The steep hill would make for a thrilling log flume ride were this an amusement park. Yet it’s not; it’s a rural road leading to a small community in the Kotmale area. Barely wider than our test Hilux and flanked by rough foliage on either side, we don’t know what lies beyond its scraggy edges or how deep the drop between road and soil is. Ideal territory then, to test the electronics aboard what has been billed as Toyota’s most advanced Hilux to date.
The Hilux has its roots with commercial vehicle manufacturer Hino Motors, who joined hands with Toyota to launch the first Hilux fifty one years ago in 1968 (built by Hino Motors). The name as suggests is a portmanteau of High and Luxury which were generous terms back then; this was a 77bhp commercial vehicle, rear-wheel-drive, and sans many of the convenience features that even the Tata Nano offers. It wasn’t until the third generation in 1978 that four-wheel-drive and a 3-speed auto were offered.
Today’s Hilux is built by Toyota Motors Thailand (no, you can’t get a Hilux “made in Japan” now) and packs the latest 2.8L common-rail turbodiesel engine which puts out exactly 100bhp more than 1968’s Hilux did. It offers an off-roading package which is almost what you’d expect on the full-fat Land Cruiser.
The test vehicle belongs to my brother-in-law Thalib Imtiaz who had already clocked up 5,000km after just a month of use (at the time of testing) so it was well run-in and ready to be spared no mercy.
Designed by Hiroji Nakajima, this is probably one of the best looking pick-up trucks (in my opinion) you can get in the 2018/2019 model year in Sri Lanka. It looks sharp, imposing at the front with those glaring projector lamps, while the side profile sees a slight downward slope when looking from rear-to-front – no doubt this is because the load bed is empty. Personally I am not a fan of the previous-gen Vigo 1½ cab. A pickup truck should be single or double cab. The side profile is simple with no creases and curves and so is the rear; functional. The colour (code 4R8) is probably one of the first if not the first to come to Sri Lanka; most Hilux buyers settle for what is on the lot which is not likely to be exciting but my BIL personally selected the colour and spec and waited weeks for the vehicle to come to our shores.
Toyota have given this Hilux a larger helping of chrome, most obvious on the grille and bumpers, but still placed black plastic on the places where you are most likely to use to climb up, or scrape things against while loading them. The 18-inch wheels are a smart double-spoke design and come wrapped in 265/60 profile tyres – no rubber bands here.
Mech & Tech
Why five stars? Because pick-up trucks are meant to be commercial vehicles, not packing surprises like Toyota’s 1GD-FTV variable-geometry turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder diesel, outputting 177bhp and 450Nm of torque, revving up to 4,600rpm and driving the rear or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic with tiptronic, eco and power modes. Nor should they have electronically selected 2H/4H/4L with auto hub locking and button-actuated diff locks. Commercial vehicle, for God’s sake!
The suspension is more commercial, independent double wishbone up front but a semi-dependent leaf and live axle set-up at the rear that rides better when the bed has some load. Braking is via ventilated disk at the front and drum at the rear. Steering is a rack-and-pinion set-up. The platform is the IMV platform that underpins the Innova and Fortuner too.
It’s a climb to the cabin where the grab handles and side steps help. Once settled, an electric seat offers plenty of adjustment and you can clearly see the height of the vehicle, plus the bonnet is visible too. Thumb the start button and there’s no mistaking the engine’s preferred drink. On a recent Land Cruiser feature which the Hilux accompanied to perform camera duties, it was jokingly asked if this was an Isuzu engine under the hood.
The interior looks much more up-market that before. The gearshift surround in particular would not look out of place in a high-end Toyota or mid-range Lexus. The handbrake is the traditional type which is preferred by off-road enthusiasts which is why even the relatively luxurious 200 series has retained it in favour of the electronic or foot-pedal type.
Get moving, give it some throttle and this is no typical Jap diesel engine! A decent prod sees it rev all the way to 4,000rpm before the six-speeder decides to call the next cog in line. Switch into PWR mode and it holds the revs even at 3,000 when it feels you are going to overtake someone. Use the manual mode and it will let you rev it out to 4,600rpm before calling an upshift. Of course there is noticeable noise outside, but the 177bhp means that you will be moving pretty well too, way better than the rice-boys with fart cannons…
As we make our way along the road mentioned at the start of the article, I don’t hear too many complaints from my rear seat passengers, which includes my wife. At the aforementioned hill I enabled the Hill Descent Control and with feet clear of any pedals, we crawled down at 10km/h. Of course if you lose your marbles and want to stop, just press the brake normally, or give it a tap to decrease the set speed. A tap on the gas increases it.
