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Toyota HiLux 2020 review: Rugged X GVM test

The Rugged X has the usual high-quality fit and finish we’ve grown accustomed to with Toyota.

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Tradies score

4/5

Aussie drivers love their 4x4 dual cab utes and it seems they can’t get enough of the premium models. Demand for these top-shelf offerings, with pricing above $60,000, has been running hot over the past two to three years with no signs of cooling any time soon.

Market leader Toyota’s flagship is the HiLux Rugged X, which is also a member of the $60K-plus club with a unique combination of specialised off-road hardware to justify its premium pricing. We recently put one to the test to see if the premium HiLux is worth premium money.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle is the MY20 Rugged X with six-speed automatic transmission for a list price of $64,490, which is $2000 more than the six-speed manual version. This pricing is competitive with premium rivals like Ford’s Baja desert racer-inspired Ranger Raptor ($75,990), Ranger Wildtrak ($64,790), HSV’s Colorado SportsCat (from $62,490) and Mazda’s BT-50 Boss edition ($63,250).

Unlike the more expensive Raptor, which is a highly specialised Ranger variant with unique chassis and suspension engineering, the Rugged X is derived from the regular HiLux SR5. Yes, there’s a heavy-duty suspension and underbody protection package, but that’s shared with every other 4x4 HiLux.

"Our test vehicle is the MY20 Rugged X with six-speed automatic transmission." "Our test vehicle is the MY20 Rugged X with six-speed automatic transmission."

However, it is loaded with a unique selection of off-road equipment with factory warranty which is arguably more desirable than aftermarket gear, particularly at resale time. Unique to the Rugged X is an LED front light bar and driving lights in a winch-compatible steel front bull bar with bash plate, plus two front recovery points and smaller diametre model-specific 17-inch alloy wheels with more bulbous (read off-road friendly) 265/65 R17 tyres and full-size spare. There’s also a unique tail light garnish.

Other Rugged X features are shared with its lesser-equipped Rugged and (in some cases) Rogue siblings including rock rails, black sports bar, heavy duty rear bumper and two rear recovery points, tow-ball and tongue plus 7-pin trailer wiring harness, engine intake snorkel and full tub-liner.

Finer detailing includes body side and wheel arch mouldings, black tailgate handle, gloss black door handles and mirror scalps, leather-accented interior, gloss black door trim, heated front seats and 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat and more.

The infotainment system is shared with other Hilux models, utilising six-speaker sound with a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen display, DAB+ digital radio, sat-nav but still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (yet) and multiple connectivity including USB/AUX and Bluetooth.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Rugged X has the usual high-quality fit and finish we’ve grown accustomed to with Toyota products over many decades and the mixing and matching of hardware and cosmetic detailing has been well executed here. It has the high-end look you have a right to expect at this premium price.

The Rugged X has the high-end look you have a right to expect at this premium price. The Rugged X has the high-end look you have a right to expect at this premium price.

Underneath though, it’s still the same trusty eighth-generation HiLux we’ve grown to know well since its launch here in 2016, sitting on a 3085mm wheelbase with 5350mm overall length, 1885mm width and 1815mm height making it one of the largest in its class.

Well, on the outside, that is. Internally the HiLux has always been what you might call ‘cosy’, particularly the rear seating which for those with long limbs can feel like a small sedan or hatch. HiLux designers were economical with knee, shoulder and head room for adults in the rear stalls and if you’re unlucky enough to sit in the middle you’ll want to make sure it’s only for a short trip.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The HiLux’s 1GD-FTV 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel is also fitted to the Prado, Fortuner and latest HiAce van, which highlights its versatility in light commercial applications. Smooth, quiet, refined and efficient, it produces 130kW at 3400rpm and (with automatic transmission) 450Nm across a wide 800rpm peak torque band from 1600-2400rpm.

The HiLux’s 1GD-FTV 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The HiLux’s 1GD-FTV 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.

There’s also a driver’s switch to trigger a manual ‘burn’ to clean the diesel particulate filter (DPF) if it becomes clogged. This is becoming quite an issue these days, with utes increasingly serving as family cars for short suburban trips from cold starts that their diesels are not well suited to.

The AC60 six-speed torque converter automatic is an equally refined and efficient unit, with a choice of ‘ECO’ or ‘POWER’ driving modes, overdrive on fifth and sixth gears to boost fuel efficiency at highway speeds, downhill assist control and the option of manual sequential shifting which can be handy when towing.

The 4x4 system is part-time dual-range, with a rear diff locker and electronic traction control. We didn’t get the Rugged X too dirty on this occasion, but we can attest to the HiLux’s excellent off-road performance having tested several model grades in rugged terrain.

How much fuel does it consume?

Toyota’s official combined figure is 8.5L/100km. Not surprisingly, the dash display was showing a higher 10.6 when we stopped to fill the 80-litre tank after 444km of testing, which covered a variety of roads and included more than a quarter of that distance at maximum GVM.  

Our own figure, based on trip meter and fuel bowsers readings, worked out at an even higher 11.7 which is not best in class given the 10L and sub-10L figures achieved by larger capacity V6-powered European rivals lugging similar loads. Based on our figures you could expect a realistic driving range of around 680km.

How practical is the space inside?

