused on enhancing the HiLux's toughness and has introduced a number of improvements to build-quality and durability. Only time in the hands of true user/abuser will tell, but the attention has had a marked improvement in cabin comfort.
The drive along country roads to the proving ground covered surfaces ranging from well maintained black-top to unsealed and scarred dirt and, despite the changing conditions, the HiLux's cabin noise remained serene and quiet.
Where previous generations and some current competitors would respond to rough surfaces with suspension thumps and gravel clattering in the arches, the Toyota was like a magic carpet ride.
Most surprising was its behaviour when negotiating single lanes with unsealed verges. When dipping two tyres into the loose surface to allow oncoming traffic to pass, the difference between on and off-road ride was imperceptible through noise, composure or steering feel.
We hasten to point out that every vehicle on test during the launch program was loaded up with 200kg of ballast in the tray, which nicely demonstrated how the HiLux performs in real-world conditions, but may also mask some rear-end harshness that one-tonners typically exhibit when unloaded.
Our first test car was powered by the new 2.8-litre 1GD four-cylinder diesel, which has recently found a home under the bonnet of the updated Prado SUV. The typical clatter associated with diesel powered utes was entirely absent and the unmistakable compression ignition note only spoke up when revved.
Low-down torque is abundant, negating the need to push the four-pot into the high rev range and with a gutsy 420Nm of torque, the larger of two diesels is a perfect match for the new HiLux.
With a towering 279mm ground clearance, the HiLux is no circuit racer but can handle some heavy-handedness. Its weight and height does become apparent in cornering with some roll onto the front wheel but the ESC, which has been tailored for Australian loose surfaces, does a good job of keeping things gathered up.
The seating position is a pleasant hybrid of upright commercial utilitarian and SUV comfort with good adjustment and support for a range of body sizes and shapes. We liked the top-spec SR5+ leather upholstered versions with electric adjustment for a touch of class but standard seats are more traditionally HiLux.
Later in the day, we piloted the 4.0-litre petrol-powered HiLux on-road and found the silky V6 provided the strongest acceleration thanks to the relatively high red line, which allowed the six-speed auto to hold on to gears longer.
We liked the accompanying engine note, which was surprisingly loud over the quiet cabin and effortless cruising ability, but with two such accomplished diesels on offer, we would find it difficult to justify the higher fuel bill.
The Australian Automotive Research Centre is the automotive equivalent of Disneyland it acts as a bootcamp where cars are pushed to their absolute limit in a vast array of gruelling tests both on and off-road.
Our time at the proving ground started with a trip around some of the more conventional exercises including a 130km/h blast around the highway-simulating oval, which highlighted the 2.4-litre diesel's ability to carry good pace despite being the smallest engine in the range.
The Workmate-spec version with flat tray, automatic transmission and 4X4 was the most affordable HiLux we drove costing $38,990 before on-road costs and would be very easy to live with day to day, but for those on a tight budget, the manual 2.7-litre petrol version with 2WD opens the HiLux range from $20,990.
Taking the little diesel through some winding sections of test track allowed us to be more vigorous than most drivers would dare with responsible use, but the tradie tray-cab is more chuckable than you might think.
An unplanned full emergency stop was also a good opportunity to test some real-world performance when a rogue wallaby forced the HiLux to perform a very controlled and confident ABS halt.
Next, we hopped into another 2.8-litre variant, but instead of the 200kg of load in the tray, this one had a 3500kg caravan hooked up to the original equipment tow-bar.
With 420Nm (the auto gets 450Nm), dragging the beefy braked trailer was no trouble for the HiLux and even a hill-start on a decent slope was tackled with no sweat thanks to its hill-hold function.
Only a few undulations in the road reminded us there was a sizable trailer coupled up and the Toyota truck was more than muscular enough to brake, turn and haul with ease. We particularly like the anti-sway electronics that sense when large loads are wandering at speed and uses the ESC to regain control.
Manual versions are capable of hauling the full three-and-a-half tonne van but auto drivers would have to sacrifice some luxury as self-shifters have a 3200kg limit.
It is also worth pointing out that luxury inside the cabin also comes at a cost with the full 1240kg payload only available with the lightest 2.4-litre diesel Workmate, while top-spec HiLux variants drop below 1000kg.
Consult our full specification and pricing table in the New Model story for a full run-down.
Next it was on to the technical course where we were guided through some extremes of the vehicle's ability starting with the articulation track, which provokes the axles into full articulation.
With the full 520mm of rear wheel deflection, the HiLux has exceptional ability to keep a wheel in contact with the surface and can keep powering on despite some very hostile terrain.
On the return trip we had to wade through water 700mm deep which is the official limit for the new HiLux when not equipped with a snorkel. In full swimming gear we feel our bravado would be the limit before the HiLux's ability.
SR5-spec vehicles with automatic transmissions and 4X4 are also equipped with hill descent function which controls the speed when going steeply downhill, but we found the manual gearbox provided reassuring and controlled progress when in first gear and low-range.
Higher spec vehicles have the iMT option incorporated into the six-speed manual which cleverly matches engine speed to transmission speed and irons out jolts if the driver is careless with gear selections.
The function is effective when both off-road and towing but we feel that if assistance is required with gear-matching then an automatic transmission is probably a better option.
A rock-crawling exercise highlighted the importance of the Australian model-specific underbody protection, which covers 30 per cent more area than the last HiLux and is 40 per cent tougher.
We couldn't avoid the occasional scrape even with a very experienced spotter but the HiLux is designed to take a few major underside impacts and carry on.
The severe granite rock with coral-sharp edges demonstrated the durability of the standard-fit Dunlop Grandtrack PT tyres, which distorted and complied to the harsh conditions without complaint.
Finally, we rounded out our off-road assault with a short hack through the beautiful forests surrounding the test facility, where we had a chance to put the HiLux through the kind of conditions many off-road enthusiasts encounter on a regular basis.
Instead of picking the kindest route through boulder-lined climbs and slippery water-eroded descents, we deliberately aimed the Toyota at the hardest way through and, without exception the tough truck not only won, but did so with seemingly little effort.
On sections with deep tyre grooves, its high clearance couldn't keep its belly from contacting the mud, but progress was still controlled and manageable.
We spent an entire morning throwing the HiLux at a variety of obstacle with no modifications, standard tyres at road-rated pressures and only once was the locking differential necessary to maintain progress.
Our pick would be the 2.8-litre diesel with all-paw transmission, but its combination with auto or manual is entirely a matter of choice. Both gearboxes do a good job of getting the power to the dirt with a handy short first gear for crawler work but a tall sixth for cruising.
Body style is also a matter of taste and/or application, but for the record, we think the blue extra cab with black wheels you'll find in our gallery is about as good as it gets.
Realistically though, With 31 variants on offer and 200 genuine accessories, if you can’t find a HiLux to suit your requirements, then the HiLux probably isn't for you.
It should come as no surprise that the Toyota HiLux is almost unstoppable off-road. Its all-terrain ability and ruggedness have forged a deserved reputation over seven generations and if the eighth incarnation couldn't continue the family tradition, something would be very wrong.
But the most notable quality of the new HiLux is its big jump forward in refinement. The combination of its rock-hopping, trail-tearing, go-anywhere ability with family friendly comfort takes it into new territory and that should be enough to keep the burgeoning competition at bay for now.
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