Next up, the winding roads that lead to the Kotmale dam and beyond. The engine’s torque means that light work can be made of overtaking dawdling lorries and wayward trishaws before reaching the next bend where a decent bout of braking and adopting the traditional “slow in, fast out” approach means you have sling-shotted out ready to tackle the next straight. Rinse and repeat. Of course your passengers will be less amused and you may even get a mild “tokka” from your better half. The live axle set-up means the Hilux’ rear fidgets from side-to-side on undulating roads and jostles the rear seat occupants around.
A few weeks later, we have to attend a wedding in Negombo via the E03 and I take the wheel. At 100km/h the Hilux just floats on the smooth tarmac, only interrupted rudely by expansion joints and random undulations that make themselves felt – live axle, remember! The engine spins quietly at around 1800rpm. Enable the cruise control and it holds the speed relatively tightly. I did detect a bit of “hunting”, as the transmission couldn’t decide between fifth and sixth at times. Cruise Control will use up more fuel, and it goes without saying you should never use it in the rain. Then again, you shouldn’t be driving on our highways at 100km/h in the rain to begin with. 60km/h is better when the heavens open up.
This is a large vehicle, especially if you are used to driving a car and the turning circle is much lower. U-turns that you can easily take in a car will turn into a three-point turn in the Hilux, but if there is a kerb you can climb it instead (watch out for pedestrians though, and remember that they have the right of way on kerbs!) Parallel parking, well, unless you have a large space don’t even think about it. At 5.3m in length, it will be difficult. My BIL had taken the Hilux to Colombo City Centre a few weeks after the test and found it difficult to find an appropriately sized space. Thankfully the reverse camera offers a clear view behind to avoid running over anything behind, like a pet, small child or scooter…
Living with it
The latest Hilux cabin is a nice place to be. While the Japs have embraced black as the new brown (including the black leather seats), there are some silver accents and vent surrounds to lighten it up a tad. Thank God the tacky wood trim from the previous gen is gone. You get digital climate control with rear AC vents, electric driver seat, electric mirrors and windows, the aforementioned off-road toys and a prominent digital clock splitting the centre AC vents. You also get two 12V 120W power sockets.
The head unit is an aftermarket Pioneer one that my BIL requested in place of the stock unit. It offers Bluetooth, DVD and USB features among others and drives through the stock six speakers with good sound quality.
The instrument panel is very clear and simple, with the info display between the gauges. This is controlled by the steering wheel buttons on the right-hand spoke, which can get a tad confusing at first but you will quickly get the hang of it. The left-hand spoke controls the audio system and telephone functions while the cruise control stalk hides at the four-o-clock position on the steering column. It’s not lit, though, and can be difficult to see in the night until you get used to operating it by feel.
You get plenty of oddment spaces including the centre console box, glove box and ample door bins, plus mega-sized cup holders. I was pleasantly surprised at how car-like the rear seats were, my thighs able to comfortably rest on the seat instead of being forced at an upward angle, my knees were not kissing my chin and my feet rested comfortably beneath the front seat. Toyota has worked on making the rear seat more car-like and it shows.
Boot space, well, It’s a pickup truck. That means unless you fit an aftermarket bed cover, any luggage placed there will be exposed to the elements and be “free for all” pickings to passers-by, so consider this avenue if you are buying a Hilux as your primary conveyance.
The Hilux scores a five-star rating in ANCAP (the Australian new car assessment programme) and has six airbags, ABS/EBD, ISOFIX mountings, high-mount stop lamp and the prerequisite crash-absorbing structures.
Fuel Economy & Price
I kid you not, the average fuel economy my BIL has gotten so far with it is around 10km/l. When pushing it hard I saw around 6km/l on the instant readout while a normal drive easily saw 12km/l. The highway run saw around 15km/l (cruise control off). With a 90L fuel tank you could easily drive around the pearl without a fuel stop if you were really careful.
The price at time of testing was Rs. 10.8 million without a permit which puts it in an interesting bracket, given the kit you get for it. There is plenty of competition around, from Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Ford. Ford’s Ranger Raptor is another interesting option which we haven’t got our hands on yet, but hear it packs a punch too!
The Hilux has come a long way since 1968 and it seems fitting that on its 50th birthday (the vehicle was tested in December 2018), it has gotten more technological, capable and comfortable. As the hosts of a motoring show provided some years ago, it’s quite difficult to destroy a Hilux – be it drowning in the sea, trial by fire, wrecking ball or even demolition with a building. Of course that Hilux was much more basic, but it just goes to show how the vehicle is built to take a lot of abuse.
Being a Toyota the latest iteration can be expected to continue this rock-solid ethos – albeit I wouldn’t recommend drowning or trial by fire given the level of electronics and plush interior. So give Toyota Lanka a visit if a Hilux is on your purchase list.
177bhp @ 3,400rpm
450Nm @ 1,600-2,400rpm
Six speed automatic
Front Double Wishbone
Rear Leaf Spring
Front Ventilated Disc
Wheels & Tyres
265/60R18 all round
Kerb Weight 2,080kg
Fuel Tank 80L