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First drive: HiLux upgrades to V6 and auto

More than a mechanical change: The SR5 is the only new HiLux model to benefit from extra comfort features.

The Toyota HiLux gains a V6 engine and auto transmission

24 Oct 2002

TOYOTA has introduced the mid-life upgrade of its top-selling HiLux utility range, and it's all about engines and transmissions.

A mere 23 years after HiLux four-wheel drives first appeared in the Australian bush a V6 petrol engine has been added to the range along with an automatic transmission.

In total there are seven new V6 quad-cam petrol 4WD models with the choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.4-litre V6 is a slightly detuned version of the cast-iron block, alloy head engine used in the LandCruiser Prado and replaces the 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine in the range.

While it adds an average of 50kg to the off-road variants it also contributes a substantial increase in performance - 124kW of power at 4600rpm and 291Nm of torque at 3600rpm - for well below the ADR 79/Euro II emission standards.

Toyota has dropped its trusty four-cylinder petrol engine from the 4WD line-up because six-cylinder variants now make up 57 per cent of demand in the petrol 4WD one tonne utility market.

Given that there's been Holden Rodeo, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton V6-powered four-wheel drive utilities from as far back as 1998, it would appear that the market segment leader is a dedicated follower of fashion.

According to Toyota, the availability of an automatic transmission recognises the multiple roles played by HiLux.

That transmission choice is not new in 4WD light commercials either. Mitsubishi took the clutch pedal out of the Triton GLS dual cab in 1996 and Holden in the Rodeo LT this year.

Toyota's new A340F auto is a close relation of the A340E four-speed auto offered in the HiLux 4x2. Features include lock-up clutch torque converter, anti-squat control, self-diagnostic and fail-safe modes.

Changes from A340E to A340F include strengthening to cope with the V6's high torque characteristics and the load potential from the 4WD running gear.

The stick-shift grip with top mounted detente button is also fitted with an overdrive button on the side facing the driver, while the power/economy mode setting is selected via a dash-mounted switch by the driver's door.

The move to a V6 engine for all 4WD petrol models has meant the introduction of a new R150F five-speed manual gearbox derived from the R151F gearbox used in the HiLux turbo-diesel 4WD.

Part of the drivetrain upgrade has been a lowering of the final drive ratio to 4.1:1. This taller gearing helps reduce fuel consumption and lowers cabin noise at 100km/h on the open road by turning the V6 engine at a calm 2000rpm in overdrive, or 2750rpm when overdrive is off.

The mechanical upgrades to the 4WDs didn't stop with the engine and transmission.

Toyota also focused on negative consumer comments relating to HiLux's stiff rear suspension set-up by recalibrating the leaf springs and damper rates to give the ute a smoother ride when travelling without a payload.

Despite the big under-body changes which in some way covers all 27 new HiLux models, only the SR5 4WD dual cab gets more fruit, including an alloy sports bar, new height and lumbar-adjustable front sports seats and Toyota's unique ADD auto front hub system.

Another model to gain significantly out of the mid-life makeover is the Workmate which now gets the 2.7-litre twin-cam multi-valve four-cylinder petrol engine standard - superseding the 2.0-litre engine from the range.

This engine has now been upgraded at the factory to make it fully gas compatible with the fitting of special valves and valve seats, to suit approved Toyota LPG operation, and all vehicles fitted with dual-fuel are backed by Toyotas full factory warranty.

In a joint development project between Impco Technologies, Toyota Australia and Toyota Japan a dual-fuel kit has been designed for the HiLux four-cylinder engines only - at this stage.

Toyota boasts the largest LPG fuel capacity in the one-tonne light commercial segment with HiLux 4x2 cab chassis models designed to carry a 72-litre gas cylinder in front of the rear axle on the passenger side.

HiLux 4x2 pick-up body models will be fitted with 60-litre gas cylinders.

Toyota claims that a HiLux running on LPG produces nine per cent less carbon dioxide and 67 per cent less carbon monoxide than the ULP version.

These LPG compatibility changes have added $120 to the cost of a 4x2 HiLux, Toyota says, with the average HiLux price rising $660 as a result of the V6 engine mid-life upgrade.

Toyota HiLux now enters the market at $18,990 for the 4x2 2.7-litre petrol Workmate cab chassis manual and tops the price list at $47,240 for the 4x4 3.0-litre turbo-diesel dual-cab SR5.

