First drive: Toyota’s tweaked Hilux hits the right notes off the beaten track
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PRETORIA - It’s the look owners have been waiting for since the refreshed Hilux was launched a good few years ago.
No more memes and jokes about overbite front ends or snide remarks when you're driving a trail in the bush.
Mind you, ultimately Toyota still has the last laugh because when it comes to sales figures, they trump the competition by a few thousand and in today's economic climate, that's no mean feat.
It's not only the exterior that's been improved but the current 2.8 litre diesel mill has also been tweaked to give the Hilux more power.
A redesigned turbocharger and enhanced cooling now sees it produce 150kW and 500Nm over the previous 130kW and 450Nm and because you know it's been over-engineered and under-stressed it is likely to be just as reliable as all those that came before it.
Apart from the new look exterior in the new Legend model with a unique bonnet moulding above the grille as well as black trim on the grille and wheel arches and in the 4x4 RS package with its motorised roller shutter, graphite-coloured sportsbar, rubberised bedliner, assisted tailgate with central-locking function and dust-defence kit, the interior has been tweaked as well.
A new instrument cluster with a floating 20cm touchscreen infotainment system, blue door illumination, black roof lining, leather upholstery and a unique accent treatment for the interior makes it a premium place to spend time especially with the nine-speaker JBL sound system.
The Legend also comes with Toyota's Safety Sense system that includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision detection.
How does it drive?
Although we didn't have an opportunity to drive any significant distances to compare the rejigged suspension with longer leaf springs and improved suspension bushes or the new balance shaft that improves NVH levels, we did get to do some 4x4 driving at Gerotek just outside Pretoria.
First brief impressions over bumpy bits of tar and concrete felt as though there was a definite improvement but we'll be spending more time with it at the end of November to be able to give it a more thorough test.
As per the previous models changing between two-wheel- drive, 4H and 4L is done via an easy accessible dial on the dash.
Interestingly, there's a differential lock button and a limited slip differential icon on the dash which had me scratching my head but the local Toyota crew are finding out from head office in Japan what the story is there.
Either way, the Hilux cruised over the obstacles without much fuss and the engine and throttle response combined perfectly up some serious inclines.
The hill descent control has been recalibrated to be slower although it's still not adjustable but was more than adequate on the descents we drove.
A number of small improvements and tweaks on a household name rather than wholesale changes has made the Hilux even better and I reckon that the so-called bakkie wars could quite possibly become a one horse race.