Toyota has tweaked its ever-popular Hilux but will the changes be sufficient to see off new challengers from Ford and Mazda?
Rear coil springs with five-link suspension courtesy of Prado? Nup, ’fraid not.
Full-time 4X4 system; again dropped in from the Prado? Don’t be silly.
Sequential-style self-shifter to rival many wagons? Nope, no sign of that.
Six-speed manual to combat rival utes? Nowhere in sight, sorry!
A new diesel engine, or at least an upgrade of the existing diesel power plant? You’ve gotta be kidding!
This ‘new’ HiLux is, I’m afraid, nothing but a facelift in an attempt to maintain its market leadership, which it’s held for almost a decade.
But hang on a minute, it’s not all doom and gloom for Toyota. Although this facelifted range may not deliver anything extraordinarily new in the form of power, suspension or driveline developments, it still represents one of the finest utes available in the Australian marketplace.
Having belted a few of these new utes around Townsville’s backblocks for two days, I can assure you, this HiLux is still well and truly in the hunt. With just shy of 200kg loaded into the ute tray, plus two – and sometimes up to four – burly fellas in the cabin, the HiLux confirmed its reputation as a do-it-all ute with consummate ease.
During our time behind the wheel, we tackled a range of rock-strewn, bone-jarring tracks, steep billy-goat climbs, plus long-distance gravel and bitumen roads that varied in condition from brilliant to ordinary. Of particular note on those higher speed jaunts, the often-hit, unavoidable potholes and road irregularities saw the good old leaf-spring rear end combined with front upper and lower wishbones handle the lot with aplomb.
Overtaking mining trucks and tackling the long winding roads was stress-free and as comfortable as any ute has the right to be. At no time was I desperate for anything more up-to-date with regards to suspension, steering or even power – this is a work/family ute, remember.
Sure, more power would be nice, but even given that the ‘on-paper’ output figures of the D-4D diesel engine are far from class-leading, the way I see it is there really is no substitute for real-life testing. Yep, the ‘old’ HiLux engine may lack the numbers, but you know what – it’s a great drive for tourers, around-towners, families and workers alike; it gobbles up the miles and affords both driver and passengers a fair degree of comfort. In fact, my stint in the back seat was better than expected, with adequate leg- and head-room for my six-foot frame.
The low-range gearing and tractability of the larger (than most competitors) engine, especially with the auto gearbox, allowed for easy four-wheel driving.
The suspension’s articulation, while sufficient, is nothing spectacular and was found wanting with the non-traction control models we had on hand while climbing steep, badly rutted tracks. Tackling the same obstacles with both traction and non-traction models showed the advantage of ticking that option box come purchase time.
Toyota is offering a long line-up of HiLux variants – now up to 35 (17 4X2s and 18 4X4s), along with a plethora of options.
The HiLux comes with the choice of three cabins – single, extra and double cab; two styles – pick-up and cab-chassis; three equipment grades – WorkMate, SR and SR5; three engines – 2.7-litre four-cylinder petrol, 4.0-litre V6 petrol and a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel; the choice of two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive; and manual or automatic transmissions.
Double cab SR5 variants have 17-inch rims with 265/65R17 rubber as standard, while extra cabs only have 15s. As standard, the SR and WorkMate cop 16-inch wheels, but SR models have 17-inch sizing as an option (albeit with steel rims, not alloys). Both auto and manual gearboxes are offered across the range. Towing capacities on all 4X4s are increased to 2500kg.
While many of the upgrades to the 2011 HiLux range are purely cosmetic, we do get a few more important ‘upgraded’ features across the range, plus a few that are optional – but should perhaps be standard fare. Anti-lock brakes are standard across the range. Cruise control is standard on SR and SR5 models, as well as on the auto WorkMate models.
Electronic stability control, traction control, and brake-force distribution, as well as brake assist are standard on 4X4 SR5 double cabs, but optional on SR double cabs as a safety package. But the HiLux still has no lap-sash belt for the rear centre seat passenger of the double cabs!
Side and curtain-shield airbags and sports-style front seats have been fitted to all 4X4 SR5 and SR variants, while the WorkMate gets a limited-slip differential as standard equipment.
New sheet metal abounds from the A-pillar forwards and the bonnet, radiator grille, headlights and front bumper bar are all new. There are also newly designed wheel arch flares, door mirrors (with integrated turn signals) and updated rims.
A host of cosmetic upgrades feature in the dash, as well as the inclusion of new audio systems on all variants. Depending on the grade, it features voice recognition, touch screen, radio text, 3D graphics for the satellite navigation and safety warning alerts for school zones and speed and red-light cameras.
Across the range, the biggest improvement in value comes with the 4X4 SR5 turbo-diesel extra cab. The added spec includes satellite navigation, dusk-sensing headlamps, steering wheel-mounted telephone controls, redesigned alloy wheels, sports-style front seats with side airbags, curtain-shield airbags and auto control for the airconditioning.
The entry-level price for a 4X4 turbo-diesel HiLux has come down $6150, or 16.1 percent, to $31,990 with the introduction of a WorkMate single cab variant fitted with a manual transmission.
HiLux 4X4 extra and double cabs can be claimed from under $40,000 – with options taking you well above that.
IS THE KING DEAD?
Not by a long shot! The official answer, from Toyota head honchos, to all those aforementioned questions as to when we’ll get any of the major upgrades was: “No pledges, but the new-generation HiLux should see the implementation of many passive and active safety features.”
As for a major diesel engine upgrade? “We won’t even speculate on that…”