Toyota has a lot riding on the enduring success of its latest NG-series HiLux in an increasingly competitive Australian and global ute market that forced it to freeze its initial design plans and come up with something better. Much better in fact, because this is the best one yet and it relied heavily on big input from Australian engineers to make it happen.
This eighth-generation - the first all-new HiLux in a decade – benefitted greatly from six years of development and evaluation by local Toyota engineers, including more than 650,000km of testing in Australia and another 400,000km overseas. That was more than one million km of bump and grind, resulting in a swag of improvements across the range.
They included 3.5-tonne tow ratings, higher payloads, new smaller capacity turbo-diesel engines with greater torque, new six-speed auto and manual transmissions, tougher chassis and bodies, sharper handling, improved off-road ability and heaps more.
The HiLux has long been one of Australia’s best-selling vehicles and the latest model is continuing its enviable sales record. We’ve already published a first drive and several road tests of the latest ‘Aussie’ HiLux, but we thought we’d take a more in-depth look at just some of the many new engineering and performance highlights to find out why it’s so good, focusing on the popular 4x4 SR5 dual-cab diesel auto.
To ensure a thorough assessment we subjected the NG HiLux to a variety of ‘real-world’ testing, from the daily work commute in heavy traffic and the local school run to open highway and back roads at near-maximum Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM). We also ventured away from the bitumen to gauge its off-road ability and hooked up a multi-axle trailer to see how well it towed. It was a solid multi-role workout.
Where did it all start?
The world’s most popular utility is now in its eighth generation after starting life in March 1968 as a 4x2 ute with a small capacity petrol engine.
Since then more than 16 million HiLux single, extra- and double-cabs have been delivered to customers around the world. In Australia alone, HiLux sales have passed 860,000 units, or five per cent of total global production.
It has also been Australia’s best-selling commercial vehicle for more than 17 years and the country’s best-selling 4x4 for the past decade. Although 4x4 versions did not arrive until 1980, the extra off-road ability and ground clearance have clearly won favour with Aussie buyers by outselling their 4x2 stablemates every year since 1996.
The HiLux has evolved over the past 47 years into a comprehensive vehicle range that now offers SUV-like levels of comfort, safety and technology, turbo-diesel engines, twin-cam and quad-cam petrol engines, 4x4 variants, automatic transmissions and higher specification levels for recreational users. Australian-market HiLuxes are built in Thailand, the Thai plant accounting for around 70 per cent of global production.
New, cleaner diesels
There are two new Euro 5-compliant common rail turbo-diesel engines of 2.4- and 2.8-litre capacity that are significantly quieter and more fuel efficient, with improved torque.
Both engines have a lower 15.6:1 compression ratio (down from 17.9:1 in the previous 3.0-litre) for reduced emissions. They also feature a Toyota-developed variable-vane turbocharger with intercooler, plus a water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation system with a cooler bypass and diesel particulate filter to further reduce emissions. The SR5 runs the 2.8, which is what we’ll focus on here.
The new 2755cc (1GD-FTV) turbo-diesel delivers its maximum power of 130kW at 3400rpm and peak torque of 450Nm between 1600-2400rpm when matched with the new six-speed automatic. When mated to the new six-speed manual, the peak torque is reduced to 420Nm and accessed over a slightly broader 1400-2600rpm range.
So that’s a big torque boost of 25 per cent for the auto, and 22.4 per cent for the manual, compared with the previous model’s 3.0-litre (2983cc - 1KD-FTV) engine.
It should also be noted that with the six-speed auto the peak of this increased torque is accessed in a much narrower 800rpm band than the old engine, which had its lesser 343Nm on tap across a much wider 2000rpm spread from 1400rpm to 3400rpm.
While that narrower band may give the impression this latest engine is more ‘peaky’ and therefore more difficult to keep in its maximum torque zone, it’s not an issue when driving (particularly with a payload) because the six-speed auto’s intelligent software manages to keep the revs within the peak torque range regardless of the gear selected.
