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Toyota HiLux (2005-)

words - Mike Sinclair
Thirty-six years and seven generations in, the HiLux is still unbreakable, and if you believe Toyota's marketing hype, now unbeatable

What we liked
>> Ride and handling improved
>> Engine choices offer real oomph
>> Interior upgrade

Not so much
>> Standard side steps vulnerable
>> Auto 4WD geared too tall
>> Styling will divide opinion

Longer, wider and undoubtedly faster and quite a bit more polished, the new HiLux benefits from an all-new platform, three brand-spankers engines and a raft of extra equipment at each of the three trim levels offered.

And it's not just repeat business from the owners of the estimated 450,000 HiLuxs already sold on the Aussie market that Toyota's gunning for with the new car. Among the new model's 30 variants are 2WD and 4WD models aimed four-square at Holden and Ford's locally-produced utilities as well as their top-of-the-range Rodeo and Courier imports.

Indeed, Toyota will need conquest sales as well as a handy rate of take-up from its existing owners if it is to meet its ambitious sales targets for the new car. Local chieftain John Conomos is bullish about the likely success of the new car and expects to nearly double sales of the existing range. Last year Toyota delivered approximately 28,000 new HiLuxs - about half of which were 4WD. Thanks in no small part to a new turbo-diesel automatic 4WD and unique-to-Australia V6 ‘hero' models for the new 2005 range, Conomos is on record stating the company aims to get close to delivering 40,000 of the new pickups to customers this year. In 2006/07 50K is the aim.

Built in Thailand, the HiLux is based on Toyota's IMV (Innovative International Multi-purpose Vehicle) platform. A body-on-frame configuration, the new IMV package is one full class up in size from the last HiLux and underpins passenger van and SUV variants as well as the pick-up. It is unlikely either of the two alternate variants will join HiLux Down Under just yet. However, we wouldn't bet against the Fortuna SUV variant in the long term.

A staggering 30 models are offered in the new HiLux range - 14 2WD and 16 4WD. That's three more than the outgoing range, however, the devil's in the detail - the focus of models offered has changed substantially.

Just two entry-level Workmate models are offered in both single and double cab in 2WD only. Powered by an all-new 2.7-litre four-cylinder fuel-injected petrol engine and mated to a five-speed manual transmission, the Workmates are priced from $20,990.

The ‘old' Standard trim vehicles disappear but once a buyer steps up from the Workmates, however, the choice really opens up: two levels of trim (SR and top-of-the-range SR5), three body styles (single, Xtra and double cabs), two choices of tray (cab-chassis or pick-up), auto or manual transmissions and the choice of the Prado-sourced 4.0-litre quad-cam petrol V6 or a brand-new 3.0-litre direct-injected common rail intercooled turbo-diesel. Oh, then there's the choice of two or 4WD drivetrains!

Though not every combination is offered, it's safe to assume just about every taste is catered for. Importantly, the new model sees the 175kW petrol V6 engine offered in the 2WD Hilux for the first time. In the 4WD range, there's now an auto/turbo-diesel combination offered that's sure to be a bit hit with the caravanning and camping set and maybe even eat into some of the traditional SUV wagon markets.

V6 performance can be accessed for under $26,000 in the shape of the petrol manual Single Cab 2WD SR Pick-up and runs through to bells and whistles auto Double Cab SR5 Pick-up at $49,850.

The most expensive HiLux ex-dealership is the above mentioned turbo-diesel auto Double Cab SR5 Pick-up which is priced at $51,850. (Plus metallic paint - of course!) In comparison to any previous model HiLux, it's loaded to the gunwales with kit including standard aircon, ABS, cloth trim, full power pack, Lexus-style Optitron instrumentation, multi-information display for outside temperature, average fuel consumption, current fuel consumption, average vehicle speed, ignition-on, cruising range, compass and time and more.

