It was time to take our long-term Toyota Hilux Raider X double cab off the tar to spend some time in low range.
I’d booked a weekend in a chalet at De Wildt 4x4 Nature Park and Resort just outside Brits with my son and after loading wood, charcoal, braai grid and camping chairs into the load bay, and our luggage on the back seat, we stopped off to buy some essentials and turned the Hilux’s nose out of the city.
I was asked very nicely by my son to keep it gentle this time because on a previous excursion in my Defender there were a few hair-raising moments that may have been pushing the envelope a bit far, necessitating the use of my winch.
We survived unscathed but the 90 has been modified with much bigger tyres, underbody protection, long suspension and a lift whereas the Hilux is stock standard.
Powered by Toyota’s 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine producing 110kW and 400Nm, our Hilux is the six-speed automatic version which suits off-road driving perfectly.
For taking it off the beaten track it’s fitted with a rear differential lock, a traction control system, 29 degree approach angle, 26 degree departure angle and if you need to do a river crossing, a wade depth of 700mm.
Unladen the Hilux has a fairly hard sprung suspension and even with our light weekend luggage it didn’t really make a difference, it’s not jarring but you are aware that it’s a ladder frame construction.
It will no doubt be a lot better fully loaded with a family for a long weekend or holiday and if you’re looking to kit it for overlanding with a host of accessories.
The following morning we were joined by my friend and his son in his recently purchased Land Cruiser 200, which is a whole different off-road animal.
With my youngster in charge of the map and directions and a solemn promise that we wouldn’t end up on our roof or needing a recovery, the first axle twister set the scene.
I wasn’t going to play silly buggers so the diff lock was engaged to prevent wheel spinning until the traction control kicked in. If you’re only going to be doing occasional trails my first upgrade would be a decent set of rock sliders before anything else.
Slowly following the easiest line still had the standard side steps scraping and if things become loose or slippery they’re going to become crinkle cut very quickly. Watch it in action in the video below:
Arriving at a play pen with dongas, washouts and steep inclines including an obstacle called “snotklap” was a rude reminder of why off-roaders often give us a bad name.
We arrived to clouds of dust caused by three cars and a group of idiots doing doughnuts and then stopping to refill their glasses before charging off. It wasn’t even 11am yet.
I have left trails or asked people to leave the group the first time a beer is cracked open. You can’t be drinking and think you have control of more than two tons in a situation where underfoot conditions change in a split second.
We saw them again at the end of the trail with one of them missing a front bumper after he had tried to go through a mud hole that management had specifically asked us not to do.
Anyway, we traversed the obstacles back and forth trying different lines without a hitch before heading to “Gert se Klip”, a steep rocky slope that’s seen quite a few failures over the years.
I was a bit hesitant initially because I didn’t want to be that guy that calls the fleet manager and have to explain why the bakkie is lying with its wheels spinning in the air.
After watching a couple of other Hliuxes go up and down I chose my line and eased up the face. I needn’t have worried, as we got to the top without any wheel spin or heart-stopping incidents, which is also due to the automatic transmission so there’s no jerking, sudden stops or pull aways.
The rest of the trail passed by without incident and I was again reminded why traversing obstacles and trying out different lines and angles to test your skills and the car’s ability remains my favourite pastime.
The trail also has a boulder-strewn “red route” for a much tougher challenge that would result in serious damage to anything standard but for a fun time out in the sun and dust to shake off the week’s stress, the Toyota Hilux Raider X hits the spot perfectly.