We note Toyota’s reputation for big durability margins remains well entrenched, by reducing the torque output of the manual version by 30Nm compared to the auto. That’s because the slush-box with its fluid coupling torque converter can better ‘cushion’ potential shock loads in the drivetrain.
Official combined cycle fuel economy for the SR5 4x4 is 8.5L/100km for the auto (compared to 9.3 in the previous model). That reflects an overall improvement in efficiency, given the new model is more than 100kg heavier in this guise.
CO2 emissions are also marginally lower, with a claimed 223g/km compared to 230. Don’t forget, these factory figures are achieved in strictly controlled laboratory conditions; average consumption in a variety of ‘real world’ situations is usually a bit higher as we discovered (see On-road section).
Inside the latest diesels
Power & efficiency
Clearly there’s been a boost in combustion efficiency with the HiLux’s new GD-series turbo-diesel, but it also has numerous engineering features aimed at reducing weight, friction and noise. The results of these refinements are noticeable from start-up. It’s just smoother and quieter.
Toyota claims the 2.8-litre has a maximum of 44 per cent thermal efficiency (or how well heat energy is converted into power) which is at the leading edge of the industry and up to 15 per cent better than the previous engine. Friction losses have also been reduced by up to 28 per cent to cut wear and fuel consumption.
The new diesels are a marked improvement by every measure compared with the old 3.0-litre.
The GD series’ electronic direct-injection system has been improved with new solenoid injectors operating at pressures as high as 2500 bar. That’s more than 36,000psi on the old scale. By comparison, your average LPG cylinder is rated at less than 500psi.
That should give you some idea of the massive pressures and fine tolerances involved and why the slightest drop in fuel quality/cleanliness can cause havoc with today’s common rail diesels. Toyota says the injectors are smaller and more cost-effective than piezo-electric alternatives, delivering the same level of performance while reducing fuel leakage and the weight of moving parts.
Thermal losses have been reduced by changing the shape and position of the intake ports and increasing the amount of airflow by up to 11 per cent. The 2.8-litre engine has the added feature of swirl control valves in the intake manifold to increase combustion efficiency and reduce exhaust emissions.
The new diesel oxidation catalyst is also about 30 per cent smaller, reducing the amount of platinum required.
A newly developed ‘film’ on the top face of the piston reduces heat and therefore the temperature difference between the top face of the piston and the gas inside the cylinder for more compatible and effective combustion. Frictional losses have been cut by using high-strength but lighter materials to reduce the weight of reciprocating parts including pistons and connecting rods.
The newly designed valve rocker system uses more efficient roller rockers to replace the good old mechanical rockers – or ‘rolling friction’ as opposed to ‘sliding friction’ in Toyota speak. That’s why lots of race teams use roller rockers, too, because they primarily reduce frictional losses to create more power.
The HiLux comes with an extra fuse box in preparation for extra electrical accessories.
Toyota has adopted its own variable-vane turbocharger, which is about 30 per cent smaller than the previous unit with a claimed 50 per cent faster response, to greatly reduce the negative effects of ‘turbo lag’ on fuel efficiency and throttle response.
The strength and reliability of the variable-vane mechanism within the housing (which constantly optimises exhaust gas flow into the turbine wheel) have also been improved by simplifying the manufacturing process to involve the machining of just a single forged part.
The thickness of the cylinder head casting has been slimmed down to reduce engine weight. Considerable attention has also been paid to suppressing noise and vibration, with acoustic insulation covers for the head and sump and a more rigid mounting for the turbocharger. The shape of the new inlet ports, EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) port and intake manifold have also been designed to suppress intake variations in each cylinder to improve its overall sound quality.
Features to increase durability and service life are evident, with a low-friction and maintenance-free timing chain replacing the previous engine’s rubber belt along with new oil and vacuum pumps.
