The Toyota Hilux - Still The King Of Pickup Trucks?
Is the Hilux the toughest pick-up out there?
By Phil Bradley
The Toyota Hilux is 53 years old. It was first introduced with a 76BHP, 1.5L engine in March 1968. Now, 18 million models later, the established pickup is now in it's 8th Generation and thanks to a well known British motoring series, the Hilux has known as indestructible. Toyota have a tremendous reputation for dependability, but is this latest generation still the king of the pickup trucks?
I was fortunate enough to be given the keys to the Invincible X model, finished in an admirable Titan Bronze colour. The latest variant gets a 2.8L diesel engine, which produces 204BHP and 500NM of torque. At 3.2 tonnes, this engine produces a 0-62MPH time of 10.7 seconds and a top speed of 108MPH. It's not the quickest pickup on the market, but that isn't what the Hilux was built for.
At first glance, the truck is huge. Being 5.3M long, 1.9M wide and 1.8M tall, it makes everyday driving more challenging and doesn't fit into a regular parking space too easily, although the reversing camera certainly helped! Even the 18 inch, gloss black wheels look small in the wheel arches. You can however load over a tonne of cargo into the rear bed, and it has a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes. This makes it eligible for fixed benefit in kind (BIK) tax rates, meaning that company car owners pay less to use the pickup for personal reasons. It's for this reason that pickup trucks are not just a vehicle we see on building sites and farmlands anymore, but a regular sight on the road too. This is why the pickup truck market is becoming quite crowded, with rivals such as the Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok to name just a few.
The 8th generation Hilux has been made to look so much more aggressive than it's predecessor. The five-seater, double cabbed truck gets a sharper front end, with narrower headlights and muscular lines along the bonnet. The front bumper gets black fascia, that give a similar impression to having bull bars installed on the front of the truck. The muscular look is continued to the side of the Hilux, with black side steps, and the same black fascia extending the wheel arches. At the rear, the tail lights have been updated with a 3D finish, and the tailgate gets split up with more of the black fascia surrounding the handle. The loading bed gets a huge Toyota badge at the rear, which I thought was a nice touch. Based on exterior visuals alone, the Hilux certainly continues its bombproof reputation.
The Invincible X specification adds benefits to the interior, with the JBL sounds system, touch screen navigation and power-assisted, adjustable seats. If you've read some of my other reviews, you'll know I am not a big fan of touch-screen infotainment systems. The Hilux had a mix of both, using a touch screen, without getting rid of the buttons around the edge. Beneath this, are the digital air-conditioning controls, plus controls for the heated seats and the off-road drive switches. The dashboard is wrapped with a brushed steel trim, which complimented the rest of the interior well. The leather seats are a step up on the previous generation and overall the interior closely resembles that of a family SUV, an improvement on the rugged pickup interiors of the past. There are rivals on the market that offer a more upmarket and exciting interior, but I felt the Hilux had a good mix of offering comfort, but still able handle day-to-day working use, being well suited for the job of ferrying mudded up farmers as much as being suited to transporting a family of four.
I loved the driving position in the pickup. Being higher off the ground, it offers excellent visibility, although it's rather strange being eye-to-eye with lorry drivers at traffic lights. The engine and the 500NM of torque offer excellent pulling power, however when accelerating hard, the engine sounds rather agricultural and revs uncomfortably high before the 6-speed automatic gearbox changes gear. The Hilux gets three driving modes Normal, Eco and Power mode. Eco keeps the revs lower, in an aim to decrease your fuel consumption, where as Power Mode is understandably more responsive, although makes the engine work harder to a point where it sounds like you're harming it. At higher speeds in Power Mode, there is plenty of body roll and tyre squeal, but you can expect this from a 3.2 tonne truck. The front suspension is now double wishbone, whilst the back remains leaf sprung. With the rear being designed to carry such heavy loads, the suspension is much stiffer, resulting in a more harsh ride on the road.
Having said this, there was never a point where I felt the Hilux couldn't handle what I was demanding from it. Due to insurance reasons and Covid-19 restrictions, I was unable to properly test the pickup off road, which meant soft gravel tracks had to be the next best thing. Again, in this environment, the Hilux conquered the terrain, with my only criticism being that it comes with road tyres as standard. If you're planning on using the vehicle off-road regularly, I would recommend switching to some off-road tyres. Despite not being able to test the off-road capabilities properly, the pickup had plenty of technology to assist off-road driving. From your standard 2WD and 4WD switches to differential lock, hill descent control and a nifty feature that shows you the position of the front wheels when you are within close proximity of an object on the road, great for negotiating around rocks! The Hilux has 60mm more ground clearance than the likes of the Ford Ranger, meaning it can tackle rocky surfaces with ease. Once again, off the road, the pickup lives up to it's specification - Invincible.
In summary, the Toyota Hilux is a welcome contender to the pickup truck segment. Once you get used to the sheer size of it (and it sticking out of regular parking spaces), it's enjoyable to drive. The driving position offers excellent visibility and when behind the wheel, the pickup feels strong, rugged and tough, exactly what the Hilux has been designed for. When compared to competing pickup trucks, it's probably not the best looking, has the most exciting interior or be the fastest on the market, but the Hilux is built to last. It's competitors may offer more gizmos too, but Toyota have kept it simple.
The more I drove this pickup, the more I realised that Toyota have built a vehicle that is designed to continue the reputation of the Hilux. The engine may not make the best sound and it revs too high in my opinion, but I could almost guarantee that this pickup will go for many more years than some of it's competitors. To answer the question I asked in the title of this review, is it still the King Of Pickups? It entirely depends what you're looking for, but if you're looking for dependability and ruggedness, then the Hilux is certainly a contender for that title.