PRICING: 4x2 Models
2.7-litre petrol Workmate Cab/Chassis manual $18,990
2.7-litre petrol Single Cab Cab/Chassis manual $19,550
2.7-litre petrol Single Cab Pick-up manual $20,570
2.7-litre petrol Single Cab Cab/Chassis auto $21,600
3.0-litre diesel Single Cab Cab/Chassis manual $25,150
2.7-litre petrol Xtra Cab Pick-up manual $26,080
2.7-litre petrol Double Cab Pick-up manual $26,130
2.7-litre petrol Xtra Cab Pick-up automatic $28,130
2.7-litre petrol Double Cab Pick-up automatic $28,180
2.7-litre petrol Double Cab SR5 Pick-up manual $30,370
3.0-litre diesel Double Cab Pick-up manual $30,990
2.7-litre petrol Double Cab SR5 Pick-up auto TBA 4WD Models (manual unless otherwise stated):
3.4-litre petrol Single Cab Cab/Chassis $29,950
3.0-litre diesel Single Cab Cab/Chassis $31,650
3.0-litre turbo-diesel Single Cab Cab/Chassis $33,390
3.4-litre petrol Double Cab Pick-up $34,790
3.4-litre petrol Xtra Cab Pick-up $34,990
3.4-litre petrol Double Cab Pick-up automatic $36,840
3.0-litre diesel Xtra Cab Cab/Chassis $36,985
3.4-litre petrol Xtra Cab Pick-up automatic $37,040
3.0-litre diesel Double Cab Pick-up $37,300
3.0-litre diesel Xtra Cab Pick-up $37,990
3.0-litre turbo-diesel Double Cab Cab/Chassis $37,990
3.0-litre turbo-diesel Double Cab Pick-up $39,040
3.4-litre petrol Double Cab SR5 Pick-up $41,990
3.4-litre petrol Double Cab SR5 Pick-up auto $44,040
3.0-litre turbo-diesel Double Cab SR5 Pick-up $47,240

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

Reacquainting yourself with the HiLux quickly establishes two things. The outside remains the same and so does the seating position inside.

The latter point means your legs continue to stretch out to reach the pedals at close to a 90-degree angle - due to the low mounted seat.

The seat squabs are still hard and flat, except in the SR5 where the new height and lumbar adjustable sports front seats come with increased side bolsters and are more comfortable than the base model.

Starting the V6 engine brings an immediate surprise, particularly if you are familiar with HiLux history.

For more than two decades the only note other than the tight sound of a sub 3.0-litre petrol engine emitted from a HiLux has been the rattle of a diesel or the roar of a "backyard fit" grunter of some kind.

Available in five-speed manual and four-speed auto, the V6 is a willing performer and when mated to the auto pushes the HiLux down the road with much less driver input than ever before.

Full power is rarely asked for as the adequate torque output gets the vehicle going at around the 3000rpm mark, peaking at 3600rpm - the engine revving to 4500rpm when the pedal is squeezed.

On the highway, with the overdrive button on the stick-shift engaged, the HiLux is happy to roll along at a peaceful 2000rpm, but overtake and the kick-down still generates enough roar and vibration to remind you of where the HiLux used to be.

Heading off-road the HiLux feels very much at home. The corrugated gravel roads are smoothed out by those improvements to the rear springs and dampers.

HiLux has always had a good, stable front-end with lots of ground clearance and articulation, but the firm rear springing had the vehicle at odds with the track surface when unloaded.

Now that the front and rear suspension are more in balance the HiLux has taken a step closer to Toyota's aspirations of making the utility a true work and play vehicle.

Tackling the serious tracks is still where this light-weight 4WD hits its straps and the impressive front and rear overhang dimensions remain unchanged.

The auto is easy to use off-road and can be worked like a manual when the track turns steep and incorporates a very handy display on the instrument panel showing the selected gear.

The V6 was re-designed for the HiLux to exhibit strong torque characteristics and this can be noticed off-road with the HiLux able to negotiate steep climbs in high range four-wheel drive that the previous four cylinder engine would have coughed at.

The auto loses some engine braking on steep downhill runs but low first combined with low-range four-wheel drive is enough to hold the vehicle back with little brake input.

Toyota's rivals would like to hold the HiLux back as well, but we're talking about on sales graphs rather than off-road descents. However, Toyota has played it pretty smart with this update, making some signifcant changes that will appeal to the recreational audience as well as the workers.

Certainly, with 15 models priced between $29,950 and $47,240 it is aiming to be seen as much more than a pure workhorse.

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