Engine durability, particularly in hot conditions and when towing, is also improved by a new radiator core with more coolant tubes, optimised fin shapes, coolant flow rate and a larger total heat-dissipation area.
The turbo intercooler, now positioned in front of the engine’s radiator rather than at the top of the engine bay, is also more efficient in reducing the inlet air temperature, resulting in the highest inlet charge volume for maximum power.
A nice touch is the dedicated fuse box in the engine bay containing a bank of 10 fuses to allow safe connection of accessories to the vehicle’s power supply. Given that Toyota is offering more than 60 locally developed accessories for the new HiLux, this also makes sense.
Bringing the auto up to speed
For the first time in its life HiLux has six gears to choose from, in new automatic and manual transmissions.
Here we’re focusing on the auto in the SR5 4x4 which has been equipped with a set of ratios designed to make best use of the increased torque and fuel efficiency of the new 2.8-litre diesel.
All HiLux automatic models are now fitted with Toyota’s new six-speed electronically controlled (AC60) transmission. There’s not only an extra cog in a broader spread, but also the latest in electronic controls plus a stronger output shaft and new propeller shafts.
Both new transmissions have been designed to suit the new diesels.
There’s also a new lightweight aluminium multi-plate transmission-fluid cooler built into the engine-coolant radiator, which is particularly beneficial during high-load driving as it’s claimed to improve transmission oil heat dissipation by more than 19 per cent. This is important because nothing kills auto trannies faster than excess heat.
To improve acceleration from a standing start or very low speeds, the first gear ratio has been lowered by 28 per cent compared to the previous (A340F) five-speed and the top gear ratio raised by 22 per cent to reduce revs and boost fuel economy at highway speeds. Not surprisingly with a wider and taller spread of ratios to play with, the diff ratio has been lowered from the previous 3.727:1 to 3.909:1.
In 4x4 models, a new electronic dial on the dash enables the driver to quickly and easily engage four-wheel drive, replacing the trusty ‘old school’ transfer case lever sticking out of the console which managed to survive five generations of 4x4 HiLux!
The new AC60 automatic is an impressive unit with a raft of intelligent electronic control features which bring the HiLux right up to date, including an automatic (but barely perceptible) ‘blip’ of the throttle when downshifting in sequential mode claimed to better match engine and road speeds. In normal mode it also automatically picks a lower gear on steep inclines to boost engine braking.
A drive mode switch allows the driver to choose between economical driving or the best throttle response. In ECO mode, a change in the electronic throttle curve and reduction of the air-conditioning load results in less power and lighter fuel consumption.
In POWER mode, though, you get much sharper throttle response and a noticeable boost in acceleration when you need more grunt on hills and winding roads, particularly with a decent load on-board. This ECO/POWER feature works well.
What Toyota calls ‘High-Speed Gear Effective Utilisation Control’ boosts fuel economy and performance by constantly monitoring the availability of the taller high-speed ratios according to driving conditions. It uses information on accelerator angle and engine load to select the appropriate gear.
For example, when accelerating hard up a hill it may lock out sixth gear for maximum performance, but if driving up the same incline with less aggression it can make sixth gear available for maximum economy. SR5 4x4 automatic models also have Downhill Assist Control, or hill descent control, which monitors and controls braking on all wheels to avoid lock-ups, which is very effective on slippery, steep or bumpy descents.
Our only criticism of this new drivetrain was a slight mechanical shudder, which usually occurred only when driving away from a standing start in auto mode; for example after waiting for a set of traffic lights to turn green.
Body & chassis
Although the new HiLux doesn’t feel any roomier inside (overall height is 45mm lower) it’s a bigger jigger overall in several key external dimensions.
The 3085mm wheelbase is unchanged but it’s 70mm longer and 20mm wider overall. The dual-cab ute tub is also 19mm longer and 79mm wider, with a 20mm greater depth and 4mm drop in loading height.
