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Bringing an all-new model range to market with considerable added value compared to its predecessor, but with sticker prices reduced or only marginally increased, is no easy feat, especially in these times of wild currency fluctuation. With the new Hilux, Toyota SA has achieved this. Colin Windell reports.
This new Hilux – the eighth generation – launches with a 23-derivative span made up of 10 single cabs with four engine options, three Xtra Cab versions with two engine options and 10 double cabs with three engine options. All models are built locally at Toyota’s Prospecton plant in Durban, the investment representing the largest ever by the company.
Bowing in at R228 900 for the entry level 2,0-litre VVTi petrol model, the fleet-focused unit now comes standard with power windows with auto down for driver; a reading lamp and an illuminated entry system; a 12-volt power outlet; an Eco indicator; black, electrically adjustable mirrors; anti-lock brakes; a driver’s side airbag; remote central locking with an auto door lock; and an anti-theft system.
In each of the body configurations the specification grades are base, SRX and Raider, with each step up the ladder gaining additional luxury and/or safety features.
Since its introduction in 1969, the Hilux has etched an enviable reputation for itself across the globe, where its durability, strength and outright quality has entrenched it as a top of mind consumer choice.
“This is echoed in the sales charts locally, where the Hilux proudly flies the flag of South Africa’s top-selling vehicle and serves as both a business partner and leisure transport for the family. Hilux’s sales are a testimony to the trust that our customers place in the product, and reinforce the Toyota pillars of quality, durability and reliability,” says Calvyn Hamman, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM).
Within the light commercial vehicle market (LCV), customers no longer expect only toughness and durability from their bakkie, but are placing much greater emphasis on comfort, convenience and design. The pick-up of today needs to fulfil a multi-purpose role, elevating itself from jack of all trades to be master of all.
“The new Hilux builds upon the rock solid reputation of its predecessors, and delivers a bakkie that is tougher than before, while at the same time providing customers with the comfort, refinement and features of a passenger car,” says Glenn Crompton, vice-president of marketing.
IMPERIAL Auto was fortunate to have driven the new Hilux at its international launch last year. There we drove only the 2,4-litre Double Cab, and were a little concerned that the striking new design might overwhelm the narrow-body single-cab base models on their 15-inch steel wheels.
Perhaps, at first glance, the new model does look pronouncedly nosey, but the sleeker appearance quickly becomes familiar. More significant for business users, though, is the fact the load box and tailgate both feature much heavier grade steel to deal with life as a working vehicle – while the much improved interior design ups comfort levels.
The latter improvement was largely driven by local customer feedback, with Hiroki Nakajima, executive chief engineer for the Hilux project, saying: “We do take notice of all the feedback from users in each of the Hilux countries and try to strike the optimum balance.
“Hilux is mainly a workhorse but, for example, we keep trying to improve the ladder structure with the target of achieving a SUV-type ride across the range.”
At the front of the new Hilux, a prominent grille with strong horizontal bars extends towards the wrap-around headlights, with integrated fender flares adding to the appearance. Viewed from the side, wheel flares tie in with the strong virtual line, which flows from the front to the rear of the vehicle.
The cab roof has been shaped to improve both its styling and practicality. It now features an aerodynamic, pagoda-style V-shape, which helps to channel air over the roof and off the sides of the vehicle, rather than into the deck area, preventing turbulence and drag.
Taking centre stage inside is the new high-tech touch screen audio system, which seems to float from the centre of the dash – though not on base models. Instrumentation follows suit, with higher-grade derivatives receiving a full colour 4,2” TFT multi-information display, with easy-to-read graphics accessed at the touch of the four-way directional buttons mounted on the newly designed steering wheel.
All Hilux models are fitted with tough and durable patterned black seat upholstery tailored to their usage. All three designs are said to offer excellent durability without compromising on design or quality. Workhorse models focus more on robustness, while mid-grade and high-grade models pursue a feeling of luxury and modernity. Leather upholstery is available as an optional extra on higher grade models.
The new Hilux benefits from increased interior space and greater seat comfort, as well as a host of practical storage compartments essential to a vehicle equally at home in both business and leisure environments.
The driver’s seat hip point has been raised by 10mm and the height adjustment range increased by 15mm. Head and shoulder room increases by 8mm and 19mm respectively, while the front seats feature a new frame structure with a longer, padded seat cushion.
The rear seats receive similar treatment, with a reduction in thickness of the backrest providing rear occupants with 10mm greater leg room. Double-cab models employ a 60:40 split tip-up rear seat cushion with a handy storage compartment recessed into the floor.
At the front, a large centre console provides storage space as well as doubling up as an armrest. A 12-volt power outlet is standard across the range, with a second outlet forming part of the top model’s specification sheet.
Door pockets will comfortably stow one-litre plastic bottles, with a host of cup holders and convenience hooks – including ceiling hooks and bag hooks – strategically placed within the cabin of double cab derivatives.
Underpinning the new model is an all-new frame which is designed to combine improved handling, ride comfort, NVH performance and collision-safety with outstanding durability in even the most extreme driving environments. Improvements include 30mm thicker side rails and cross members which deliver 20% greater torsional rigidity while also increasing durability.
The number of connection points from chassis frame to upper body has been increased, accompanied by a 45% increase in spot welds – from 268 in the previous generation, to 388 in the new version.