The Rugged X may be a good looker but carrying around all that extra off-road equipment comes with a big penalty in payload capacity. Its 2252kg kerb weight is 207kg heavier than an SR5 auto equivalent and given that they both share the same 3000kg GVM rating, that results in a corresponding drop in payload rating from 955kg to only 748kg. This may or may not be an issue for prospective Rugged X buyers, but it’s handy to know this if payload is important.

It's also rated to tow up to 3200kg of braked trailer. However, with its 5650kg GCM rating (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time), that would leave only 198kg of payload capacity which could easily be exceeded with just two adults on board and no gear.

Therefore, our best advice is always to base towing limits on GVM. In this case 3000kg, which lowers the braked tow rating from 3200kg to 2650kg but you retain the full 748kg payload. This is a more practical compromise that would suit many towing requirements.

There’s four sturdy cargo anchorage points in the fully-lined load tub. With the tailgate closed, the floor measures 1550mm in length and 1520mm in width with 1110mm between the wheel arches. That means (like most dual cab utes) it can’t accommodate a standard 1165mm-square Aussie pallet but we suspect typical Rugged X buyers would probably never need to.

There’s four sturdy cargo anchorage points in the fully-lined load tub. There’s four sturdy cargo anchorage points in the fully-lined load tub.

Cabin storage options include an overhead glasses holder, bottle holder and storage bin in each front door, pop-out cup holders on each side of the dash plus upper and lower gloveboxes with A/C cooling in the top one, which makes it ideal for storing sandwiches and drinks. The centre console has a shallow storage tray up front, two bottle/cup holders and small storage bin in the centre and a lidded box at the back.

Rear seat passengers get a bottle holder and small storage bin in each door, flexible storage pockets on the backrests of each front seat and a pair of small bottle/cup holders in the fold-down centre armrest. The split-fold base cushions can swing up through 90 degrees and be stored in a vertical position if more internal load space is needed.

Split-fold base cushions can swing up if more internal load space is needed. Split-fold base cushions can swing up if more internal load space is needed.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

Like all HiLux models, the heavy-duty suspension designed primarily for heavy load carrying is too firm when being driven empty or with light loads. This effect is most noticeable on patchy secondary roads, where you can feel every bump and corrugation.

It’s overly bouncy and unnecessarily harsh, given that its Ford Ranger nemesis has struck a sweeter compromise with a more car-like ride quality when empty or lightly loaded. And let’s face it – most high-end utes are driven this way most of the time.

Heavy-duty suspension is too firm when being driven empty or with light loads. Heavy-duty suspension is too firm when being driven empty or with light loads.

Cabin noise suppression is excellent, although at highway speeds there is noticeable wind buffeting caused by the large engine intake snorkel mounted to the driver’s windscreen pillar. At these speeds the active cruise control works a treat, along with the overdriven fifth and sixth gears which ensure relaxed and economic engine performance with only 1600rpm at 100km/h and 1750rpm at 110km/h. The lane keeping alert with steering assist function is also effective, even though it tends to be overly enthusiastic in its response.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We loaded the Rugged X to its maximum payload of just under 750kg, comprising 650kg in the load tub plus driver. The difference in ride quality was black and white as the heavy-duty suspension showed what it’s primarily designed to do - and do very well. The big rear leaf springs only compressed 48mm, with heaps of bump-stop clearance and therefore wheel travel remaining.

With this more desirable sprung-to-unsprung weight ratio, it floated over bumps and smoothed out road irregularities with commendable poise and comfort. The engine’s 450Nm of torque was also ample for our 13 per cent gradient 2.0km set climb, easily pulling third gear at 2500rpm with light throttle all the way to the summit.

The Rugged X floated over bumps and smoothed out road irregularities with commendable poise and comfort. The Rugged X floated over bumps and smoothed out road irregularities with commendable poise and comfort.

Engine braking on the way down in a manual-selected second gear wasn’t as impressive. It quickly reached the 60km/h speed limit as the engine spun up to 3800rpm (4400rpm redline) on overrun, requiring several brake applications to restrain both rpm and road speed for the remainder of the descent.

It must be said that smaller capacity rivals, namely the 2.4 litre Triton, can match or exceed the HiLux’s engine retardation under similar loadings. Even so, the HiLux is a consummate load hauler.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Maximum five-star ANCAP rating and state-of-the-art Toyota Safety Sense features introduced mid-year, which add pre-collision safety system (aka AEB) with pedestrian and daylight cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, high-speed active cruise control and road sign assist. Even so, it does miss out on other TSS features like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as fitted to the latest HiAce. There’s ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the two outer rear seating positions and three top-tether mounts, along with seven airbags and a rear-view camera.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Five years/unlimited km warranty with capped-price of only $240 for each scheduled service. However, the service intervals are relatively short at 6 months/10,000km whichever occurs first, so if you do a lot of driving you’ll be a regular visitor to your local Toyota service centre.

The Rugged X is the most lavishly equipped and expensive HiLux you can buy. However, all that extra off-road gear also makes it the heaviest, which results in the smallest payload capacity. For those who value appearance and pose value above all else, a smaller payload won’t be a deal breaker, but it could be for those wanting the Rugged X to serve in a working role. As always, only a prospective buyer can make that decision.

$64,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Tradies score

4/5
Price Guide

$64,490

Based on new car retail price