Previous track widths were 1540mm front and back, but the new model has a slightly narrower front track (1535mm) and a slightly wider rear (1550mm) to improve stability and handling under load.
There’s also been a 135kg increase in kerb weight from 1945kg to 2080kg owing to not only the greater external dimensions but also substantial chassis and body construction upgrades to ensure HiLux’s hard-earned ‘indestructible’ reputation is beyond question.
Engineers were faced with the challenge of making the new HiLux stronger AND more comfortable.
Tough and refined are descriptions that spring to mind here. The new HiLux chassis and body have been engineered for increased strength, torsional rigidity and durability, plus better handling and lower NVH. They’ve also put more under-body protection and corrosion resistance into it.
The new chassis frame design has 30mm thicker side rails and cross members, which makes it much stronger and more durable with a sizeable 20 per cent increase in torsional rigidity.
The new body also has a whopping 45 per cent more spot welds (388 compared with 268 in the previous model) for greater strength. There’s also increased use of higher tensile steel sheet than the previous model (590MPa vs 440MPa) with the dual benefits of more strength with less weight.
The larger ute tub is also stronger with revised ribbing, new cross-members, reinforced header board, thicker outer panels and steel-plated tailgate strut brackets.
The tailgate strut brackets are now steel-plated for strength.
There are more mounting points between the chassis frame and body to ensure the combined body-chassis unit is more rigid and durable. The rocker panels, B-pillars, floor and roof structures have also been beefed up to improve side-impact protection.
These advances are the foundation of the latest HiLux’s improved passive safety, as they combine to create a strong central ‘safety cell’ with crash energy absorption claimed to have increased by 15 per cent.
Improved acoustic insulation of the engine bay has helped to reduce engine noise in the cabin, with the dash silencer on diesel models now 50 per cent larger. Other noise-prevention measures include additional seals between the front and rear doors on dual-cab models and the length of the weather strip extended to the rocker panel.
To best protect this lot from corrosion, there’s extensive use of galvanised steel plus undercoating, chip-resistant coatings and anti-corrosion wax. A unique under-body protection package developed in Australia is standard on all 4x4 and Hi-Rider grades (see Off-road section).
Tough worker gets a makeover
Exterior designer Satoru Oya has given the top shelf SR5 a tough yet sophisticated look that will probably appeal to SUV buyers as well.
The front bumper extends 860mm from the face of the front tyres. It’s a pronounced overhang that provides a considerable ‘crumple zone’ in keeping with Toyota’s crash energy absorption measures. When viewed in profile it looks excessive in comparison to rivals but at least the front corners are noticeably raised to help avoid damage off road.
Still a looks-only Sports Bar, and still signifying SR5 with the eighth generation.
LED headlights with integral daytime running lights (DRL) are standard on SR5 dual-cabs. They look pretty cool with ‘HiLux’ etched into each DRL surround. These headlights are not only energy efficient but kick out some seriously bright light.
We’re also big fans of DRLs in today’s traffic, but we just shudder to think how expensive all this stuff is getting and the price of genuine replacement parts like these headlight units on a vehicle designed for a hard life.
The SR5 is once again the only HiLux to score alloy wheels.
It also looks reasonably aero-efficient for a high riding ute with its swept-back headlights, recessed wiper blades and hidden washer nozzles. Other touches which Toyota claims reduces aero drag include small fins on the tail light covers and a new roof with ‘character lines’ that run rearward and flow outward.
But hey, it still boils down to a big, tough, high-riding ute, so don’t expect to see Toyota or other brands crowing about their latest ute’s wind tunnel figures!
A big tablet to swallow
The bloke in charge here is HiLux chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima, whose previous experience was with cars rather than light trucks. And it shows, because the HiLux cabin definitely has a few car-like styling cues, particularly the dashboard with its emphasis on bold Camry/Yaris/Corolla-style horizontal highlights to create a wide look to what still feels like an overly cosy cabin.