A new suspension package has been developed, which addresses the need for both outstanding ride comfort and durability. The Hilux utilises a double-wishbone front suspension design and, at the rear, leaf-spring-type suspension with twin shock absorbers.
The length of the leaf blades have been increased by 100mm to 1 400mm – helping to suppress road surface vibration – while the attachment point has been moved from the rear to the front of the spring
In addition, the newcomer has larger-diameter shock absorbers mounted in a new location for increased durability, stability and more effective control of small vibrations. The revised geometry also delivers improved rear-axle wheel articulation, with a 20% improvement in wheel travel facilitating even better off-road performance.
The steering column has been redesigned to reduce the transfer of vibration from the road surface, and the hydraulic power steering system has been fine-tuned. Further, a feature of the new Hilux is Toyota’s Pitch and Bounce Control system, which automatically adjusts engine torque in direct response to road surface conditions.
The system uses wheel-speed sensor information to establish when the nose of the vehicle is either lifted or lowered by road surface undulations. In order to prevent excessive fore and aft movement of occupants, engine torque increases when the nose of the vehicle dips, and conversely decreases when the nose lifts, helping to smooth out the ride.
One of the biggest changes comes in the off-road department, where the traditional lever-controlled shifter for low range gives way to an electronic dash-mounted rotary dial. Also, the Hilux is fitted with an Active Traction Control system (A-TRC) similar to that found in the Land Cruiser family of vehicles.
A-TRC uses a combination of engine torque control and brake pressure modulation to provide maximum traction under all conditions. On detecting a loss of traction, the system automatically brakes the relevant wheels and simultaneously re-distributes drive torque to those which have grip.
Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards during an uphill start when the driver releases the brake pedal. The system temporarily maintains braking pressure to all four wheels for a maximum of two seconds in order to hold the vehicle in place. Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is exclusively fitted to 4×4 derivatives and helps the driver regulate vehicle speed on steep, slippery or bumpy downhill gradients.
Powering the new Hilux is a range of newly developed engines, including the new Global Diesel series offered in 2,4-litre and 2,8-litre guise. Both variants make use of DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder inline architecture and utilise Variable Nozzle Turbo-charger (VNT) technology, which delivers air through a new, front-mounted intercooler.
Forming the starting point of the diesel range is a 2 393cc GD unit which produces 110kW and 343Nm, and which is employed in utility models. A higher output variant of the engine is also on offer, delivering the same peak power with a boost in torque to 400Nm.
Serving as the diesel flagship, the 2 755cc GD engine offers 130kW and 420Nm, with automatic transmission versions receiving a boost in torque to 450Nm. The fuel efficiency of both units has been improved by 9% over the engines they replace, delivering 7,3 litres/100km in high-output, 2,4-litre guise and 8,5 litres/100km in 2,8-litre form.
Both plants feature an electronically controlled, common-rail-type fuel injection system that achieves higher pressure and more advanced injection pressure control. The shape of combustion chambers and of pistons has also been adopted.
The petrol engine line-up consists of a 2,0-litre, four-cylinder unit with VVT-i which delivers 100kW and 182Nm and a revised version of Toyota’s familiar 2,7-litre VVT-i engine which produces 122kW and 245Nm and offers a 10% improvement in fuel economy. Revisions to the unit include lighter valve train components, a newly shaped intake tumble port, reshaped combustion chamber to support a high compression ratio, and the adoption of VVT-i for the exhaust side. Completing the line-up is the familiar 4,0 litre V6, which delivers 175kW and 376Nm.
Workhorse models are equipped with five-speed manual transmission, with higher grade models receiving an option of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox.
According to a spokesman for Toyota, gear ratios of the new six-speed manual ’box have been optimised to feature a 10% lower first gear for enhanced low-speed torque delivery, with a 23% higher top gear for better fuel efficiency and relaxed high-speed cruising.
A first for the segment is the fitment of the intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT) on selected models. iMT effectively incorporates rev-matching technology on both up and downshifts, to provide an ultra-smooth drive, as well as assisting drivers with smooth take-offs.
Diesel models fitted with the new six-speed transmissions are badged as GD-6, with entry level derivatives using five-speed transmissions carrying only the GD part of the badge.
A first for Hilux is the fitment of a Drive Mode switch. Drivers are able to select between eco and power modes based on driving conditions. Eco mode reduces power consumption in relation to acceleration, heating and cooling to improve fuel economy, while the power mode offers the driver sharper acceleration responses for a more engaging drive.
The new Hilux is available in four grades, with the entry-level Workhorse grade aimed at utility usage, providing buyers with the essential specification items such as power steering, remote central locking, power windows, a driver’s side air bag and anti-lock braking.
The mid SRX grade strikes a balance between function and form, adding items such as tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, a multi-information display, a 12-volt power outlet, steering switches, USB and auxiliary inputs.
Serving as the flagship across all three body-shapes is the Raider grade that includes automatic climate control, a full-colour multi-information display, a touchscreen, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, USB, auto lights, daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, metallic interior trim and elegant chrome exterior accents.
A new addition to the range is the SR grade, which caters specifically for customers in the mining industry. The derivative is based on the SRX grade, but adds front side and curtain air bags as well as Vehicle Stability Control to comply with a full, five-star ANCAP safety specification level. It foregoes an audio system and side-steps due to the utilitarian nature of the vehicle.
All models are sold with a five-year or 90 000km service plan with service intervals set at 10 000km.