Toyota sharpens up its HiLux range in the hope of maintaining market leadership
There’s no doubting the past successes of the HiLux as it provided the staple diet of ute and cab/chassis alternatives for countless numbers of Australian tradies. In some months, not only was it the leading performer in the ute segment, it also held its own as the top-selling vehicle of any category.
With competition getting fiercer every year, only time will tell whether the strength of the Toyota dealer network and some major rework completed to the HiLux brand will be sufficient to maintain that edge in the sales statistics.
The 2015 HiLux comes into the challenge with 31 different models, 21 of which can claim to carry a genuine 1000 kg payload. Like the majority of its competition, HiLux is now offering single-cab, space-cab and dual-cab versions, powered by a new family of turbo-diesel engines of 2.4 and 2.8 litres.
The downsizing of diesel engine cubic capacity results from engine manufacturers striving to match lower Euro 5 level emissions, but buyers needn’t worry that smaller combustion chambers result in reduced power and torque. According to a Toyota spokesperson, the 2.8-litre diesel engine produces 25 percent more torque than the outgoing 3.0-litre, with 450 Nm, while the 2.4-litre diesel in 4x4s generates an acceptable 400 Nm figure (cut back to 343 Nm in 4×2 versions).
The 4×2 Workmate kicks off the range with a price of $20,990, including for the first time air conditioning as standard fitment, suggesting that Toyota has finally realised the importance of looking after good workers. That said, the company presumably believes the driver of the SR5 manual version is incapable of making smooth gear shifts without electronic intervention, adding what it calls an “Intelligent” function that matches engine speed to road speed for a smoother ratio change.
Following the suspension advances of its competitors, Toyota has extended the rear leaf springs by 100 mm, also widening the leaf pack, and revised the rear mounting point forward by 100 mm and lower by 25 mm.
Suspension performance hinges on the torsional rigidity of the chassis, and the 2015 HiLux claims to have increased chassis rigidity by 20 percent, adding 30 mm extra thickness to side rails and cross members. The tub is stronger with a revised deck structure that incorporates extra ribbing and reinforcements, plus a reinforced header board, thicker outer panels and steel-plate brackets on tailgate struts.
HiLux’s more rigid body makes greater use of high-tensile and galvanised steel while the upper body has 45 percent more welds.
There’s a large question mark hanging over the HiLux that suggests Toyota product planners have aimed for looks rather than substance by offering three 4×2 versions as a Hi-Rider configuration, matching the ride height of 4×4 models. Disregarding the supposedly tougher stance that raising the ride height achieves in the appearance to bolster the mindset of prospective customers that it can go anywhere, the reality is that ride comfort and stability suffers because the centre of gravity rises, along with the tray deck height that makes loading more inconvenient.
The two four-cylinder diesels, 2.4-litre and 2.8-litre, feature variable-nozzle turbocharging plus an intercooler and exhaust gas recirculation with a diesel particulate filter to hit Euro 5 targets. Injection pressures through solenoid-operated injectors are now running at 2500 bar. Transmission options are now upgraded to six-speed manual and six-speed automatic alternatives, but those shifting gears manually will find the torque output cut back to 420 Nm, from the 450 Nm obtained with the six-speed automatic.
Where petrol power still ranks in importance, HiLux is offering a choice of two engines – a redesigned four-cylinder 2.7-litre and the established V6. Maximum power for the 2.7-litre is 122 kW at 5,200 rpm with peak torque of 245 Nm at 4,000 rpm. The 4.0-litre V6 produces 175 kW at 5200 rpm and 376 Nm at 3800 rpm.
Transmission options for the four-cylinder petrol engine are a six-speed automatic or a five-speed manual, producing a fuel consumption figure of 10.4 l/100 km with the automatic. Buyers of the V6 are limited to the six-speed auto only and will be looking at fuel consumption figures of 11.5 or 12 l/100 km (4×2 or 4×4), rising to 16 l/100 km around the city.
In the ever-increasing safety performance stakes, HiLux has already been classified as ranking with a five-star ANCAP crash safety performance, with seven airbags in each model. A reversing camera is standard on all utes, optional of trays.
Active safety features include vehicle stability control, active traction control, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, and trailer sway control. Hill start assist is also included, and an electrically operated rear differential lock is standard on 4×4 SR and SR5 grades. The braking system remains disc front and drum rear.
Drivers interested in towing trailers or caravans will need to check the maximum rated towing ability of each specific model as there is a variation between models from 2500 kg, through 3200 kg, to a maximum of 3500 kg that’s limited to the 2.7-litre, 1GD diesel with manual transmission only.
Delivery will be completing a full evaluation as selected models become available, with all versions being tested on our comparison route in unladen and laden form.