HiLux ushers in a new acronym to join the ranks of SUV (sports utility vehicle) and SAV (sports activity vehicle). Dubbed an AUV (Action Utility Vehicle) by Toyota the new car is claimed to be the first true crossover/utility and as such ideally suited to both work and play.

As such there has been substantial attention paid to improving ride and handling and increasing the level of standard equipment as well as taming the somewhat agricultural levels of noise, vibration and hardship of the outgoing model.

The new HiLux has a more passenger-car like interior - right down to the fancy door trims complete with bottle/cupholders.

From Workmate model up there's a classy SUV-like dash and the SR and SR5 models feature cloth-trimmed bucket seats. The extra size of the new car delivers increased rear cabin space for Xtra Cab and Double Cab models. In addition Toyota says the Double Cab's rear seat and rear doors have been redesigned to improve entry and exit.

Xtra Cab models have additional storage spaces under the removable rear seats, while the Double Cab cabin area includes underseat bins in the rear.

Unlike some local and imported crew cabs, the HiLux Double Cab's rear seat seems like a place where a full-size adult could spend more than five minutes without pre-booking a chiropractor!

According to Toyota, the front seat of the new HiLux has been designed to accommodate a 190cm driver in comfort - this 175cm tester didn't have any problems though seat time was very limited at the launch.

Toyota's says the new HiLux range was designed using Toyota's GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) criteria, to provide high levels of passive safety and occupant protection. It has been tested for 40 per cent offset deformable barrier impact at 64km/h; full frontal impact at 56km/h and side impact at 55km/h.

All models have dual SRS airbags and pretensioning front seatbelts with force limiters. ABS brakes are standard on SR5 models and optional on SR level of trim, there are however no traction control or other driver aids offered.

In addition to the above, Toyota Australia has developed a range of airbag compatible bullbars in both alloy and steel.

Given this model will likely attract a higher proportion of recreational and family users the increased passive safety features are noteworthy. The improved handling, stability and braking performance of the new platform augurs well for active safety.

Physically larger than the outgoing range, the new HiLux is longer, wider, taller, has longer and wider trays and rolls on a longer wheelbase than the previous car.

That said, in adopting the IMV platform, Toyota has standardized the wheelbase across the three body variants. The extra room has gone into both cabs and trays - eg: the Xtra Cab gets an extra 42mm in the cabin and 155mm in the load bed. The Double Cab models now offer a passenger-car-like 900mm ‘coupling' (distance between front and rear seat passengers) and a whopping 165mm extra in the tray.

The IMV platform delivers new coil-spring double wishbone front suspension, rack and pinion steering and revised leaf sprung live rear axle. While most of the componentry is shared across the two and 4WD models, the front suspensions are unique. In the 2WD version the top wishbone is lowered for better on-road handling, while the 4WD model's raised top wishbone delivers better clearance and long wheel travel.

Toyota says it has tuned the suspension according to expected end usage. In general terms, workmate and cab/chassis models have been tweaked to provide enhanced stability with maximum loads while the SR and SR5 versions have an eye on compliance and comfort.

At the heart of the new models is their engines and they deserve equal billing with the chassis changes. From the Workmate models up all three engine options are new to HiLux, with only the 4.0-litre petrol offered in any other Toyota model.

Coupled with five-speed automatic or manual transmissions, the 4.0-litre V6 is a proven performer in Toyota's Prado SUV and delivers a muscular 175kW at 5200rpm. In auto form, the quad-cam, variable valve timing, fuel-injected mill delivers max torque of 376Nm at 3800rpm but requires a diet of 95RON ULP.

The Workmate's bespoke 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine features twin balance shafts and also boasts fuel-injection and VVTi technology. No slouch, the willing powerplant produces 118kW at 5200rpm with torque topping out at 241Nm (at 3800rpm). In keeping with its role, the 2.7 will happily accept 91 RON ULP. It's matched to five-speed manual tranny only, and is closely related to the new 2005 HiAce's 2.5-litre powerplant.

