Toyota has launched a three-pronged attack on the 4X4 dual-cab market with the release of a trio of new HiLux ‘halo’ (or hero) models – Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X – that will sit above the SR5 in the HiLux range.
The trio is launched as HiLux celebrates 50 years on the market, and is aimed at the prospective buyer who is looking for a vehicle that is ready to go off the beaten track straight from the showroom floor, with each model featuring integrated touring accessories that buyers would otherwise have to go to aftermarket suppliers for.
In terms of drivetrain, the HiLux’s 130kW 2.8TD powerplant and six-speed auto and manual gearbox carry over into these new models.
The two Rugged variants (both available in manual and auto form) are the result of three years of development and are aimed at the bush tourer (and were developed and engineered in Australia, with this market in mind), while the auto-only Rogue variant targets the burgeoning lifestyle/family market, and thus includes features unique to that buyer.
The Rogue is the urban adventurer’s choice, according to Toyota, and was designed in Australia, but engineered in Thailand for a global market.
Toyota is confident of selling 6000 of these new models (roughly 60-70 per cent Rugged variants, 30-40 per cent Rogue), and is confident they address the current market’s demands. The addition of the Rogue was part of a dual strategy from Toyota where one model would account for the style and sophistication of the urban-based buyer, while the other for those keen to get well off the beaten track.
“With their distinctive styling and modular inclusions, these new HiLux variants meet customer demands that go above and beyond our current HiLux range,” Sean Hanley, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Toyota Australia, said at this week’s outback South Australia launch. “They introduce components that are totally integrated and engineered into the core vehicle, and they attract the full factory warranty.”
The decision to offer these three new vehicles was influenced by Toyota’s research into dual-cab ute sales, where it was found that the top-end SR5 accounted for one quarter of all HiLux sales, with buyers spending an average of $2000 on further accessorising their rigs after initial purchase.
Each of the three new Hiluxes offers a different mix of equipment, with the two touring-oriented vehicles sharing many, while the Rogue offers a more selective equipment list, and some unique additions.
Rugged X and Rugged
The top-end model, HiLux Rugged X, is based on the previous range-topping SR5, with a raft of equipment added as standard. Pricing starts at $61,690 for the six-speed manual version, and tops out at $63,690 for the auto.
The Rugged X features plenty of standard off-road goodies – all Aussie-designed and engineered – that include a low profile steel front bullbar with integrated 660mm LED light bar (Rugged X only and punching out 120 watts), 20W LED driving lights, bash plates (made from 5mm-thick high-tensile alloy, rated recovery hooks front (8000kg; made from 20mm steel plate and including cross-vehicle bracing) and rear, chassis-mounted side rock rails (with tread sections to aid passenger ingress), snorkel, sports bar (with a 75kg vertical load weight rating and 200kg load weight rating for gear secured to it; tie-down points feature on this as well), steel rear bar (Rugged X only), tub liner, front/rear all-weather floor mats, towball and tongue (tow rating is 3500kg for manual, 3200kg for auto), a seven-pin wiring harness, reverse camera, leather seats (powered driver seat) and black-accented exterior mods, including door handles, wheel arches and body side mouldings. The 17-inch alloy wheels are shod with Dunlop Grandtrek 265/65R17 rubber.
To compensate for the additional weight up front with fitment of the bar, bash plates and recovery hooks (the vehicle is about 200kg heavier than the SR5 model), Toyota has included uprated front springs. These springs are the same ones that have been used by Toyota previously for fitment to HiLux models that owners have added factory bullbars to, so are well proved.
All up – and in short – it’s a bush-ready fit-out by Toyota that you can drive from the dealer with full factory warranty cover on all equipment.
The new equipment is more than cosmetic; the low profile front bar on the Rugged X is manufactured by Brisbane-based Frontline 4X4, while the side rock rails and recovery hooks are ARB designs. The idea behind the front bar was to ensure that front overhang – and thus, approach angle – was not unduly affected, while the fitment of the integrated light bar provides a much tidier appearance.
The Rugged X approach angle is 28 degrees (down from the SR5’s 31 degrees sans front bar) but it is the side/corner approach angle that has been most affected – in a positive way. The standard HiLux corner approach angle is 35 degrees; the Rugged X bar’s aggressively cut-in corners lifts this up to an impressive 49 degrees. The steel rear bar is also a – excuse the pun – rugged unit that keeps the overhang short and the ute’s rear well protected, while offering a step section for easy rear tub access.
The rear tub’s sports bar is more than just a tacked-on visual accessory; Toyota engineered this bar to cope with a vertical load of up to 75kg, or a secured (tied-down/attached) load of 200kg. The bar is a sturdy four-piece jobbie that is floor-mounted for the additional strength needed for these load ratings. Clever, we reckon.
Just as clever is the standard rock rails; during the off-road testing section of the launch program, we were asked by Toyota to drive over a large pile of rocks specifically to test the rails’ effectiveness and they performed perfectly; the rails’ strong flat section, closest to the vehicle’s undercarriage, slid the HiLux over the obstacle easily, while the up-swept outer tubing of the rails was barely touched – or damaged at all – making them a huge step up from the stock items on regular HiLux models.
Cosmetically, the Rugged X cops a blacked-out bonnet (complete with love ’em or hate ’em RUGGED lettering across the front of it), while all bar work and rock rails are powdercoated black. The black-out theme continues with the rear mirrors and door handles in black gloss, with black matte tail-light surrounds finishing it off.
The Rugged X gains a model-specific colour – Inferno Orange – on top of Glacier White, Crystal Pearl, Silver Sky, Graphite and Eclipse Black, all of which are available across the three models.
