IT'S been 10 years since the last all-new Toyota HiLux, but the eighth generation of Australia's best-selling ute has finally arrived.
And it has a lot to live up to. The outgoing HiLux has sold over 410,000 units in the past decade, making the model second only to Corolla in the Toyota range in terms of sales.
Toyota Australia has placed much emphasis on the pick-up's local development and how it has listened to current owners' (builders, miners, farmers and urbanites) wants for the new model: more on-road comfort and more SUV-like traits in terms of performance, handling, safety and functionality, all while remaining HiLux tough.
So what's new? For starters the range has been increased, with a mind-boggling 31 different variants (there were 23 before).
Three 4x2 Hi-Rider models arrive with the ride-height and heavy-duty suspension of 4x4 vehicles; the 4x4 Workmate has been reintroduced and there are now more double cabs, 4x4 variants and diesel options.
Engines are the new 130kW/450Nm 2.8-litre turbo-diesel recently revealed in Toyota's new Prado; a 110kW/400Nm 2.4-litre turbo-diesel; 122kW/245Nm 2.7-litre petrol and 175kW/376Nm 4.0-litre V6 petrol.
Almost every aspect of the new HiLux has been strengthened, while towing capacity is up to 3500kg and payload to 1240kg - depending on the model - and 23 of the 31 HiLux variants are genuine one-tonners.
With such a vast range, we'll concentrate on the 4x4 SR and SR5 Double Cab diesel variant - the all-rounders making up about 25% of all HiLux sales. Family shoppers and the style-conscious needing a HiLux's off-road talents swarm to this bestseller.
Ten years since the last HiLux model was introduced, the game has moved on significantly, and Toyota has responded to the SUV-loving masses with a suitably inspired cabin.
Our test model had $2000 optioned electric leather seating, and combined with a brilliant tablet-style control unit screen, cool blue lighting and plenty of soft touch plastics the new HiLux has taken another leap away from the utilitarian ute of old.
With so many new or upgraded rivals this year however (think Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton, etc.), this was a must for Toyota, and it's nailed it. Class leading? I'd say so.
A standout is lack of cabin noise too. Why HiLux shoppers would opt for anything but the new 2.8-litre diesel is beyond me - the other engines aren't necessarily bad, but the all-new turbo diesel is a gem. Practically silent at cruising speed and idle, you quickly forget you're in a work vehicle.
On and off the road
Fear not, the HiLux hasn't gone all soft with these plusher touches. Locally developed as a rugged work and plaything, the new ute gets a thicker frame, thicker body, enhanced under body protection and beefed-up suspension and brakes.
We tested the model over the same off-road grounds where local developers honed the new HiLux's package, and it was a revelation.
Assured and comfortable in 4H mode over unsealed roads, and in low range practically unstoppable. Scaling gradients, rocks and water holes, its intelligent systems were masterful, helping make drivers look highly talented. Ground clearance and wading depth may not be class leading, but the new HiLux never got bogged or bottomed out over ground most owners would never contemplate challenging.
And for on-road daily duties? New leaf springs arrive for better ride comfort, while steering is light and reasonably responsive and accurate through turns, but with such ruggedness the ride is still not as compliant as a good SUV's.
Above all, it's a far more composed offering than the old model, and the engine and gearbox combo truly shine.
The auto never gets flustered on or off road, while the manual is silky for a ute, and benefits with a downshift-blipping intelligent system.
What do you get?
Air conditioning, touch-screen display audios, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and door locks are standard across the new HiLux range, while reversing cameras are standard on all pickups.
The SR picks up premium fabric seat trim, air conditioned cooler/heater box, seven-inch display screen, ToyotaLink and a rear diff lock.
The SR5 - the ones that do the best impersonation of a genuine work/weekend all-rounder - get 18-inch alloys, Intelligent manual transmission (manual) or downhill assist control (auto), LED running lamps, smart entry and start, climate control, sat nav and chrome power mirrors, radiator grille and rear step. Fork out an extra $2000 and you get leather power seats too.
The refined 2.8-litre diesel sups 7.3-litres/100km with manual gearbox and 8.1-litres/100km the auto. We averaged around 10-litres/100km on our test drive over serious off-road courses, dirt roads and highway.
Double cabs need to prove their family and friends hauling abilities, and for the rear bench Toyota has found an extra 10mm knee space for back seat passengers. I'm six-foot and enjoyed decent head and leg room, and three adults can sit across the back at a push. Three kids? No problem.
These SR and SR5 variants (finally) get telescopic as well as tilt adjustment for the steering column, while seat-height adjustment has been increased over the old HiLux. These models also get a family-necessary top tether anchor and two Isofix child-restraint points in the back.
The rear seat base splits 60/40, there are more than a dozen different storage compartments (including the cooler box which holds a pair of 600ml bottles), and rubber floor mats keep cleaning duties simple.
There are SUV-like elements to the new HiLux - note the daytime running lights, 18-inch alloys and chrome grille extending into the curvaceous front lights - and the tough Toyota looks more muscular than before, thanks in part to being 20mm wider as well as 70mm longer. Like its Ford Ranger rival, it looks more pick-up truck than ute, a look that many buyers favour.
The best just got better is an old cliché, but seems apt for the all-new HiLux. Improved in every area - ruggedness, comfort, performance, safety, styling and on and off road ability - it's impossible to imagine it not continuing its segment dominance.
What matters most
What we liked: Refined 2.8-litre diesel a gem, effortlessly brilliant off-road, cabin layout and finish class leading.
What we'd like to see: Greater payload for the SR and SR5 models.
Warranty and servicing: Three-years/100,000km warranty, service intervals are every 6 months/10,000km, capped price servicing means $1080 over 3 years.
Model: Toyota HiLux SR5.
Details: Double cab four-wheel-drive utility.
Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 130kW @ 3400rpm and peak torque of 450Nm (420Nm manual) @ 1600rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.3-litres/100km (manual), 8.1-litres/100km (auto) combined.
Emissions: 193g/km (manual), 213g/km (auto).
Towing: 3500kg (manual), 3200kg (auto).
Bottom line: $53,900 ($55,990 auto) before on-roads for the SR5 double cab 4x4.
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