THE Hilux comes to the contest as Australia’s best-selling ute and best-selling 4x4. Throw in the 2WD models and it’s Australia’s best-selling vehicle, bar none.
Not that Hilux has it all its own way, as last year it was pipped by the Ford Ranger as the best-selling 4x4 ute and best-selling 4x4, which has prompted Toyota to tweak the model range with the addition of SR+ models and more kit for the SR5+, among the key changes late last year. Toyota also launched the TRD variant in 2017 and more recently introduced the accessorised Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X models.
This generation Hilux first appeared in late 2015 as the eighth-generation Hilux and was effectively all-new from the ground up; although, not notably bigger than before. It brought a new generation 2.8-litre diesel (replacing the long-serving 3.0-litre diesel) and new six-speed automatic and manual gearboxes, replacing the previous five-speeders.
WHAT YOU GET
ALL Hilux dual cabs come with seven airbags, a reversing camera (accessory for cab-chassis), tilt-and-reach steering-wheel adjustment, and trailer-sway control.
The SR then adds a rear locker, driver’s seat-height adjustment and a seven-inch touchscreen; while the SR+, as tested here, then adds alloys and sat-nav. The SR5 adds to this with auto-key entry, push-button start, LED DRLs, a sports bar and a smooth-sided tub to replace the ‘commercial’ tub on the lower-spec models. The SR5+ then adds leather and heated front seats.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
COMPARED to the Hilux’s previous 3.0-litre engine, the 2.8 only brings an extra 4kW (now 130kW) and, while the manual and automatic gearboxes have an extra ratio, both bring a second and taller overdrive ratio rather than tightening up the ratio gaps.
As a result, when pressed, the new engine doesn’t go much harder than the old engine and the overall performance is modest in this company. However, more torque than before (now 450Nm, up from 360Nm) makes for a more flexible and agreeable engine in general driving.
For its part, Hilux’s six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but it doesn’t carry the very tall sixth gear particularly well, so there’s a bit of shuffling between fifth and sixth and locking and unlocking of the torque convertor at legal highway speeds on undulating roads.
The automatic needs lower final-drive gearing, or we need higher open-road speed limits! While the manual also has tall fifth and sixth gears, it generally does a better job of holding them and is a much better proposition for country and highway driving.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
THE Hilux offers a more confident road feel than the previous generation model (one of the more noticeable improvements, in fact), and it feels smaller and more nimble than the likes of Ranger, BT-50, Colorado and D-Max. It’s still only a midfielder in terms of on-road composure, with the Amarok, X-Class, Ranger, Colorado and BT-50 all feeling more settled on bumpy roads, especially unladen.
There’s better news in terms of the excellent road-noise isolation from the Hilux’s chassis and, as with the Amarok and X-Class, the Hilux is one of the quieter utes.
THE Hilux may not be at the front of the pack in terms of its on-road dynamics, but it shoots up the leaderboard to become a tier-one player as soon as you head off-road.
Much of that is thanks to its class-leading wheel travel (as much as 520mm at the rear) and Hilux’s particularly effective electronic traction control (ETC), so much so that the rear locker is redundant in many instances. In fact, the Hilux generally performs better off-road without the rear locker, as engaging it cancels the ETC on the front axle as well as negating the ETC across the rear axle.
The Hilux’s relative smaller size also means it’s more manoeuvrable in tight off-road situations than the bigger utes here; while ground clearance, wading depth, and visibility from the driver’s side are all off-road positives.
THIS SR+ is a commercial-grade Hilux (we couldn’t get the SR5), which means a work-spec tub (with external tie-downs and not smooth-sided) and a safety headboard rather than the sports bar of the SR5 and SR5+ models.
Given it’s a bit lighter than the more luxurious models, the payload is a useful 1045kg, even if the 3000kg Gross Vehicle Mass is lower than all but the Navara and Triton. This commercial tray may have handy external tie-downs, but no tie-downs in the tub itself.
With our 900kg test payload onboard, the Hilux’s chassis hardly flinched and felt reassuringly stable on the road. Honest performance, too, from the engine.
4x4 History: 50 years of the Hilux
In Toyota’s conservative way, the Gross Combined Mass of 5650kg is the lowest here, and the maximum tow rating (with the automatic, at least), is also down on the best here at 3200kg. However, Hilux 2.8-litre manuals are rated to tow 3500kg.
CABIN AND SAFETY
THE Hilux’s cabin is one of the smallest, and the backseat is a bit tight for three adults. The tablet-style touchscreen that dominates the dash may not be to everyone’s liking but, as ever, Toyota’s simple and easy-to-use switchgear is a highlight, even though a simple audio-volume control knob is replaced by the touchscreen and steering wheel audio controls.
Follow the 2018 Mega ute test
The Hilux is comfortable up front and the driver has the benefit of tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment; although, there’s no smart-key entry and push-button start at this spec level. For that you need to go to the SR5. Even at this commercial-grade level the cabin still offers a quality feel that’s better than some top-spec models here.
WHAT’S more practical than a Hilux? Probably nothing, thanks to Toyota’s extensive dealer network, especially in country and remote areas where it counts most. There’s also a big range of factory accessories for work or play, and the aftermarket accessory support is second to none. Relatively cheap fixed-price servicing is a bonus, too, even if the service intervals are six months.
Toyota Hilux SR+ Specs
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Power: 130kW at 3400rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 1600-2400rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed auto
4X4 system: Dual-range part-time
Crawl ratio: 36.1:1
Construction: Separate chassis
Front suspension: Independent/coil springs
Rear suspension: Live axle/leaf springs
Kerb weight: 1955kg
Towing capacity: 3200kg
Towball Download: 310kg
Fuel tank size: 80 litres
ADR fuel claim: 8.5L/100km
Test fuel use: 10.9L/100km
Touring range: 684km*
*Based on test fuel use, claimed fuel capacity and a 50km ‘safety’ margin
Acceleration and Braking
Departure angle: 26˚
Rampover angle: N/A
Approach angle: 31˚
Wading depth: 700mm
Ground clearance: 279mm
Toyota Hilux Prices**
Rugged X: $61,690
Rogue (auto): $61,690
**Prices do not include on-road costs
Results and verdict
Nine utes, but only one winner...
4X4 Australia Ute Mega Test
Intro & Contenders
Home of 4X4 Australia’s Ute Test, where we have put all of the popular 4x4 dual-cabs through their paces off-road and on-road.