It's a battle of the titans in this head to head.
This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of 4x4 Australia.
Australian choices in utes are limited to vehicles built in Asia plus the odd European make. It’s for this reason many Australian companies, such as Queensland-based Performax, are looking to import and convert American pick-up trucks, but are they worth the cost?
The Toyota Tundra is a comfortable and capable ute both on and off road. The petrol V8 has a $118,990 price tag once imported and converted – for that amount of money, buyers could put two, top-of-the-line Hilux utes on the road with change – at $51,740 for an SR5 Hilux diesel, one must question the value of the American option.
The Tundra becomes an option for a traveller chasing an alternative to a Land Cruiser Sahara, or a premium vehicle more useful than those currently available in our country. There is no doubt Hilux is more realistic in most people’s budgets but is a Tundra worth two-times a Toyota Hilux?
Both of these four-wheel drive Toyotas are designed for hard work – steel bodies, pickup tubs on a ladder-frame chassis, live axles and leaf springs down back, double wishbones and coils up front. But aside from company badges, there are not a lot of similarities between these two four-wheel drive utes.
The Tundra carries a smoother, less fussed style, even while crowned by a huge chrome grille, perhaps contributing to its weight of 2560kg, 600kg heavier than the Hilux.
The Tundra is almost six metres long and two metres wide, sits 1930mm high and has 264mm ground clearance. The Hilux is just more than five metres long and 1860mm high with 210mm of clearance; it’s also narrower in the body at 1835mm.
All this translates to a bigger cargo tray for the Tundra with a 1.69m long by 1.68m wide bed (1.27m between the wheel arches) which has a damped tailgate that opens and closes with a soft touch. The Hilux tub is 1.52m long and 1.5m wide. Its tailgate opens, drops and shuts with a bang.
Strange then that the Hilux is rated to carry 835kg, well ahead of the Tundra’s 705kg but it wins points back with a towing capacity of 4000kg, compared to the Japanese-built Hilux’s 2500kg tow load.
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
The body differences are obvious enough when the pair are parked side by side, and again more noticeable when climbing from cabin to cabin.
An SR5 Hilux is not short of gizmos these days – Bluetooth connectivity, rear view camera, satellite navigation and all. The fit and finish is smart.
The Tundra Platinum version matches all that and betters it with extras such as heated and ventilated front seats, leather all round, a very clever infotainment system and a powered drop-down rear window.
Four-wheel drive is engaged with a dash-mounted control as opposed to the Hilux’s old lever. The Tundra has 13 cup-holders, the Hilux a mere seven although why you need that many in a vehicle with five seats is beyond us.
The Tundra is more like the Landcruiser Sahara in touch and feel, particularly when it comes to accommodation, with more occupant room in all directions; the front seats are great for long hauls, the driving position excellent and three adults across the back seat don’t have to be the best of friends as they do in the ‘Lux.
A 5.7 litre petrol V8 with a slick six-speed auto is always going to beat a four-cylinder diesel with five-speed auto in delivering road speed. The three-litre Hilux motor is smooth enough, an honest worker on the highway or through the bush. The Tundra’s engine, as found in the Lexus LX570, is a top performer for a commercial vehicle, running sweet at about 1800rpm for an effortless 100km/h with plenty left to overtake and the auto box is slicker than the one found in the SR5.
Neither motor is troubled finding decent torque on dirt or tar, there’s just an extra 200Nm of it from the V8, which means it’s easier to keep up with, or clear of, the traffic.
But this is where the Tundra is twice the truck – at a claimed 15.7L/100km it uses almost twice as much petrol as the Hilux uses diesel.
There is little contest here. The big Toyota ute is a quick and comfortable truck for the road, while the Hilux is hampered by a shorter wheelbase, narrower track, lighter weight and blue-collar drivetrain. There is little wrong with the steering and handling of the Hilux but, compared with the Tundra, the ride is firm to lumpy when the road gets rough. Nor can the Hilux driver hope to match the pace of the Tundra on the open road.
It’s when the road narrows and turns to dirt that the smaller Toyota makes up some ground. It doesn’t mind being pushed over bush roads, where it’s allowed to move around a tad, holds its road speed and doesn’t need as much track space as its big American cousin.
In more open country, on tar or dirt, the Tundra steers and handles with surprising ease. The steering may not have quite the weight of the Hilux tiller, especially on the initial turn-in, but there’s rarely any doubt about the direction of the front wheels. A superior ride quality, better driving position, V8 punch and sleeker auto transmission means the Tundra is a nicer proposition for a long distance drive.
Beach or bush, the Hilux is a proven offroad worker, but the Tundra is a surprising offroad hauler. Despite the all-American ute’s bulk, and allowing for road-biased tyres, it does not disgrace itself in the rough. Much of its capability when the track turns nasty is down to that drivetrain grunt and smarts. Low-range gearing is very good, there’s a limited-slip rear differential and higher ground clearance.
The Tundra remains comfortable in the rough, it doesn’t pitch passengers around as much as the Hilux. But it is big and, sitting on a longer wheelbase than the smaller Toyota, may get hung up quicker.
The Hilux approach angle is 30 degrees, compared to the Tundra’s 26 degrees; departure angles are 23 degrees and 21 degrees respectively. The Hilux is easier to place and will go further when the track narrows.
There’s no doubt the Tundra will take on a 6.5/10 track (dry) without drama. The Hilux would be comfortable enough on an 8.5/10 trail, after that it begins to rely more on driver skill.
The Tundra was designed for North America and that shows in many aspects of this fine machine. It’s big and it’s thirsty, even compared with some of its US rivals, but it’s also very comfortable and very capable. It’s understood the 2016 Tundra will be sold in the US with a 5-litre, turbocharged V8 diesel option for those worried by the petrol engine’s thirstiness and we can expect that to filter through to the imports here.
Critics in the US there suggest the current Tundra is a bit soft as a full-sized pickup when compared with rivals from General Motors, Ford and Dodge, yet that ‘softness’ is what many here will find appealing. It is less of a truck than the other big Yanks, more like a Sahara or Lexus with a ute tray.
So for those with the dollars, and a decent-sized shed, the Tundra is a very handy, and luxurious, truck for smooth and rough conditions – it’s also covered by Performax’s four-year, 120,000km warranty with 24-hour roadside assist if purchased through the company or its national outlets.
The Hilux remains Australia’s most popular ute, despite this generation being older than rival utes and with, perhaps, less than 12 months left to run before a new model appears. Toyota’s reputation and solid engineering help this Hilux stay with the pack. Here the diesel auto SR5 is a worker but not as sophisticated in its ride or road manners as many rivals or the Tundra. The Hilux dresses up well but it’s more of a commercial vehicle, the Tundra is more of an all-rounder.
So is a Tundra (costing about $A55,000 in the US) twice as good as a 2014 Hilux? Probably not. But if you want the luxury and towing capacity there is only one choice.
Special thanks to Performax and to Land Cruiser Mountain Park for a great facility to test drive these vehicles. Special thanks to JAXQuickfit Tyres at Mitchelton in Brisbane for great service to fix a flat tyre.