SR and SR5 models get the bigger 7-inch screen, but only the SR5 gets sat nav.
One is purely aesthetic, because it looks like a removable iPad that’s not fully integrated with the dashboard. The other is practical because trying to make simple adjustments of volume or channels etc during vehicle movements can’t be done purely by feel, like good old dials and buttons can.
A touchscreen (like a mobile phone!) requires a driver’s visual attention to operate it, which is a potentially dangerous distraction. And it doesn’t take long for a build-up of fingerprint smudges to create an opaque effect which at certain light angles makes the screen difficult to read. We hope this will be improved, Nakajima-san.
The new front seats are quite comfortable and supportive with more slimline frames that add 10mm of knee space for rear-seat passengers. Doesn’t sound like much but every mm counts in this area. Toyota claims there’s more front shoulder room and headroom, with SR and SR5 getting an extra 15mm of seat-height adjustment.
4x4 HiLuxes finally get rake AND reach steering wheel adjustment.
It’s a nice driving position with good visibility that can be adjusted to suit different shapes and sizes of men and women, particularly now that for the first time in a HiLux there’s telescopic adjustment of the steering wheel in addition to tilt.
The comfort of rear seat passengers (particularly adults) has traditionally not been a high priority for dual-cab ute designers, but the new HiLux is amongst the best we’ve seen.
The biggest bloke to climb aboard during our test was 188cm tall, but his head wasn’t rubbing on the roof lining (about 20mm clearance), there was enough legroom for a fairly flat thigh angle (to minimise weight on the base of the spine) and the door elbow rests and grab handles were well placed.
His only gripes were that the big front seat headrests almost completely blocked his forward view of the road, which made it feel a touch claustrophobic.
The rear seat base is now split 60/40, with small straps to secure the bases out of the way in an upright position to create a handy internal cargo space if required. There’s more than a dozen different storage compartments of various shapes and sizes, including an excellent dashboard compartment that uses the air-con system to keep food and drinks cool or warm.
The dual cab’s back seat is more civilised than ever, and the base splits 60/40.
Our female tester, highly trained in suburban school run and shopping warfare, suggests that air vents in the console for rear seat passengers, an additional central locking switch on the front passenger door and the ability to adjust audio volume while the vehicle has reverse gear selected would further enhance comfort and convenience.
Higher than iQ
The man behind the ute
The global chief engineer of the HiLux program is Hiroki Nakajima. He was promoted to executive general manager (executive chief engineer) in 2014 and managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation in 2015.
Although he now has overall responsibility for Toyota’s ladder-frame 4x4 vehicles, his engineering background prior to the latest generation HiLux was in passenger cars. Most notably he was chief engineer for the Toyota iQ program, a city car famous for its advanced and compact packaging.
The 2009 Toyota iQ city car.
It was that experience which Nakajima-san brought to the latest HiLux. His influence is obvious in the interior design, which does a good job in providing passenger car style and refinement that’s also tough and functional.
Although we found some of the functions in the central touchscreen awkward to use, another good example of his packaging background is the new in-dash air conditioned glove box capable of heating or cooling two 600ml bottles, which is standard on SR and SR5, as well as SR5+ and TRD models. Cheers Nakajima-san!
Suspension, steering & brakes
Tuned for local frequency
Another big thumbs-up for Toyota’s Australian engineering team is the central role it played in developing a second-tier ultra-heavy duty suspension/underbody/tyre package for the latest HiLux.
It’s so good that it was specified for not only Australia but also other tough terrain markets including South Africa, South America, the Middle East and Russia. Toyota HQ in Japan recognises that Australia has some of the toughest conditions on earth and a local engineering team with vast experience and expertise in dealing with it.
The more rigid new chassis frame and body provide a very stable platform for this rugged local suspension tuning which has resulted in improved ride and handling, a more sure-footed stance under heavy payloads and while towing, plus higher ground clearance for off-road driving.
