2017 Toyota SR5 HiLux Road Test
Review by STEANE KLOSE
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What you are looking at right here is the bestselling 4X4 in Australia in 2016. Not only did Toyota’s HiLux 4X4 outsell all competitors, the top spec SR5 was the choice of around 60 per-cent of HiLux 4X4 buyers.
The growing interest in 4X4 double cab utes has mirrored their evolution from cramped, basic, truck-like work vehicles to spacious, car-like recreational vehicles boasting 5-star safety ratings and the latest infotainment systems.
And while I’m more than happy with a manual crank to wind a window up and down, air-conditioning courtesy of a bulkhead vent that lets in fresh air (along with the occasional insect) and vinyl seats, most of you aren’t. Buying a 4X4 ute no longer involves much in the way of compromise, a fact that goes a long way to explaining the explosion of interest in top-spec 4X4 utes like the SR5 HiLux and the Ford Ranger Wildtrack.
It would seem we’ve all gone a bit soft…
THIS IS THE 8th GENERATION HILUX WHICH WAS LAUNCHED IN AUSTRALIA IN SEPTEMBER 2015.
The 4X4 SR5 HiLux diesel is a double cab ute and is available with a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. If you prefer petrol power, the SR5 is also available with a 4.0-litre petrol V6 and 6-speed auto (no manual).
The diesel powered SR5 features Toyota’s latest 1GD-FTV 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine with 130kW and 420Nm (450Nm if you spec the auto). It’s Euro 5 compliant, which means a diesel particulate filter is fitted and Toyota claims a combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.5 L/100 – we averaged 8.3 L/100 on test, which included half a day of low-range off-roading.
On-road the HiLux is rear wheel drive only, with traction control and electronic stability control assisting the driver in less than ideal conditions.
All variants of the SR5 HiLux use the 4X4 drivetrain seen in the rest of the HiLux 4X4 range, which means electronically selectable high and low range 4WD via a dual range transfer case. A rear diff lock is standard in the SR5.
Wheels are 18 x 7.5 alloys with highway biased 265/60 R18 tyres and the full-sized spare is located under the ute bed behind the rear axle.
The SR5 HiLux now comes with a genuine Toyota towbar (Toyota increased the pricing by $400 to allow for this) and is rated to tow 3500kg (braked) and has a payload of 925kg.
It’s safe as well and boasts a 5-star ANCAP rating thanks in part to a slew of safety features that includes; electronic stability control, traction control, trailer sway control, hill descent control, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution and seven airbags, although it misses out on the more expensive Ranger Wildtrack’s lane departure technology.
Toyota has crafted a very nice interior. It’s simple, attractive and the quality is a notch above the competition both in the way it’s put together and the materials used. The only noticeably jarring aspect (you get used to it quickly) is the iPad like infotainment screen that is mounted in the centre of the dash. It looks like an afterthought but is okay to use – if a little difficult to adjust by touch on the move. Thankfully the SR5’s steering wheel controls remove some of that frustration.
That iPad like screen controls the 6-speaker stereo, GPS navigation and will even allow you to connect to the internet via a paired device. We didn’t try it though, we were far more interested in the air-conditioned glove-box compartment – a cool refreshing drink will always trump connectivity at Loaded4X4.
(A full list of features follows below.)
2017 SR-5 HiLux 4X4 recommended retail pricing (price includes GST but excludes on-road and dealer costs):
SR-5 HiLux 4X4: (auto): $56,390
SR-5 HiLux 4X4: (man): $54,390; $56,390 with SR5+ premium interior (as tested)
COMPETITOR PRICE COMPARISON:
Holden Colorado Z71: (auto): $57,190; (man): $54,990
Ford Ranger Wildtrack: (auto): $61,790; (man): $59,590
Mitsubishi Triton MQ Exceed: (auto): $48,000; (man): N/A
Mazda BT-50 XTR: (auto): $51,700; (man): $49,700
Volkswagen Amarok TDI420 Highline: (auto): $56,990; (man): N/A
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU STUFF TWO BLOKES WHO’VE SWORN THEY’D NEVER BUY A TOYOTA (DAVID OWNS A D-MAX AND I DRIVE A DEFENDER – YEP NUFF SAID) INTO TOYOTA’S BEST SELLING SR5 HILUX?
Well…these two clowns (David Wilson and myself) came away from a morning out at Adventure 4WD’s test track in the Barossa emotionally bruised. How the hell were we going to tell our mates that we ahem…REALLY liked the HiLux?
But let’s back-track for a moment and look at how the HiLux behaves on the bitumen. The first thing you’ll notice is that the seats are rippers and that the steering is adjustable for rake and reach, which is not the norm in this type of vehicle, thus dialling-in just the right driving position is a cinch. The steering wheel is a leather clad, chunky Euro arrangement and while that all sounds a little risqué, it’s a nice thing to wrap your mitts around.
The SR5 comes with a proximity key and the increasingly more common starter button. David hates them; too many electricity wires and what do you do when the bugger refuses to work half way across a desert? I don’t mind them, but they are one of those features that are an answer to a question that you never asked – a key still does the job just as well.
