PRETORIA - You can’t begin a review of the new Toyota Hilux without mentioning the fact that for most of its life in South Africa it’s been the best selling bakkie by a country mile.
The reasons are as varied as their owners who have an almost cult-like following of the double cab and as we know they’re as popular on the dirt as they are cruising any urban environment.
A case in point happened when I attended a bachelor's party a few months ago on a game farm in Limpopo. Apart from a couple of us older “toppies” the rest were all young guys mostly living outside of the cities involved in either mining or farming. The parking lot looked like a Toyota dealership with bakkies ranging from humble single cabs through to modified double cabs and those that didn’t own one apart from one or two, all voiced their intention to buy one.
That’s just the Hilux and we’re not even talking about Cruisers or Fortuners.
Judging from sales figures it seems the recent upgrade to the Hilux has been well-received by customers who have been asking for a while that the Japanese company relook at the styling, ride quality, technology and power outputs, because let’s face it, the previous generation wasn’t exactly the best looking machine in the carpark.
The Hilux we had on test was the range-topping Legend SR which sports the new-look front trapezoidal grille that Toyota says integrates with the front bumper, bonnet protector and skidplate. Either way, it’s a big improvement and in the RS which stands for roller shutter, you get a graphite coloured sportsbar, rubberised bedliner, assisted tailgate with central locking function and dust defense kit and said motorised roller shutter.
The most significant upgrade has been to the engine where the existing 2.8 GD-6 now delivers 150kW and 500Nm of torque coupled to a six speed automatic transmission . Fuel economy has also improved thanks to a larger turbo-charger and enhanced cooling and a new common-rail injection system. Toyota has always over-engineered and under-stressed their offroad engine offerings which is why you often hear about Hiluxes and Cruisers doing ridiculously high mileages without any major problems and the same will no doubt be the case with this new offering..
A friend of mine has the previous GD-6 double cab and driving them back to back over the same terrain there’s a significant improvement in acceleration. The new version feels more spirited and the turbo spools a lot earlier too.
There’s an improvement in ride quality that’s noticeable especially at speed over bumpy tar roads and dirt. That’s thanks to new spring rates, shock absorbers and suspension bushes. It’s especially noticeable unloaded but with four bags of cement in the back not as much however there is definitely an improvement around corners where the Legend held its line easier and with less fuss on tar and dirt.
Long distance driving is made a lot easier in the Legend now that adaptive cruise control has been fitted.
Interior changes aren’t that obvious but there are a number of tech upgrades such as the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible as well as a top of the range JBL sound system, which thank goodness, you can now adjust with a dial. It also comes with the Toyota Connect telematics system with an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and complimentary 15Gb data
The leather seats get unique accent treatment and there’s the addition of blue door illumination and black roof lining.
We took both models to an offroad track just outside Pretoria and while they proved to be almost equally capable, the upgraded traction control did kick in a little earlier which allowed for less wheel spin. The Legend’s hill descent control has been recalibrated to be slower although it's still not adjustable but most of the people I drive with prefer using the brake pedal. This is especially so when it gets really technical down rocky descents.
Tricky climbs in low range with the diff lock on you really had to be an anorak to notice any real difference between the two as they crawled to the top so we called it a draw.
Because ours was a test unit we were more circumspect than some of the other Hilux owners with us so we were weary to test approach and departure angles too vigorously but you know that because its a Hilux it will do exactly as it says on the box.
Relaxing afterwards around the braai fires there was a lot of discussion surrounding the Legend and while the general consensus was that Toyota had definitely got it right in terms of exterior appeal and interior ergonomics but that at R868 100 for the SR Auto and R835 400 for the manual, prices were becoming ridiculous.
Still, they can’t keep up with supply though.
All Hilux models have a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 9-services/90 000 km service plan.