New Hilux taken through its paces

2015 Toyota HiLux 4x4 SR5 double cab

New frame delivers significantly improved strength and rigidity.

Normally it is sports cars that get everybody talking, but the pending arrival of Toyota’s all new Hilux in South Africa is probably one of the most anticipated events of 2016.

Although the new Hilux will be launched locally at the end of February, Toyota SA took a small group of motoring journalists to Argentina to not only get a taste of the world’s toughest rally, the Dakar, but also give us a pre-launch drive in their new offering.

This report is a basic introduction and first impression of the new Hilux, because I don’t want to make this a Ford Ranger versus Toyota Hilux story as we will drive the bakkie again in February and then road test one shortly thereafter for direct comparisons.

But you can’t simply ignore the sales war the Ranger has brought to the Best-Selling-Vehicle-in-SA Hilux party. As much as credit must be given to Ford for its challenge, it is worth noting that they are competing with a much newer product against a bakkie that is about 10 years, old.

2015 Toyota HiLux 4x4 SR5 double cab

2015 Toyota HiLux 4×4 SR5 double cab

And if you shop around, there are some massive discounts to be had on the fairly large number of brand-new previous generation Rangers out there – and this also bolsters Ford’s sales figures.

So the right thing to do is talk in six months’ time when the new Hilux is well and truly up and running through the dealer network. This will paint a more accurate picture of where everybody lies in the quest to be number one on the sales chart.

But if Toyota’s pre-order sales book for the new Hilux is anything to go by, the competition are in for a tough time. But what is the new Hilux all about?

The legacy of Hilux is well known. Since its introduction in 1969, the model has etched an enviable reputation for itself across various global markets where durability, strength and outright quality has entrenched the product in the hearts of its owners.

Improving on this legacy was never going to be easy and the Toyota engineering and design teams realised they would need to create a vehicle which not only built upon the iconic reputation of its predecessors, but would also cater for the increasing demands of modern customers.

Within the light commercial vehicle market (LCV), or bakkie market as it is known in SA, customers no longer only expect toughness and durability from their bakkie, but are placing much greater emphasis on comfort, convenience and design.

The development concept for the new Hilux therefore focused on creating a vehicle that is tougher than ever before, while at the same time exceeding customer’s expectations and redefining the bakkie.

2015 Toyota HiLux 4x4 SR5 double cab

2015 Toyota HiLux 4×4 SR5 double cab

Underpinning the new model is an all-new frame, which delivers significantly improved strength and rigidity. The use of high tensile steel, thicker cross-members and increased cross sections contribute to superior handling, ride comfort and safety levels.

Noise and vibration levels are also reduced, contributing to a quieter and more refined driving experience. I can say undoubtedly that the new Hilux is better in all those areas, with a more SUV-car-like ride that is going to impress anybody who drives one.

As part of the design brief, the new Hilux had to also offer improved off-road capability – and that would be no easy feat, considering the current model’s already legendary status and exceptional capabilities.

I never got to test the claimed hardcore off-road capabilities, but I did spend enough time on dirt roads, that varied from smooth to crater ridden paths, to the most slippery mud to be able to say this bakkie is as good off-road as it is on-road.

Powering the new Hilux will be a range of newly developed engines, which offer improved power output, efficiency and refinement. As before, a variety of petrol and diesel engines will be available, with each variant specifically tuned to compliment the application.

The new “Global Diesel” (GD) series was developed from the ground up and features a number of advancements. The GD series engines place strong emphasis on torque output and low speed tractability – a trait shared by both the 2.4 and 2.8 litre variants.

The GD series engines will be available in three different variants, starting with a 2.4 litre version, offering 110kW and 343Nm. A higher output variant of the 2.4 will also be on offer, delivering the same peak power but an increased torque output of 400Nm.

Serving as the diesel flagship, the 2.8 litre GD will offer buyers a proper 130kW and 420Nm in manual guise and an automatic transmission version – the one we drove in Argentina. The 450Nm provides effortless motoring, regardless of the conditions faced.

Three petrol engines will be on offer: a 2.0 litre four-cylinder unit employing VVTi with 100kW and 182Nm, supplemented by a revised version of the familiar 2.7 litre VVTi engine, delivering 122kW and 245Nm with a claim of much improved fuel economy; and completing the line-up the ever trusty 4.0 litre V6, delivering a decent 175kW and 376Nm.

Forming the link between the advanced new engines and the driven wheels are all-new slick five- and six-speed transmissions. Workhorse models will be equipped with a rugged five-speed manual transmission, with higher grade models receiving an option of either a six-speed manual or sixspeed automatic transmission.

An electric 4WD change-over switch replaces the previously employed “second gear-lever” to allow the driver to conveniently switch between 2WD, 4WD-Low and 4WD-High modes.

2015 Toyota HiLux 4x4 SR double cab

2015 Toyota HiLux 4×4 SR double cab

The interior design of the Hilux is something you would not have seen in a Hilux before and is on par with the best on offer out there.

The same design ethos of tough and advanced was used to create an interior that combines ruggedness and practicality with innovation and design. Flowing metallic trim, which runs across the dashboard, creates a sense of style and refinement.

The overall execution of the interior is that of high quality, innovative design and user-friendliness. Comfort and convenience were strong influencers in the interior design and, as such, the Hilux is equipped with many storage areas and features to improve usability.

The new Hilux will offer a comprehensive spec level, with some features being a world-first for the segment, along with a strong focus on safety specification, such as a driver airbag, ABS, Brake Assist and an anti-theft system as standard across all grades.

Double-cab models will additionally be fitted with Isofix and three-point rear seatbelts for enhanced occupant safety. Convenience specification is also ample with remote central locking, auto-door lock and power windows being fitted throughout.

Mid-grade models will be generously equipped with tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, multi information display, a 12- volt power outlet, steering switches and USB and auxiliary inputs forming part of the standard specification.

High-grade models will feature exclusive exterior trim, metallic interior accents and a comprehensive list of comfort and convenience specifications. A complete safety suite with both active and passive safety features, including driver knee airbags and trailer sway control, will form part of the high-grade package.

Buyers will have a choice between three body-shapes, four specification grades and five engine configurations, with each being tailored to the specific requirements of the user’s application and usage.

Toyota fans will be waiting… but if you are going to be bakkie shopping in the next few months, don’t make any decisions until you have driven the new Hilux.

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