The double-wishbone front suspension has a new thicker front swaybar to increase roll stiffness. Wisely the front axle load capacity allows for a bull bar and a winch, which are two of the most popular accessories fitted by HiLux owners.
The leaf-spring rear suspension has been redesigned with longer leafs, wider spacing of the springs and revised attachment points. At 1400mm the new rear springs are 100mm longer hence more compliant in absorbing bumps, while the front attachment point has been moved forward by 100mm and lowered by 25mm in a key geometry change that improves steering response. The leaf springs are also mounted 50mm further apart.
These changes, in conjunction with the slightly wider rear track and higher roll stiffness, increase cornering stability particularly when it’s carrying a load.
There’s also uprated larger-diameter shock absorbers all round, with damping curves calibrated for a flat ride and less impact harshness. The larger-diameter cylinders enable these shocks to generate increased control, with a shorter stroke to cope better with smaller vibrations and larger oil capacity to combat heat fade.
Double wishbone suspension up front.
The rear shocks also have a new location. Previously rear-facing and located behind the axle, they are now forward-facing and mounted in front of the axle, to improve straight-line stability and service life.
Toyota didn’t follow the lead of its Ford Ranger arch rival in adopting electric power assistance for the steering, preferring to stick with its tried and tested hydraulics as engineers claim they could not find an electric system which met their durability demands.
However local engineers have succeeded in reducing the rack and pinion’s steering effort at low speeds (parking, reversing a trailer etc) while maintaining a solid well-planted feel at highway speeds.
Steering torque on 4x4 models like the SR5 has been reduced by 13 per cent at low speeds and six per cent at high speeds. There are now 3.43 turns lock to lock compared to 3.72 in the previous model.
Braking power has also been improved by increasing the size of the booster and ventilated front disc rotors (319mm vs 297mm) while the 295mm self-adjusting rear drums remain the same size.
The new 18-inch alloys fitted to our SR5 test vehicle come with a newly-developed Dunlop 265/60R18 tyre with more of a highway focus (makes sense given what most SR5s are used for) designed to boost fuel economy and general road handling.
However, we didn’t find it lacking in the moderate off-road driving we encountered during our test, so it appears to be a reasonable all-rounder.
On road, loaded & towing
Getting on with the job
It’s a shame many dual-cab utes in suburban/family use generally don’t get to haul a bigger load than kids, school bags and groceries each week, because these stiffly-sprung jiggers are usually much nicer to drive when they’re running close to or at their maximum GVM.
The ride quality, usually a bit jittery without a load, improves dramatically when the ratio of sprung-to-unsprung weight changes to allow the heavy duty springs and shocks to do what they’re primarily designed to do.
Allowing for extras like the tow bar, sports bar, optional leather-accented/power interior and 92 kg driver, its kerb weight on our local weighbridge was 2260kg. On top of that we loaded another 650kg into the tub and weighed it again. 2920kg - or just 80kg under maximum GVM.
With this payload the HiLux did it easy in full auto mode. At 110km/h on a flat open highway with the cruise control on, it happily rolled along with the engine ticking over at just 1700rpm in top.
At the first sign of extra demand on a gradient it would seamlessly shift back to fifth and sometimes fourth to maintain the set speed, yet always keep the rpm needle on or near 2000rpm, which is bang in the middle of the 1600-2400rpm peak torque band.
And it didn’t feel like it was frantically hunting up and down like some autos do. It just picked the right cog for the job each time, which negated the need to use the sequential shifter.
The ride quality improves so much with this amount of weight on-board that you wouldn’t know it was near the HiLux’s GVM. The longer rear leaf springs provide great compliance that really irons out the bumps.
There was only a couple of occasions through some really big belly-dropping dips at back road speeds that we felt the faint thud of the rear bump stops letting us know we were stretching the friendship.
