The Toyota Hilux is an old favourite with travelling fishos, writes NAFA’s 4WD Editor, DICK EUSSEN, who has been drooling over the new and improved 2011 SR5 model.
AUV The Toyota Hilux is one hell of a versatile Action Utility Vehicle (AUV), and much-loved by many offroad travellers. It’s advertised as an unbreakable workhorse — remember the island people and their coconut cracker? And while in real life the Hilux does break, the truth is that it’s one of the most reliable and dependant offroad vehicles on the market, with the added attraction of a trade-in value that just stays up.
The Toyota Hilux RN27 first appeared in 1977 as a 2WD-only vehicle. It was powered (or under-powered) by a 2.2L petrol engine and later a 2.4L diesel engine. In 1978, the Hilux twin cab in both 4x2 and 4x4 designations was launched. Since then, the Hilux has become one of the best selling utility vehicles ever. It has undergone vast changes, which continue today.
The modern Hilux has little in common with the old one. It is much bulkier and big on safety with an engineered body for outstanding safety and crash performance. It comes with dual SRS airbags and pretensioning seatbelts as standard, front, side and full length curtain SRS airbags (on the SR5 model), plus the added safety factor of ABS brakes and more.
The Hilux range commences with the SR model, a reliable and popular workhorse for the man on the land and literally thousands of tradies. It is available in both manual and automatic gearbox configurations and a choice of petrol or diesel engines. There is also an automatic turbo diesel model with plenty of grunt, coupled to affordable running cost. Easy to ride in with plenty of cabin comfort, the reasonably-priced SR is arguably our most-popular working and recreation ute.
SR5 The SR5 takes it much further in terms of creature comforts, safety features and offroad abilities. This is a dress utility with chrome mirrors, body-coloured over-ender flares, chrome door handles, and an alloy sports bar. There is air conditioning, cruise control, tilt adjustable power steering, power windows, multimedia information display steering wheel controls, power mirrors, multi-information displays, including trip meter, and more.
There is an impressive audio range — AM/FM radio with MP3 compatible single disk CD player, 6-inch disc in-dash CD charger with 4.3” LCD display, MP3 compatibility and AF/FM tuner, 3.5mm AUX input for portable audio players, USB input for some iPod/USB memory sticks, Bluetooth capabilities, and plenty of speakers to turn the cabin into a dance hall if you want noise — and a thick instruction book…
The double cab has privacy glass on the rear doors and windows, as well as sport-styled front seats. In this ute, you can undertake long trips in the same comfort that matches its much higher-priced cousins of the Toyota 4WD range. But don’t let this dressage fool you; the SR5 is a top offroad performer if you don’t mind getting a bit of mud and a few scratches on it.
Hell, after all, isn’t this what 4WDs are for?
The Hilux handles much better then previous models since being fitted with the new 2011 improvements.
The current Hilux SR5 dual-cab 4WD now has electronic traction and stability control that puts it in the same class as the Landcruiser 200S and the Prado when it comes to offroad performance. Nothing to get excited about you say? Yes, I may agree to that, as the Hilux has proven itself to be a very reliable offroad vehicle in the past, so why fix something that ain’t broke…
But electronic traction is a very significant step forward for the Hilux and a real bonus. It, along with traction control, gives the new ute some real offroad performance that outperforms older models, the SR, and it main competitors. In reality, Toyota has been catching up, as several of its Japanese competitors have had electronic traction and stability controls in their vehicles for some time.
However, note that it is only available in the top-spec, dual-cab, diesel ST-X range. A mate, Norm Slack, recently purchased one of the new vehicles and we took it for a spin about the bush. I took photos with a newly-purchased lens but, when I downloaded the images, I was dismayed that the lens gave false exposure readings. Upon inspection, I found that one of the male connector pins did not protrude from the barrel and failed to contact the camera’s female connectors. One thing let to another and, in the meantime, Brisbane was flooded. Slacky, a builder, headed to Brisbane to give his mum a hand after she became a victim of the recent disastrous floods. He is not coming back anytime soon. So I had to find another vehicle for photos, but I left it too long as a tsunami flattened northern Japan and the local Toyota dealers sold what they had on the floor overnight, so no action shots. (I’m sorry Dick, but this is not a good enough excuse — Editor)
However, having driven the Slacky’s new SR5, I can happily report that, on the open road, the Hilux was smooth and accelerated in an effortless manner. There are some improvements in the new models, which is very much in evidenced when on the road. The road was slippery and wet, but the ute did not falter, with no skidding apparent when I pushed it hard around a couple of tight corners.
I have driven a few vehicles with traction control, including the Toyota Landcruiser 200S, Prado, and a Mitsubishi ute. The Hilux handles much better then previous models since being fitted with the new 2011 improvements. In essence, light utes (when unloaded) handle poorly on bush roads as they tail-end and want to play catch up on tight corners, slippery wet roads, corrugations, and loose gravely surfaces. This can be overcome somewhat by carrying weight in the tray. The leaf-sprung rear axle is not much help either, and is very much a hindrance when it comes to road handling.
Traction is quickly lost when driving in such conditions. Steep, slippery/gravelly hills are also difficult and Hilux-wise drivers have to use more momentum to get up slopes than drivers of heavier and more stable vehicles. When doing so, there is always a risk of losing control and damaging the vehicle, gears or the differentials. But when fitted with traction controls, it allows the Hilux driver to use less speed and more control when tackling slopes and slippery roads at far less pace, because if one or more wheels loses traction or begins to spin, the traction control stops the wheel from spinning without any interference or control from the driver, making it possible to force ahead with no spin at all.
Stability control is designed to work best on road at high speed. Ute drivers well know how utes handle on slippery and wet roads — sealed or unsealed. If you get into a skid, stability control instantly detects it and begins to brake one or more wheels, and (or) cuts back on engine power, so that you gain back control of the vehicle. How well does it work?
Excellent really — in controlled tests and driving conditions I have put myself at risk to see if it does, not only in the Slacky’s new ute but also with other similarly-equipped vehicles. He went to even more effort to make it all come together, and there is no doubt that Toyota has now brought the Hilux SR5 ute back from the rear to regain its rightful position as leader of the pack.
However, I do think that there is some learning involved to manage correctly both stability and traction controls, because it is very easy to try and override them when one or both become active. Instead of pushing it hard up slippery slopes, you need to let the vehicle do much of the thinking and let it walk up with minium wheel spin coupled to plenty of traction. Of course, it’s all great on paper, but the reality is that, when you have an empty ute and a very steep slippery/gravelly slope to conquer, you won’t find much help in the new assist controls either and brute power will still be your best bet…
The new Hilux SR-5 diesel dual cab now also has better brake assist and electronic brake force for its ABS system. Both wheel and tyre configurations have been changed from the 255/70R15s, that were previously used, to an upgraded 265/65R17s. The previous combo was good but, with 15s tyres becoming hard to find, the new 17s are most welcome. Plus, the bigger wheels do improve road clearance, handling and steering.
There is also the energy-absorbing front body/chassis structure and strong Safe-T-cell designed to keep the body intact if involved in a side-collision or head-on impact. If you need a 4WD that combines maximum onroad comfort with optimum offroad potential, the new SR5 is the one. And if you want to customise this ute, the optional accessories list is amazing, ranging from GPS navigation audio systems, bull/roo bars, and tow hitch to tow your boat to the boat ramp, to name only a few. For more information go to www.toyota.com.au