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First look: Toyota fires up with new HiLux

New Toyota HiLux is still tough, but will have a softer edge for private buyers

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Toyota logo21 May 2015

ONE of Australia's best-selling cars, the Toyota HiLux, has taken steps to soften its rugged image in a bid to suit a new generation of customers – but not by much.

The eighth-generation generation utility vehicle, which goes on sale in October 2015, will sport a locally developed suspension tune that will bring the HiLux more in line with its competitors.

Limited details of the new ute were revealed today in Sydney as part of a simultaneous reveal in Thailand, with a hand-built SR5 4x4 dual cab ute featuring blacked-out windows on display at Toyota's regional office in Sydney's south.

Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb told journalists that 31 variants would go on sale in October, compared with 23 in the current iteration. There will be three cab styles (dual, crew and extended) and three equipment grades on offer.

There will be more 4x4 variants and more dual-cabs, while the return of the tradie-spec WorkMate is on the cards, as well. A Hi-Rider two-wheel drive variant will feature the ride height and looks of 4x4, but with a rear-wheel-drive configuration.

Towing capacity has been increased to 3500kg, up 500kg from the previous model, while “up to 1240kg” of payload capacity is available, according to Toyota, depending on the model.

“The next-generation Toyota HiLux inherits the core values of quality, durability and reliability, and takes those attributes to an even higher level,” Mr Cramb said.

“The introduction of an even stronger frame, new engines, greater off-road ability and car-like features ensures the next-generation HiLux combines the best features of a workhorse ute and an SUV,” he said.

“A highlight is the Australian-developed suspension that delivers increased wheel articulation, improved handling and greater comfort so owners can enjoy stress-free driving, even with a full load.” While most specs are being kept under wraps until the vehicle’s launch in October (some four months earlier than expected), some elements were revealed at today’s dual-country event.

Keyless entry, Smart Start, 17, 18 and 19-inch rims will feature in spec sheets, but few other details were revealed. All models across the range will have reversing cameras, including the tradie-centric WorkMate The front guards are pumped up, and the bonnet is a clamshell design. Projector-style headlights and LED daytime running lights feature up front, along with projector spot lights. The rear bumper step of the styleside dual cab is lower and deeper, while the reversing camera is integrated into the tailgate handle.

Interior packaging has, according to Toyota, been improved, with shoulder room up 19mm, headroom up 8mm, seat height up 15mm and rear kneeroom up 35mm.

Much work has been done on noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), with quieter engines and more sound deadening fitted.

A full suite of active and passive safety measures have been fitted to the HiLux, including stability and traction control, ABS, reversing camera, seven airbags, hill-start assist and emergency stop signal all standard across the range. Mr Cramb said that Toyota expects the HiLux to achieve a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating.

Significant revisions to the body and chassis include thicker chassis rails, more welds in the body, greater use of high-strength steel and greater levels of underbody protection.

A bigger fuel tank (now 80 litres), and all-terrain tyres will also feature on many variants.

The new HiLux has been developed from the ground up to meet such regulations, but the shift of the consumer market towards 4x4 styleside utes meant Toyota had to divide its energies to develop the HiLux to be more suitable for suburban use.

Four engines will be offered with HiLux two new diesel engines, an upgraded four-cylinder petrol 2TR, while the 4.0-litre V6 petrol carries over.

A new 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, code-named 1GD-FTV, makes 130kW and 450Nm of torque between 1600–2400rpm when coupled to the HiLux’ s new six-speed automatic transmission. Torque falls to 420Nm between 1600-2600rpm when the revised six-speed manual gearbox is specified.

A new 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, code-named 2GD-FT, puts out 110kW and 400Nm of torque between 1600rpm-2000rpm with the six-speed automatic transmission. Its five-speed manual drops the torque output to 343Nm between 1400-3400rpm. This will be the main engine for 2WD variants.

The revised 2TR-FE 2.7-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine now makes 122kW – a five per cent boost – and 240Nm. No details were provided on the V6.

Both the HiLux’s manual gearbox and auto transmission are revised, with the manual incorporating rev-matching technology.

Local suspension tuning is a big part of the new HiLux’s overall package, with the vehicle tuned for more on-road compliance. On the SR5 4x4 dual cab displayed at the launch event, longer leaf springs are complemented by twin dampers on each side. There is a double wishbone arrangement up front, with a thicker front swaybar.

After enjoying many years of sector dominance with the HiLux, Toyota's market share began to erode a few years ago.

Not only did the market heat up with entrants such as the Ford Ranger, the sibling-built Mazda BT-50, Isuzu's D-Max, the Nissan Navara, Volkswagen's Amarok and Mitsubishi's long-serving Triton, the eight-year-old HiLux did not meet more stringent Occupational Health and Safety requirements being enforced by primary industry buyers, losing sales to newer competitors in the process.

The company announced rolling changes to the HiLux last year that lifted the ANCAP crash safety rating to five stars for a number of variants.

The HiLux currently has 19.4 per cent of the 4x4 pick up market, ahead of the Ranger (16.1 per cent) and Triton (15.1 per cent). From a sector high of 31 per cent in 2008, it enjoyed only 20.5 per cent in 2014 as new and old players alike staked claims in the hot segment.

The HiLux has sold more than 850,000 units in its 47 years in Australia, with 38,126 moving last year – 11 per cent ahead of its nearest rival, the Ranger.

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