Toyota HiLux review | SR5 V6 auto

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  • High Stance
  • Fresher looks
  • Bulletproof build
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  • Bouncy ride
  • No lap sash centre belt
  • No reach on steering column

The best ad for a Toyota Hilux doesn’t show the ute in the gleaming state you’ll see in its marketing campaigns. Instead, this one is battered, burnt and blown-up. It sits in the UK studio for TV show Top Gear, whose hosts tried serial attempts to kill it, including crashing it, hitting it with a wrecking ball,  setting it on fire and leaving it in a building during an explosive demolition.

After every assault it could be started again, and this refusal to lie down and die has earned the workhorse a reputation for being indestructible. The toughness is just one of the reasons the HiLux is Australia’s top-selling ute, and some months tops vehicle sales across all classes.

Another is the almost daunting number of variants – 35 in the current line-up – which means that there’s a HiLux in just about any combination of fuel, cabin, drive and tray choices you can dream up.

TECHNOLOGY

The revised HiLux range has carried over its three engines: a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, and two petrol units: a 2.7-litre four-cylinder and 4.0-litre V6. We’re testing the V6 mated to the five-speed automatic, which develops 175kW of power at 5200rpm and 376Nm of torque at a high-ish peak of 3800rpm – the latter up on the manual shifter by a handy 33Nm.

Offroading duties are handled by a manually-shifted transfer case offering 2H (high-range two-wheel drive), 4H (high-range four-wheel drive) or – for real rock-crawling -- 4L (low-range four-wheel drive). Like quite a few other utes, it still uses a leaf-spring rear suspension, coupled with a coil-spring double-wishbone for the front, with the upgraded range given revised calibration.

With it weighing in at 1840kg, you don’t expect it to be a fuel-sipper. But the 13L/100km combined is fairly respectable – if you can keep it down to that. We were hard-pressed to get it below 18L in a circuit that was half town and half country, while the next few days of city streets shot it up above 20L/100km. That’s going to also increase if you take advantage of the HiLux’s 970kg payload, or its towing capacities: 750kg unbraked and 2500kg braked.

VALUE

Toyota has tweaked the HiLux prices to fend off growing competition – particularly from the Volkswagen Amarok and just-arrived Ford Ranger. But even with that, our test vehicle in SR5 top-spec level still comes in at $53,490, which is a bit of a wallop even for something that is supposedly going to outlive you. Perhaps you can convince the kids it’ll be part of their inheritance.

But at that price the workhorse gets some show pony features, like the 6-in touchscreen satnav – with traffic jam and school zone alerts – that incorporates audio, USB jack, Bluetooth phone and voice command. The list includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote controls for phone and audio, automatic headlights, dark-tinted glass and climate-control aircon.

So what are the rivals? Not many, if you’re set on having the combination of an auto petrol dual-cab ute with 4WD. And there’s a reason for that: people who mainly want to lugs loads or go offroad will find that diesel – whether auto or manual -- generally does it better. But if your heart’s set on petrol, there’s a Holden Colorado that will leave $14,000 in your pocket. That’s a big saving, but it’s not 4WD, has less power and torque and is just about as thirsty. Plus there’s a new one nearing, likely with a more economical and powerful V6 than the current unit.

For around the same price point as the petrol HiLux – but on the diesel side of the bowser island –  the Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R turbo-oiler is $3000 less with solid spec and the Overlander 4WD of the Year trophy on its shelf.  The VW Amarok TDI in Highline spec is $1500 less, with a capable and economical engine, and good driving characteristics, but only with a manual transmission. And Nissan’s Navara ST-X D40 should also get a look in at $250 less, with a good serving of torque for towing but with only five speeds on the auto.

And for exactly the same price as the petrol HiLux, there’s the diesel version but with less power and torque at 126kW/343Nm.  But while it’s 33Nm less torque, it comes in at a much handier 1400rpm rather than the petrol’s 3800rpm. But if you’re prepared to shell out $2000 more than on the Hilux, the real challenge could come from the well-specced $55,490 Ford Ranger, with a six-speed sports auto delivering 470Nm of torque.  Or you could shell out $52,710 for the same drivetrain in the Mazda BT-50 GT, with the savings perhaps compensating for its rather polarising looks.

And if torque’s the main game for you, there’s the Nissan Navara ST-X 550 D40, with a whopping 550Nm on tap through a seven-speed auto – but also with a whopping $60,990 price tag. Still, it will probably tow your house if you want to take it with you.

DESIGN

The upgrade has changed everything forward of the A-pillar, bringing a more modern grille and shaping to the front bumper and headlight clusters. It also adds chromed exterior mirrors, body-coloured fender flares and a restyled polished sports bar – which looks even flasher than the previous one but still eats into usable load space just as much.