Depending on model grade and extras, HiLux 4x4 2.8 autos (at kerb weight) are rated to tow up to 3200kg braked. Our plan to tow a mid-sized vehicle on a hefty three-axle car trailer fell over at the last minute due to vehicle availability.
However, we did at least get plenty of towing time around town with the trailer, which weighed just over 900kg with a 100kg tow ball download.
Not surprisingly, given the ease with which it lugged close to its GVM, the HiLux made light work of towing less than a third of its capacity and its large door mirrors provided excellent rear vision while doing so. We plan to do a proper heavy duty tow test with the HiLux down the track.
This makes for an overall test average of 10.7L/100km, which is surprisingly close to its 8.5L/100km official combined figure.
Our ‘real world’ fuel consumption figures were calculated after two separate tank top-ups, which were required to maintain kerb weight on weighbridges at different times during our test drive.
These two distances (322km and 245km) produced figures of 9.57 and 11.79 litres/100km from a variety of driving conditions including un-laden suburban and highway to heavy load-lugging and off-road driving respectively.
This makes for an overall test average of 10.7L/100km, which is surprisingly close to its 8.5L/100km official combined figure that is generated in a laboratory. Not bad given the loads involved!
When the going gets rough
Here are some vital stats for those who like to play rough; 52mm more ground clearance than the previous generation (279mm vs 227mm), greater approach angle of 31 degrees (vs 30), greater departure angle of 26 degrees (vs 23), lower crawl ratios, and 700mm wading depth.
And for the first time in a HiLux, an electrically controlled rear diff lock is standard equipment on 4x4 SR and SR5 grade models (plus SR5+ and TRD models), with the solenoid switch locking mechanism built into the rear differential housing for greater protection in the rough.
An electrically controlled rear diff lock is standard equipment on 4x4 SR and SR5 grade models.
The off-road performance of the rear suspension has also been greatly improved by increasing rear-wheel articulation to an unprecedented 570mm on both sides of the vehicle, which were previously 423mm on the left and 474mm on the right.
Aussie engineers played a big hand in improving the HiLux’s off-road performance, including development and fine tuning of the electronic stability and 'A-TRC' traction control systems.
They also came up with a new under-body protection package that’s claimed to be 30 per cent larger and 40 per cent thicker to protect engine, transmission and fuel-system components.
We tested the new HiLux’s off-road abilities at the Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground which provides an excellent variety of challenging terrain. From steep rock-strewn climbs and descents to creek crossings, mud and sand, we found the HiLux to be a very competent performer.
We tested the new HiLux’s off-road abilities at the Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground.
It cleared many obstacles in high-range 4x4 and only on a few occasions did we reach for the low-range 4x4 setting, which now features an improved crawl ratio compared to the previous generation.
The latest HiLux is more than capable of conquering the toughest terrain with the diff unlocked.
This has been achieved with a lower first gear (3.600:1 vs 3.520:1) which lowers the calculated crawl ratio (36.1:1 vs 35.3:1). It’s amazing how slow this ute can go while maintaining a useful amount of rpm; a real asset at times when the going gets tough.
We also engaged the rear diff lock in a couple of places, not that we really needed to. Fact is, the Aussies have done such a good job at calibrating the electronic traction control that the latest HiLux is more than capable of conquering the toughest terrain with the diff unlocked.
The main reason is that when locked it automatically cancels the traction control system on not only the rear wheels but also the fronts. In any case it’s nice to have the option of either, depending on the challenge faced.
Better or best?
There’s no doubt this is the best HiLux Toyota has produced. It’s an impressive all-rounder with a real ‘can do’ attitude when you press it to do what it was primarily designed to do – work hard.
However, it’s important to keep these achievements in perspective. Although it represents a major advance over the previous model HiLux, in industry terms it has only caught up with the best-in-class benchmark rather than surpassed it.
And that speaks volumes about the high standard of our local ute market, because if a vehicle this good can’t significantly raise the bar, the competition must be fierce.