The undoubted star of the engine bays, however, is the new turbo-diesel. Featuring all the mod-cons, this is a willing powerplant that is as refined as it is muscular. Don't let the relatively modest 120kW claimed output fool you. With 343Nm torque available from 1400-3200rpm, the intercooled and direct-injected powerplant has the potential to deliver on-road and off. It also out-grunts the opposition by a margin.

Though a four-speed auto is now offered coupled to the turbo-diesel, regular off-roaders will no doubt opt for the five-speed manual. Though great for towing and around town, even in the limited off-road conditions at the launch the auto-equipped diesel was geared too high for steep downhills to be traversed without additional braking.

All the off-road HiLuxs retain their traditional high-low range transfer case. Though shift-on-the-fly H2-H4 is now possible, you'll still need to stop and shift to neutral before low range can be selected.

The HiLux has dominated the one-tonne market segment for many years, however, recently came under some stiff opposition from Holden's Rodeo and Nissan's revitalized Navara. Add in a beefed-up Ford Courier and Mazda B Series stablemate for 2005 and Commodore and Falcon-based offerings from local builders Holden and Ford and it's a pretty crowded marketplace.

The Rodeo is clearly HiLux's enemy number one in both the 4WD and 2WD segments - witness the availability of the muscular V6 models and the auto/tdi offering. Such models directly target Rodeo's success stories.

HiLux will be playing up its size, engine performance and general civility when compared to the top-performing Holden. We've marked down a comparo between these two protagonists as a ‘must do' when test cars become available.

Interestingly, Toyota sees that the new car also has the potential to erode some of the sales of the local builders sports utes ie: SS, XR6, S et al. The maker is keen to target this segment of the market via its Xtra Cab V6 SR5, championing its load capacity and high-tech drivetrain.

Just how successful it will be with this quest remains to be seen - perhaps a sports model with wheels and tyres big enough to fill those ample arches will get the boys' attention. An early job for Toyota's new special vehicles department, perhaps?

Time behind the wheel of the new HiLux was very limited at the Darwin (NT) launch. At the same time it did present a cross-section of terrain albeit chosen to highlight the progress the car has made.

Believe it or not we tested the 2WD models on Darwin's Hidden Valley V8 Supercar track! Though portrayed to the media as a closed road, rather than a racetrack, the track time highlighted the overall cornering manners of the new car and its wieldy handling.

With 200kg strapped into all the trays to simulate a typical load, the V6 2WD models easily topped 170km/h on Hidden Valley's long straight and displayed remarkably good manners under brakes and around the windy back section - even though they were driven in a most un-pick-up-like manner. Brakes were adequate in this atypical environment and will cause no concern on the road.

The V6 seemed to have plenty of urge in both auto and manual form so those towing should be able to make good use of the car's 2250kg rating. For the record, we'd opt for the five-speed auto - the smart box is a gem.

Our limited off-road time was spent in a turbo-diesel auto and save for the gearing issue mentioned hereabouts it performed well. The new engine is very quiet (with one proviso - on the diesel models especially there seems to be ingress of exhaust and road noise through the rear bulkhead) and has got plenty of torque to tackle the tough stuff. On the road overtaking performance is especially noteworthy.

We note that the low-slung standard side steps were easily crunched on one rock jump-up during the launch. Owners will likely be a little more careful where they place their pride and joy. Anyway, such is the popularity of the HiLux with fiddlers that there's likely lift-kits already arriving on shelves at ARB and TJM outlets as this story goes to press.

Finite impressions on the various models that stretch across the HiLux range will have to wait for seven day tests and input from CarPoint's magazine partners at 4x4 Australia and the like. Overall, there's no doubting this car is significant step forward for HiLux and the class in general in terms of both performance and refinement...


Read about CarPoint's long term test on the HiLux here.




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Published : Tuesday, 1 March 2005

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