Remember when phones were about making calls? And utes were about carrying things?
In this modern connected world, phones seem more about playing music and games, watching cat videos, grabbing an Uber, or helping us not go around in circles. And utes are about loading up the family, towing caravans and carrying surfboards – among other things. Yet this month I learnt all about what utes can actually lug.
It started with a couple of trips to the tip to offload the remains of a hedge that had decided to grow every which way but the direction I wanted. Then there was a bunch of beds and mattresses as part of a toddler shifting into a big bed (said toddler loves “the yoooot”, by the way). Next was a wine fridge, easily slid across the optional ribbed plastic tray liner and lashed to the corner mounting points with a tie-down.
But it was the trampoline that was the most ambitious Hilux carry. The prospect of delicately wheeling this newly acquired 10-foot tramp from a neighbour’s house to mine simply wasn’t on the cards. So onto the back of the Toyota Hilux SR5 it went.
It wasn’t entirely within the confines of the four-door body, but with some tie-downs in place the trampoline was soon on its way, albeit unlikely to appease any of the establishment’s finest had they seen my somewhat optimistic loading.
That’s part of the beauty of having a ute; being able to throw whatever you want at it. Besides, it got the job done, to the point where I’m now on the hunt for other things to launch into the Hilux’s tray. Mountain bikes seem far too simple a task, although it’s the most common addition to my SR5.
I’ve learnt plenty about the appeal of the functionality and practicality that makes the Hilux the weapon of choice, even when there’s a perfectly normal passenger car alongside it in the garage.
Digital radio is a win, too, although it’s a shame the head unit has frustrating touch buttons for the volume. Combined with more buttons on the wheel, it means lots of pressing to make big adjustments.
The Hilux’s on-road manners also aren’t as endearing as its carry-anything attitude. Those wanting the poise of a BMW X5 or Ford Territory ought to look elsewhere for their cornering fix. The steering is overly light and vague, and the 18-inch Dunlop Grantreks are prone to yelp if you arrive at a roundabout with too much enthusiasm.
The firm rear leaf springs are able to carry almost a tonne without strain, but they lack compliance for everyday unladen duties.
Perhaps it’s time I loaded something really heavy in the back to tie the thing down…
The weakest link
Hilux’s legendary ‘unbreakable’ toughness didn’t get off to the best start. Early on, the flimsy rubber cover that conceals the USB port when you’re not charging a fandangled smartphone tore off as I was removing the charging cable. Of course it has nothing to do with operator error; I blame poor design… Seriously. And I guarantee it’s not the only Hilux to lose what is a fairly useless item in the otherwise well-presented interior.
This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of Wheels magazine.