Having a tough guy reputation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be just ask the Toyota Hilux. When the first Hilux rolled off the production line back in 1968 few would have thought that it would be built for six-generations and become notorious for unfailing durability and reliability. But this hard man rep comes at a cost, competitors want to tear into you, popular TV shows perform cruel experiments like dropping you from a crane, and your advertising campaigns use slogans that were swear words in the 1950s. Because you never break you just can’t catch a break. Bugger that. However the Hilux was built for the tough times and now with a new facelift for 2009 it’s still strong and still looking sharp.
So what’s new for 2009? Well there are subtle changes inside and out but the Hilux is still packing the same wallop under the bonnet. The 3.0-litre common-rail 4-cylinder diesel engine whacks out 126kW of power and a stump-pulling 343Nm of torque. These are strong stats among the Hilux’s competitors and are key factors in the Hilux being the ute to beat. The diesel unit offers pace on the road, shifting off the line with haste and happily humming along at cruising speeds. What’s more impressive is the Hilux’s ability to tow or haul very heavy loads with the full compliment of torque being available from just 1,400 rpm. Combined with a 2.5-tonne braked towing capacity the Hilux can just drag anything it can’t carry.
While lashings of torque are useful for farmyard duties it can prove a hindrance on the tarmac. Driving on stock tyres without load and in 2WD mode on city roads the Hilux can prove a handful; this is intensified in wet conditions. Too much throttle and the Hilux’s rear wheels can lose grip easily and although the oversteer is predictable to the point of being entertaining, you can’t help but feel that it’s a little dangerous. That said, if you are up to speed and on twisty roads the Hilux changes direction with little fuss. There is an acceptable amount of body roll and the steering is direct and reasonably weighted. With heavy-duty hauling expectations the Hilux’s suspension is understandably firm, but overall ride quality is generally comfortable. The Hilux’s ground clearance is consistent with other utes but it doesn’t feel as high when cornering as some competitors. Cabin noise is evident but not unreasonably intrusive and the inclusion of cruise control brings some leisure to long trips.
I tested both manual and automatic transmissions and was more impressed by the auto box. The manual was good for helping control the grunt at the rear but it had a long throw and needed to be eased into gear at times. By comparison the auto was relaxed, changed smoothly and providing the accelerator was used lightly it never hunted or changed gear unexpectedly.
So it moves well, but how does it look? Suitably staunch; the exterior styling of utes is confined by their practical shape, but the Hilux achieves some individuality. The 2009 model facelift has brought a new trapezoidal grille and grey plate bar along with a redesigned bumper that helps give an impression of a low centre of gravity. It’s definitely not beautiful but it wouldn’t want to be and with flared wheel arches, new 15-inch alloys and chrome touches it’s a worthy canvas to be painted with mud and dust.
Step inside and the cabin is a mix of charcoal and grey plastics broken up by silver accents. It’s Spartan and symmetrical but thought has been put into the ergonomics and all controls and cup holders are well placed. There are some useful modern touches like stereo controls on the leather-trimmed steering wheel, a ringed instrument cluster, CD player, remote central locking and a digital display for air conditioning settings. The seats are well bolstered for lateral movement and cushioned for any vertical movement that may occur. The double cab has very impressive leg room in the back seat and although it only has a lap seat belt for the middle occupant it is the most practical back pew I’ve seen in a double cab ute. Overall the Hilux’s cabin is pleasant it offers commanding visibility, enough room for five and has an effective air-con unit that filters any dust or pollen from entering.
It doesn’t matter how hardy the Hilux’s reputation may be things can still go wrong, to combat this driver and passenger airbags are standard as are pre-tensioners on the front seatbelts. ABS is now a welcome inclusion on all variants but electronic stability control remains noticeably absent. With disc brakes at the front but only drums at the rear the Hilux doesn’t posses a strong braking bite.
The bottom line is that despite the Hilux’s reputation and popularity it remains an agricultural vehicle. It is underpinned by a serious 4wd set up and although this is profusely practical off-road the Hilux’s unladen on road manners can be raw. In double cab form can the Hilux replace a SUV as an all round family lifestyle vehicle? Off —road, yes. On-road definitely not.
The Nissan Navara ST-X can match the Hilux for looks and the Mazda BT-50 pips it for driving dynamics, but the Hilux’s grunt, build quality and legendary toughness will mean it retains its title as the kingpin of the ute segment.
Click through to the next page for a specifications list.
Price: from $58,190
What we like:
- Class-leading power-to-weight ratio
- Interior ergonomics
- Backseat leg room (double cab)
What we don’t like:
- No electronic stability program/traction control
- Rear drum brakes
- Wet weather oversteer
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Toyota Hilux SR5 (2009) – Specifications
Engine Model Code 1KD-FTV
Type In-line, 4 cylinder, 16 valve DOHC with Turbocharger and Intercooler
Alternator 100 amps
Battery Voltage 12 volts
Bore 96 mm
Capacity 2982 cc
Configuration In-line; 4 cylinder
Fuel Tank Capacity 76 litres
Fuel Type Diesel
Injection Type Common rail; direct injection
Location Front; longitudinal
Maximum Power 126 Kw 3600 rpm
Maximum Torque 343 Nm 1400-3400 rpm
Starter 2.2 kW
Stroke 103 mm
Vehicle Fuel Economy Information
Fuel Economy Rating 3.5 out of 6
Litres per 100km 9.3
Fuel Cost Per Year2008 cost per year based on price per litre of $1.85 and an average distance of 14,000 km $2,220
Front Track 1540 mm
Rear Track 1540 mm
Gross Vehicle Weight 2780 kg
Kerb Weight 1855-1990 kg
Minimum Ground Clearance 212 mm
Overall Height 1810 mm
Overall Length 5255 mm
Overall Width 1835 mm
Tow Capacity Braked 2500 kg
Tow Capacity Unbraked 750 kg
Wheelbase 3085 mm
Minimum Turning Circle 12.40
Steering Ratio 19.40 m
Turns lock to lock 3.70