Utes are great at carrying things but not particularly good at keeping said items out of the weather. Such was my last minute realisation when planning an interstate trip in our Toyota Hilux – a final fling before the SR5 made its way back to Toyota HQ.
With a family and luggage on board, it was typical of the average holiday usage for a ute. Big kays, fervent over-packing and kids who wished they’d arrived before they’d clipped their seatbelts.
Just finding somewhere for our piles of luggage and Christmas presents proved something of a challenge. Despite the cavernous tray, utes don’t provide many decent in-cabin options for stashing things. The Hilux’s twin gloveboxes and centre console are about it.
Fortunately a friend suggested we buy some plastic tubs and load them with our gear before strapping them in the back. It proved a top idea, ensuring we had more room in the cabin for four people, snacks and toys to keep the kids content.
So it was off on a 2000km, four-day interstate road trip that was more bland freeway than snaking country roads.
A quick check using a GPS app on the phone showed the Hilux was about 5-6 percent optimistic, so there was some room to move at the 110km/h indicated speed.
A few hundred kays in and it was clear the best the Hilux was going to do was about 650km from its 80-litre tank. The fuel gauge is quite pessimistic; over four months, the most I ever squeezed in with the needle below E and the fuel light glowing was 64.4 litres, suggesting there was still 150km of driving in the tank. Not that I wanted to test it.
Even then, the best we posted was 9.9L/100km. That’s still better than the mid-12s we’d been getting around town, but not as low as I’d hoped for freeway motoring. No doubt the weight and aerodynamic drag of the bullbar and snorkel wasn’t helping.
Another thing not helping on bumpier surfaces was the ride. The Hilux is super firm and after four months it’s clear it works better with a few hundred kilos on board. That extra weight is enough to settle the stiffly sprung rear-end and give it some much-needed compliance. Most of the Hume is pretty smooth, but there’s a section south of Albury that keeps things jiggling unpleasantly.
Otherwise the Hilux is a decent way to travel. Keep the engine at lower revs and it’s quiet and otherwise comfortable, loping along nicely with the cruise control engaged. Just don’t expect a whole lot in the way of excitement.
Despite its flaws, living with a ute has been thoroughly enjoyable. It’ll carry almost anything, devour speed humps and cop all manner of punishment in the process. All of which I’ll miss.
This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of Wheels magazine.