Hop inside the Rugged X and its more black; leather-accent seats (the driver’s seat is eight-way power-adjust and is quite supportive, with plenty of side bolstering), black dash, metallic black highlights on doors, gear lever, console and steering wheel and the headlining is also black. Batman would be all over it…
Instrumentation is, yep, blacked-out to an extent as well, and includes tacho, speedo and a 4.2-inch multi-info read-out. The infotainment system utilises a seven-inch screen and features sat-nav, radio, Bluetooth, CD player (yes, really), and the Toyota Link app that gels with your smartphone.
The Rugged model is based on the HiLux SR and priced at $54,990 for the manual, with the auto a $2K premium. The Rugged loses some top-spec features, such as rear passenger air-con vents, power-adjust driver’s seat and leather accented pews (they are cloth in Rugged), while adding a little bit more to the bush-tough side of the ledger, mainly in the protective sense.
The steel front bar on Rugged is unique to this model and includes a tubed top section for maximum front-end/headlight protection, with Toyota aiming this bar design specifically at hard-core outback tourers and rural owners. The Rugged also has a slightly different rear steel bar, but shares the same uprated front springs, side rock rails, black body mouldings, snorkel, sports bar, tub liner and rear-view camera as the X. Instrumentation is a tad more basic than X, although the Rugged does still get sat-nav, Bluetooth and infotainment setup.
Toyota believes the auto-only HiLux Rogue, at $61,90, best addresses the emerging ‘urban adventurers’ buyers’ market that comprises owners aspiring to a vehicle capable of the ‘big trip’ but actually spend most of their time in urban environs, with semi-regular weekend adventures (read: camping, hiking, fishing, biking, etc.) their outdoor outlet. As a result of its global market aims, the Rogue’s design and style is fairly well removed from its ‘rougher’ stablemates.
Standard features differ significantly from the two Rugged variants; gone are the steel bullbar, rock rails, and steel rear bar, but the clever sports bar stays – as does the towbar/towball and seven-pin wiring setup.
A Rogue-only feature that, surprisingly, is not an option on Rugged and Rugged X, is the hard-shell tonneau cover. This cover operated on gas struts and includes an interior light, as well as being able to be locked via the vehicle’s central locking system. Upping the luxo feel, its tray-liner is marine-grade synthetic carpet material.
Styling-wise, the Rogue offers a slightly aggressive appearance, thanks to its bluff front end (accentuated by the trapezoidal grille) and the use of black paint accents around the vehicle. The Rogue’s shorter side-on profile at the front also contributes to a better approach angle – at 30 degrees – than that of its bush-oriented stablemates (both Ruggeds measure 28 degrees).
The Rogue rolls on 18-inch alloys – as opposed to 17s on the two Ruggeds – and runs 265/60R18 rubber, but does have less ground clearance: 216mm as opposed to 251-253mm.
The Rogue interior is identical to Rugged X, with the heated front leather-accent seats (driver power-adjustable), comprehensive infotainment system, and rear air-con vents, all surrounded by plenty of black (roofliner, floor mats, etc.).
The test loop at the Flinders Ranges launch event comprised a mix of on-road and off-road driving, with the latter a mix of flat outback roads and rocky tracks, as well as a dedicated off-road loop that included plenty of short and steep ascents and descents, and the aforementioned rock rails obstacle test.
As expected the HiLux’s unchanged 2.8TD donk does its job effectively and without fuss – mainly thanks to the ample torque on tap low down in the rev range. On the highway, cruising at the legal 110km/h limit in top gear, the tacho sat at around 1750rpm, with the auto quick to respond to any right-foot push; the additional 200kg of weight seems to have next-to-no effect on the overall performance of the vehicle.
On- and off-road the engine just works; up some of the steeper short ascents on the short low-range off-road loop it was possible just to idle up with no throttle input whatsoever.
There’s no doubt that front bar on the Rugged X aids in minimising front bumps and scrapes when reaching the bottom of a sharply angled descent, while those rock rails are simply brilliant in the way they do exactly as designed.
The only (slight) negative from fitment of this bar was noted during the drive sections: the steering seemed less direct and sharp in the Rugged models compared to the Rogue without its bar. Yes, the uprated springs definitely keep the front end up and level, but we think a bit more damping would improve the steering performance notably. Other than that, it was business as usual in terms of how these new models drove – a definite case of when you’re on a good thing, stick to it…
For those looking for a HiLux-based ‘Raptor beater’ these three new HiLux models may be a disappointment. And with what initially appears to look like just another ‘bright paint and stickers’ going-over of a current model, it would be easy to share some of that disappointment.
However, delve deeper into the features and these vehicles –most notably the two Rugged variants – can be seen for what they are: the result of clever thinking from Toyota. By tapping into the owner demand for bush-tough, functional accessories, and offering these features in bespoke models – with factory warranties attached – Toyota can offer vehicles that retain all that HiLux is renowned for (and has been for decades), while improving the functionality of the vehicle, all the while grabbing a slice of a market (off-road accessories) it didn’t have before.
Like we said, smart.
2018 TOYOTA HILUX RUGGED X AUTO SPECS:
Engine: 2755cc I4 diesel, 16-valve DOHC
Power: 130kW @ 3400 rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission with dual-range, part-time 4x4
Suspension: IFS with double wishbones, coil springs and stabiliser bar (front); live axle, leaf spring (rear)
Brakes: ventilated disc front/drum rear
Steering: hydraulic rack and pinion power steering
Tyres: Dunlop Grandtrek 265/65R17
Price: $61,690 (manual); $63,690 (auto)