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On-test: Toyota gives Hilux pickup a power hike

Toyota has updated its Hilux pickup with extra power and tech to be found on board. Alex Heath spent a day in the driving seat of the new models.

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Toyota’s Hilux has had a refresh with several changes increasing power and comfort.
Toyota’s Hilux has had a refresh with several changes increasing power and comfort.

While many pickup manufacturers are downsizing their engine capacities, Toyota is bucking the trend, slotting a 2.8-litre powerplant under the restyled hood of its new Hilux pickups. The extra capacity from the in-line four-cylinder block also goes against the manufacturer’s trend and for the first time, it can offer a truck with more than 175hp, a sector that occupies 70 per cent of pick up sales, with stiff competition from the likes of Nissan, Ford and VW. 

With an increased number of leisure buyers, the manufacturer’s arm has been twisted to offer more power, in addition to a more refined cabin and improved driving characteristics, which should also be welcomed by agricultural users.

 

While new to the Hilux, the 2.8-litre motor is not new to Toyota, having been fitted in its various vehicles sold in other parts of the world and more recently fitted to its Landcruiser models. It has, however, had some fettling to boost performance and economy while reducing emissions.

 

With an increase of 53hp and 100Nm of torque over the still present 2.4-litre engine, the 201hp engine is standard fitment on the top-spec Invincible X models, which we got to know in both auto and manual guises. All models have had a front-end facelift, with an aggressively styled grille and a bundle of extra tech thrown at them, but the entry level Active and mid-tier Icon remain with the smaller bore 148hp engine.

 

Performance from the larger engine is not just a step forward, it is a leap. With plenty of grunt, it shoots off the line, picking its heels up in a surprisingly spritely fashion, given its 2,340kg bulk. The auto sits at 2,000rpm when cruising at 70mph and a sedate 1,800rpm on B roads, contributing to the manufacturer’s claimed 28.5 to 30mpg. Idling rpm has also been improved, dropping from 850 to a lowly 680rpm.

 

However, the automatic transmission is its Achilles heel. With six gears, it lacks the refinement and choice of its competitors. First and second gears are a joy to use with oodles of low-down torque, ideal to maximise its 3,500kg tow rating. Getting from second to third is the issue, only changing up at 3,500rpm and sucking plenty of juice in the process. Once in third, cycling through to sixth is fast paced. The subtlest of nudges to the redesigned throttle pedal when in sixth gear, drops the transmission down a notch or two, releasing the 500Nm of torque.

 

Conversely, the manual transmission, again with six gears, is easy to fathom, with a well-proportioned range between the gears. Bite point on the clutch is just right and due to the low revving nature of the engine at idle, torque to the wheels is instant. Maximum torque for the manual transmission is de-rated to 420Nm, however, first gear is significantly lower in its gearing compared to the auto version, so pulling away fully laden should not be an issue.

Featuring a new 2.8-litre engine, the Hilux now boasts 201hp and 500Nm of torque.
Featuring a new 2.8-litre engine, the Hilux now boasts 201hp and 500Nm of torque.

Performance from the larger engine is not just a step forward, it is a leap. With plenty of grunt, it shoots off the line, picking its heels up in a surprisingly spritely fashion, given its 2,340kg bulk. The auto sits at 2,000rpm when cruising at 70mph and a sedate 1,800rpm on B roads, contributing to the manufacturer’s claimed 28.5 to 30mpg. Idling rpm has also been improved, dropping from 850 to a lowly 680rpm.

 

However, the automatic transmission is its Achilles heel. With six gears, it lacks the refinement and choice of its competitors. First and second gears are a joy to use with oodles of low-down torque, ideal to maximise its 3,500kg tow rating. Getting from second to third is the issue, only changing up at 3,500rpm and sucking plenty of juice in the process. Once in third, cycling through to sixth is fast paced. The subtlest of nudges to the redesigned throttle pedal when in sixth gear, drops the transmission down a notch or two, releasing the 500Nm of torque.

 

Conversely, the manual transmission, again with six gears, is easy to fathom, with a well-proportioned range between the gears. Bite point on the clutch is just right and due to the low revving nature of the engine at idle, torque to the wheels is instant. Maximum torque for the manual transmission is de-rated to 420Nm, however, first gear is significantly lower in its gearing compared to the auto version, so pulling away fully laden should not be an issue.

The interior remains much the same, but there is the addition of a new eight-inch infotainment touchscreen.
The interior remains much the same, but there is the addition of a new eight-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Inside, models from the Icon upwards feature a new eight-inch touchscreen, complete with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, protruding from the swish dash. The sat-nav system has also had an overhaul, while the JBL sound system packs an impressive audio punch.

 

The leather clad seats of the Invincible X spec are supportive and comfortable, have electric positioning controls, but no lumbar adjustment, while the steering wheel has good rake and reach adjustment. However, the steering wheel is littered with a grand total of 17 buttons to prod at, controlling all manner of functionality – an overwhelming number to the uninitiated driver. The cruise control is on the usual stubby stick, but in the four o’clock position – an unnatural location in our opinion.

 

A perennial issue with all pickups is ride quality when the load bed is empty. However, this time round, the manufacturer has tuned the leaf spring suspension differently, making sure the ride is right when the tonne-plus carrying capacity is not being used. A new self-lubricating rear bush has been added to reduce friction and binding as the suspension is working.

 

It has certainly made a difference to the ride and feel of the pickup, with ample cushioning of bumps and a less skittish feeling on the back-end. How the ride quality is affected when fully laden, we do not know as there was not the opportunity to put a tote bag of feed in, but the manufacturer says with leaf helper springs and the main leaf being six per cent longer there has been no drop in carrying capacity.

 

Also added to the rear axle is a limited slip differential, which kicks in automatically once a button low down on the centre console is activated. When a loss of grip is detected, it brakes the slipping wheel and directs drive torque to the opposite wheel that has traction. The effect is most apparent when travelling on heavily pitted tracks.

 

Externally, Invincible X models are treated to carbon grey accents, most notably on the wheel arches and the front grille, while 18-inch alloys are also fitted. LED lighting is standard fitment. Coinciding with the launch of the new pickup, a new colour, Titan Bronze has been added to the options list of the top spec model and could be a good choice if playing in mud a lot.


Verdict

Specs

  • Model: Toyota Hilux Invincible X
  • Engine: 2.8-litre, in-line four cylinder, 201hp at 3,000-3,400rpm, 500Nm at 1,600-2,800rpm
  • Performance: 109mph in 10.7seconds, 28.5-30mpg, 246-259g/km CO2 emissions
  • Towing capacity: 3,500kg
  • Load bed capacity: 1,010kg
  • Price: from £32,533 (£33,782.50 as tested)

The updated range from Toyota, while done with the weekend consumer and leisure buyer in mind, should prove a hit with those who need a high-spec working vehicle. This said, if you need the extra poke now given to the Hilux, there is no option but to go for one of the two top-spec offerings. The 2.8-litre engine is undoubtedly a powerful performer and brings the Japanese manufacturer’s offering for power and spec in line with its biggest competitors.

 

 

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