Suart Martin takes time out in the up-spec models of the HiLux.

The rich mix of dual-cab ute sales in Australia has prompted changes to the HiLux model line-up.

A trio of new ‘Halo’ models have been installed at the top of the range, in and around the long-serving SR5 flagship and the SR model on which they are based.

The Rogue and Rugged X use the SR5 as a foundation for the urban and off-road biased models, while those looking for more off-road aspects without as much of an asking price are offered the SR-based Rugged.

Toyota said the programme, three years in the making, responds to growing market demand for high-end workhorses. The Japanese giant also points out it is happy with the current HiLux drivetrain, but questions remain with new up-spec HSV SportCat (which has upgraded suspension and brakes) and Ford’s incoming Ranger Raptor, which boasts additional urge.

Toyota Australia vice-president of sales and marketing, Sean Hanley, said the company would look at any future opportunities in the performance LCV market.

“We’ll certainly look toward any product offerings that offer a performance car in the future. We have no plans to announce today whatsoever, but, if it was to become available, then Australia’s hand would be held high,” he said.

Mr. Hanley said the rich model mix encouraged the company to put the new models together, with targets of 6000 sales per year.

“We knew we needed the extra functionality to go to the next level. You couldn’t build this car up in the same way we have, with the quality, homologation, ADR approved and fully warranted. These are three new models in the HiLux range”.

“It’s demonstrating our local capability. We’re happy with the way it’s gone. We work out of a smaller facility, but we’ve taken much from our manufacturing to these new cars,” he said.

Other body styles have not yet been made available in the Rugged or Rogue variants, but if the market demands additional models then Toyota is both equipped for and open to it.

The HiLux Halo range retains the existing drivetrain – the 2.8-litre, 16-valve double overhead cam, intercooled turbodiesel with the variable-nozzle turbocharger producing 130 kW of power at 3400 rpm. Torque is 450 Nm between 1600 and 2400 rpm with the automatic and 420 Nm for a manual, available from between 1400 and 2600 rpm.

Importantly, for those who still use these vehicles as workhorses, the weights and capacities remain unchanged; only the extra heft of a bullbar on the Rugged’s nose has added an extra 207 kg, which has been accommodated for by uprated front springs. Fuel economy is largely unaltered as well, ranging from 7.9 to 8.6 l/100 km from the useful 80-litre tank.

Also unchanged is the original model’s five-star ANCAP rating, as well as its 3500 kg braked towing capacity of the manual, with the 3200 kg figure for the auto also per the existing range.

Service intervals sadly stay at six months or 10,000 km, and the warranty a three-year 100,000 km proposition.

The SR5-based $61,690 Rogue gets a well-sealed, hard tonneau cover for the lined (with marine-grade carpet) rear tray, which still gets four tie-down points and the functional sports-styled roll bar rated for a 75 kg vertical load.

The lockable body-coloured tonneau functions within the central locking system, but sadly that still does not extend to include the rear tailgate, perhaps rendering the locking tonneau somewhat redundant.

The Rogue is further dressed up by gloss-black mirror covers, door handles and rear tailgate handle fascia that also holds the (slightly-offset) reversing camera. It is only offered with a six-speed automatic transmission and sits on 18-inch alloys, with its more aggressive front grille and bumper treatment blunting the elongated nose of the rest of the HiLux range. The grey rear bumper has a larger step, which sits above the standard-fit tow bar set-up.

Inside the Rogue there’s a dark interior, with black perforated leather-trimmed seats, a black roof headliner, metallic trim additions and carpet floor mats front and rear. Traditional dials remain in the instrument binnacle, but it’s a new-look panel with a white background for the speed denominations and orange needles.

The maker maintains it is still more than capable of lugging a load and getting well away from the black top when required or desired. The Rugged is, as the name suggests, more tailored to off-road tastes. Based on the $46,560 SR, this $54,990 variant gets either a six-speed manual, or, for an extra $2000, gains an automatic with the same number of ratios. It sits on 17-inch alloy wheels with a new nose design, augmented by the standard fitment of a steel bullbar and a snorkel.
There’s also a steel rear bumper with step, coloured 8000 kg rear recovery points and a standard towing hitch, as well as side-step-equipped rock rails and side body trim additions.

The rear tray gets a similar sports bar in the open (but lined) rear tray, with four tie-down points, tailgate protection and a black tailgate handle with reversing camera.

In the cabin there’s still some of the more basic equipment on offer – the SR’s manual air conditioning remains – but the Rugged gets digital radio, satellite navigation, as well as front and rear rubber floor mats.

The new Rugged X starts from $61,690 and is based on the $54,440 SR5 double-cab, with a choice of a six-speed manual or the optional (at $2000) six-speed automatic transmission.

Features over and above the Rugged that appear on the Rugged X, which starts from a loftier SR5 foundation, include a heavy-duty steel front bumper bar and 5.0 mm-thick alloy bash plate with an integrated 120-watt LED light bar, LED driving lights, 8000 kg front recovery points, wheel arch mouldings, and black taillight surrounds.

Inside, the X model mirrors the Rogue’s interior upgrade, save for the rubber floor mats over carpet versions in the Rogue.

The new vehicles were sampled on and off-road in the mid-north of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, where even the road-biased Rogue was taken off the beaten track.

The styling changes have done little to detract from the off-road ability, even given the Rogue’s 265/60 road-biased rubber on its 18-inch alloys, which did sharpen up the ride quality a little more than is ideal.

The Rugged model is delivered with a less salubrious interior – manual air conditioning among the features downgrade from the Rogue or Rugged X Models – but the cabin is far from spartan and the ride quality from the 17-inch alloys clad with 265/65 rubber is a little more comfortable (in relative terms); the Bridgestone tyres too seem to be more compliant than the Dunlop equivalents.

Cruising in all the models is quiet for an LCV, from an engine and tyre noise perspective, with only some additional wind noise around the rear sports bar and the snorkel (where fitted). The fact that the bar in the tray is actually useful for a load, scores it points.

Adding strings to the bow of the top-selling vehicle in the country might seem like overkill, but the brand is not known for relinquishing pressure on its opposition – this is more evidence of that fact.

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