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2019 Toyota Hilux Rugged X quick review

By Daniel Gardner, 08 Feb 2019 Car Reviews

2019 Toyota Hilux Rugged X quick review

A carefully considered set of enhancements take the iconic Hilux further away from the beaten track

What is it?

Toyota’s counter move to the growing range of toughened-up dual cab utes such as the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Raptor and HSV SportsCat. A triple threat of options arrived mid last year with the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X offering increased off-road protection, functionality and the looks to match. This quick review looks at the Rugged X.

How much is the Toyota Hilux Rugged X?

In any specification, the Hilux is not at the bargain end of the one-tonne ute market and, at $61,690, neither is the Rugged X. You’ll need a more generous budget to get into the toughened Hilux and another $2000 if you want the automatic, but it still aligns with its rivals. HSV asks between $60,790 and $66,790 for the Sportscat range, while the Ford Ranger Wildtrak starts from $60,590. With a completely redesigned chassis, sophisticated suspension and revised body panels, the Raptor is out of the price range by a considerable margin, but also in a class of its own.

Who is it for?

Unlike some other Hilux variants, which are likely to be used mostly on sealed surfaces, The Rugged X is aimed primarily at owners who are likely to use its renowned off-road ability. Many owners will be drawn to the more purposeful look, but to by a Rugged X for its aesthetics alone would be a waste of a genuinely enhanced four-wheel drive.

Is the Toyota Hilux Rugged X easy to live with?

Yes and no. As a large dual cab ute, some drivers would find the Rugged X’s dimensions hard to handle. There is a reversing camera to keep an eye on the tail end but at the front, the hoop-less roo-bar fitted as part of the Rugged X package adds a few more millimetres to consider when manoeuvring in tight spaces.

But if you are using the special edition for its intended purpose away from the beaten trail, the Rugged X is even better to live with compared with the standard item. Not only does the additional front alloy bar offer extra protection from obstacles and wildlife, it is designed to accommodate a winch, houses a high-intensity light bar and does not affect the Hilux’s safety systems.

Then there are the additional rock rails, a factory fitted snorkel and unique alloy wheels shod in Dunlop AT25 rubber allowing you to go further into unchartered territory. Heavy-duty recovery points are the last resort if you get too enthusiastic.

For a long weekend away at a music festival, the Rugged X was the perfect companion. The generous load area swallows Eskys, swags and all manner of fold-up camping furniture, leaving ample room in the cabin for more precious items including people. And while the forecast was for searing heat and dust, having the Hilux’s proven all-terrain transmission offered peace of mind if the camp ground turned into a quagmire.

Compared to its rivals, the Toyota cabin is a little black and plasticky with fake French stitching moulded into the dash. There are other brands that do refinement better, but a few curious onlookers liked the interior finish and reckoned the result form Toyota was pleasantly surprising.

How well does the Toyota Hilux Rugged X drive?

Cruising on freeways is not the Hilux’s favourite habitat, but road and wind noise was surprisingly absent. The six-speed manual gearbox has very tall gears allowing the 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel engine to rev low. That in turn enables relatively frugal fuel consumption particularly considering our time with the Rugged X was mostly loaded up.

Power from the turbocharged diesel is ample and with 130kW and 420Nm (Autos get 450Nm) a full load is no handicap. Previous experience in the less specialised variants demonstrated the model’s excellent towing ability.

The driver’s seating position is a little on the commercial side but comfortable and the driving experience is involving. None of the standard Hilux’s driving qualities are compromised with the Rugged X upgrades apart from on-road grip. Its all-terrain tyres feel more suited to loose surfaces and take very little provocation to squeal and complain on the asphalt. The upside is confident grip on loose and dusty trails. Once again – the Rugged X is happiest away from the ‘burbs.

Verdict

If you’re after a tougher-looking Hilux or a version that’s more premium in its appearance then the Rogue is probably a better bet than the Rugged X. But if you are a genuinely enthusiastic off-road driver looking to get more out of a Hilux than the standard version can perhaps offer with confidence, then the specialised Rugged X could be just the ticket.

Its range of off-road focused upgrades are well selected and picked from a list of the most frequently optioned items by Hilux owners looking to upgrade their vehicles after delivery.

It’s still the same dependable Toyota that Australian’s have developed a firm affection for, but with some useful enhancements that make it even better suited to adventures away from the road – with the looks to match.