Interior changes include sports seats for the front passengers and a redesigned dashboard with clean horizontal layout. It all seems fresher and a bit more sophisticated, but still looks like you could fill it to the steering column with mud and then hose it out without it getting too bothered. Even the satnav looks tough and utilitarian. When you start using it, you’ll also find it’s simple and intuitive, which comes as a relief after some of the high-tech puzzles starting to infest interiors.

Rear-seat passengers will have no complaints about room, but taller drivers could find it hard to get the right possie with the high-set seat – which means not much distance to the roof for tallies -- and lack of reach-adjustment on the steering wheel.

SAFETY

It’s a letdown to see that the middle passenger in the rear seat gets only a lap belt rather than lap-sash. But the other disappointment for a vehicle that begs to be treated roughly is that the crash rating is only four stars. However it has a raft of safety features that includes six airbags – including side and curtain-shield -- and stability control.

DRIVING

The HiLux might come up short on the Lux, but it definitely delivers the high side of things. Slip into the driver’s seat and you’re looking down on just about all other traffic, including most SUVs on the street. It’s an immensely satisfying position to be in, and gives instant insight into – and perhaps a few fantasies about – the world of monster truck racing. There’s a feeling you could effortlessly climb up and over any obstacle, including the moron in a BMW X5 who’s just cut you off and then slowed to a weaving crawl while calls his broker.

It’s best to avoid the impulse of course, but it’s nice to feel the HiLux 4WD would be happy to give it a shot. Take it off the bitumen, and it shows it’s definitely up for the job. While it mightn’t have the more refined technology of dial-up modes, the manual-shifted low ranges are fine for overgrown fire trails and creek crossings.  And a reasonably jacked-up ground clearance will handle a lot of washout and gully work if you watch the approach and departure angles.

But if you’re going to put it through its paces, you’ll ride better if you load it up first. Even on bitumen surfaces, an empty tray means you’ll be bouncing around like a terrier at teatime. It almost needs to come with a 200kg ballast as an optional extra to keep the suspension settled when you don’t have a payload. But loading it up is when you’ll remember you’ve got a petrol engine. While it’s strong enough for most everyday driving, the torque doesn’t come in low enough and strongly enough when you want it to tackle a big job. That’s the day you’ll wish you’d shelled out for the diesel.

TOYOTA HILUX SR5 4.0        

3 stars

Price: from $53,490
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km
Resale: 56% Source - Glass's Guide
Service Interval: 10,000km or 6-months
Thirst: 13L/100km (20L/100km on test), 95RON; CO2 308g/km
Crash rating: 4 stars
Equipment: 6 airbags, ESP, ABS, EBD, stability and traction controls
Engine: 4.0-litre V6 175kW/376Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, 5 seats
Dimensions: Length 5260mm, width 1835mm, height 1860mm, wheelbase 3085mm, tracks front/rear 1540mm/1540mm
Weight: 1840kg
Tyres: 17x7.0
Spare: Full-size (steel)

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

 HOLDEN COLORADO LT-R

2.5 stars

Price: from $39,400
Engine: 3.6-litre 4-cyl 157kW/313Nm
Transmission: 4-speed auto, RWD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 12.8L/100km, 91RON
"There’s a new one coming, with a better V6"

MITSUBISHI TRITON GLX-R 

3.5stars

Price: from $50,490
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cyl turbodiesel 131kW/400Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 9.6L/100km, diesel
"Took out Overlander’s top award last year but faces stiffer rivals now"

MAZDA BT-50 GT

3 stars

Price: from $52,710
Engine: 3.2-litre 5-cyl 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: 6-speed sports auto, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 9.2L/100km, diesel
"It’s a Ford Ranger under its less attractive skin"

VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK TDI400 HIGHLINE

3.5 stars

Price: from $52,990
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl 120kW/400Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 7.9L/100km, diesel
"Newcomer with rising reputation as a frugal, decent drive"

NISSAN NAVARA ST-X D40

3 stars

Price: from $53,240
Engine: 3.6-litre 4-cyl 140kW/450Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 9.0L/100km, diesel
"Respected for its towing ability"

TOYOTA HILUX SR5 DIESEL

3.5stars

Price: from $53,490
Engine: 3.0-litre 4-cyl 126kW/343Nm
Transmission: 4-speed auto, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 9.3L/100km, diesel
"We’d take this over the petrol HiLux"

FORD RANGER XLT

3.5 stars

Price: from $55,490
Engine: 3.2-litre 5-cyl 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: 6-speed sports auto, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 9.2L/100km, diesel
"New kid on the block already with plenty of fans"

NISSAN NAVARA ST-X 550 D40

4 stars

Price: from $60,990
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 170kW/550Nm
Transmission: 7-speed auto, 4WD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Thirst: 9.3L/100km, diesel
"More torque and towing ability than most people will ever need"

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