Car reviews - Toyota - Hilux - SR5+ 4X4 2.8TD Double Cab Pick-Up
Styling, comfortable seats, safety kit, off-road ability, cabin space, infotainment system
Room for improvement
Automatic transmission, value, dashboard materials, no standard tub-liner, vague steering
Toyota significantly updates HiLux for 2020 to make it more liveable, has it worked?
8 Oct 2020
TOYOTA Motor Company Australia (TMCA) has been far from quiet in advertising how much of an improvement the new HiLux is compared to its predecessor, adding more power, more standard kit, updating the suspension, revamping the steering and tweaking the styling.
The on-paper results largely speak for themselves; peak power and torque are up to 150kW/500Nm resulting in a 300kg jump in towing capacity (3500kg braked), fuel economy has been improved by a claimed 11 per cent and it looks a whole lot better.
To find out if all these updates and improvements corresponded into making the HiLux more liveable day-to-day, we spent some time out west in the SR5+, the variant private buyers are most likely to be attracted to.
First walking up to the new HiLux, it is near-on impossible to miss its new front end and how much better looking it is compared to the rather dorky looking model it replaces.
There is more than a hint of Tacoma and Tundra to its mean and chunky-looking new front fascia, especially around the headlights and grille.
At the rear meanwhile there is a new vertical tail-light stack with the whole arrangement rolling on fresh 18-inch wheels.
Inside things are largely the same as the old model however the infotainment screen has grown by an inch to 8.0-inches in diameter and gained physical buttons and dials around its perimeter while the 4.2-inch digital driver’s display now boasts a digital speedo.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have also been added to the mix as standard.
Our test car was the SR5+, the highest grade available until the Rogue and Rugged X arrive later in the year, which carries a starting sticker price of $62,420 plus on-road costs – $2500 more than the regular SR5.
For the extra outlay, customers score leather upholstery, heated front seats and power adjustment for the driver’s seat.
These additional features help make the cabin of the HiLux a nicer place to be and in some way offset the abundance of hard plastics used for almost every surface besides the arm rests of the doors.
Despite being the top spec variant and the most likely to be purchased by private buyers – including families – it only takes a few minutes to be reminded that this is a work vehicle underneath.
The flipside of all this is that the interior is bound to be hard wearing and the addition of physical buttons and dials to the infotainment system not only makes it easier to navigate, but stops any grease, grime or dirt from being smudged all over the screen.
Looking past the materials, it is actually quite easy to get comfortable behind the wheel with a decent enough driving position possible – no doubt helped by the powered driver’s seat – even if the steering wheel itself lacks a bit of telescopic range to its adjustment.
As mentioned earlier, the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine powering all 4x4 variants has been tuned to now produce 150kW of power at 3400rpm and 500Nm of torque between 1600-2800rpm when paired with the recalibrated six-speed automatic transmission – the manuals are pegged at 420Nm albeit over a wider rev range.
The mill is unquestionably a strong one and actually proved surprisingly peaky when given a nudge down freeway on-ramps or overtaking at highway speeds.
Peakiness would be the recurring theme during our time with the HiLux, however we suspect the culprit is actually the six-speed automatic transmission which has been recalibrated to “allow earlier lockup for improved acceleration and cooling performance, especially while towing”.
We did not get a chance to test out the SR5’s towing credentials during our stint with the vehicle however the transmission proved to be a regular source of frustration as it never really allowed the engine to capitalise on its plentiful low-end torque.
All too often the transmission came back off lockup to give the engine more revs going up even the mildest of inclines – especially at highway speeds – when it was already spinning comfortably within its torque band.
In some instances, it would come off lockup or even change down a whole ratio before realising there is plenty of torque on hand and subsequently locking/changing back up.
A few times we attempted to bypass the issue by flicking the transmission into manual mode however in classic Toyota style, fourth gear is the default setting for manual mode which was far from ideal at highway speeds given we were trying to prevent the revs from surging in the first place.
We had no such issues around town or off-road however when the transmission calmly went about its business smoothly and fuss-free, save for a few times it held onto lower gears a bit too far up the rev range than is really necessary.
In terms of its ride, handling and NVH levels, the new HiLux is still very much a work ute and it is important to remember that.
One of TMCA’s big focus points with this new model was improving its unladen ride to make it more tolerable and viable as a daily driver and for the most part the redesigned leaf springs and recalibrated shock absorbers have done the trick.
The rear end is still jiggly and will kick over bigger bumps but it is more than passable for a vehicle boasting a 995kg payload capacity.
Road and wind noise suppression was passable if not unremarkable with the majority of noise stemming from around the wing mirrors and top of the doors.
Standing 1815mm tall with 216mm of ground clearance and underpinned by a ladder frame chassis, the HiLux has never been, nor will it ever be an athlete in the bends, regardless of what TMCA says about its upgraded steering and suspension.
While usefully light around town, the steering proved vague and indirect on the open road, but conversely came into its own off-road where low speed adjustment is the name of the game.
On the subject of off-roading, the SR5+ ships as standard with 18-inch Bridgestone Dueller H/T tyres which are far from the off-road minded units available, but nevertheless they did well along the steep and rutted powerline tracks we subjected the HiLux to, especially given we ran them at road pressures.
As for the car itself, it took everything in its stride without any bother and lapped up the rough terrain, almost as if it was cruising along tapping its fingers.
At this point we should point out that the trails we traversed were far from the most technical out there, but still difficult enough for the average punter to enjoy and catch out the unwary.
Those planning to exploit the working credentials of the SR5+ may lament to omission of a standard tub liner and the lack of a 12V socket in said tub.
All in all the new HiLux SR5+ is a viable daily driver and an equally capable work ute.
There are more than enough creature comforts to be comfortable, even if some of the cabin materials defy its $62,420 asking price, which leads us to our final point – value.
Compared to the old model, the new SR5+ has risen in price by $2680.
Yes you get more grunt, a few more toys and a slightly plusher ride, but it never feels like an almost $63,000 vehicle, let alone a $65,000 one by the time you fit a tub liner and tow bar, and especially when you consider the prices and specs of some of its newer rivals.
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