Firing-up the 1GD reveals a modicum of your typical diesel clatter at idle but that doesn’t mean you are about to be served up a typical Japanese diesel experience. Compared to the old 3.0 D4D – and most other Japanese diesels – the 1GD likes to rev. It’s redline is all diesel (4400rpm) but it gets there quickly, smoothly and quietly. There are even occasions when it could be possible to mistake the 1GD for a petrol engine, such is its behaviour between gears once on the move. Don’t laugh, I once spent 2 hours as a passenger in a Skoda Octavia RS diesel (it said so on the badge) piloted by another journo who thought right to the end of the drive that he was driving a petrol-powered RS; you’d have thought the redline – or the badge – would have given it away eh? The 1GD isn’t quite that refined, but it’s a big step forward and leaves the old 3.0 for dead.
Toyota put a lot of work into developing the SR5’s 6-speed manual gearbox with its iMT (intelligent manual transmission) functionality and the result is impressive. It’s a nice gearbox to row and the downshift rev matching – if you aren’t too quick for it – really works in smoothing out changes the lazy way, and we like lazy. My only complaint is that you must turn iMT on each time you start the Lux and I’d have preferred to turn it off if I decided for some reason I didn’t want perfect down-changes and let’s be honest here, we all have days when we like to rough it.
The other interesting feature was the power button, which when pushed changes the sensitivity of the throttle – the result is one that can mess with your head a bit. It feels like the engine has picked up an extra 50kW, when in fact all that is really happening is that your foot’s interaction with the accelerator is being amplified. Regardless of how it works, it adds some serious zing to the driving experience, although after the first day of the loan I couldn’t be arsed pushing the button to turn it on.
Combine what is a very inviting engine and gearbox combination with a frisky chassis (for a ute) and this is one 4X4 that you will feel like punting – just a bit – on a nice stretch of road. We took it down a section of Adelaide’s famous Gorge Road, known for its wonderful flowing and often rather tight curves and found that the Lux turns in beautifully, sits flat and never feels like it’s out of its comfort zone at legal speeds. Sure, you could push past its comfort zone by being silly, but the fact is it was fun to drive, which goes to show you just how far these 4X4 utes have evolved in recent times.
If I had one complaint to make about the SR5’s on-road manners it would be the suspension tune, but it’s a hard one to pin down precisely. It’ll roll over manhole covers and decent sized bumps or pot-holes and soak them up beautifully, better than a cart sprung ute has any right to, but smaller aberrations in the road surface can reveal a less appealing ride characteristic that I would politely describe as being ‘unresolved’ – that’s French for rough – and a little uncomfortable. Only happened on certain surfaces and was largely but not completely cured by dropping the tyre pressures from 34psi to 29psi, per Toyota’s recommendation on the tyre placard. Nothing a load in the tray wouldn’t fix I suspect, but from memory (it’s a crap memory) the Ranger has a better sorted un-laden ride.
Which raises an important point; plenty of journos will bang-on about a vehicle’s poor ride, but they’d never think to check the tyre placard and let some air out. Being off-roaders you and I both know just how important it is to run correct tyre pressures and how often those pressures are a lot less than we’ve been led to believe is ‘normal’. Check the tyre placard and do what it says.
Now for the good stuff – off-road. We headed out to David’s Adventure 4WD test track in the Barossa, put the clutch in, selected low range, waited for the ‘clunk’ and hit the track…slowly.
Oh, and we ran with the 29psi we had in the tyres because – you guessed it – we were too lazy to let any air out. We also wanted to test the SR5 and one way to do that was to make traction harder to come by. Dropping down to 20psi would have provided noticeably more grip and we weren’t interested in making it too easy for the Lux.
Our first impression was that rear suspension flex was improved significantly over the previous model, which fits with Toyota’s claim that rear-wheel articulation was improved by fitting 100mm longer leaf springs 50mm further apart.
Throttle control in low-range is excellent, negating the need to brace your foot against the side of the floor-pan. The SR5’s low range gearing was spot on (for the test track) and clever electronics allowed it to crawl at idle speed in low range first and second up some impressively steep inclines without requiring encouragement from the driver’s right foot.
Front and rear overhangs seem to be improved and there was only one erosion gully bank that kissed the front bumper (see below). It might look like it has a large overbite but there is more than reasonable clearance for ‘sub-extreme’ off-roading.
We then pointed the HiLux at a tricky sandy hill-climb that puts articulation and grip to the test. With low-range engaged and relying just on the SR5’s traction control we took a few slow-speed runs at the hill and made it up the third time; two attempts to get a feel for the traction control system and then up and over on the third. Toyota has obviously revamped the HiLux’s traction control and it now performs much like it does in Prado and Cruiser, kicking in smoothly at about 1200rpm.
It should be noted at this point that in David’s extensive experience very few 4X4 utes make it up this section of the track relying just on traction control. The HiLux punched it running highway terrain tyres and higher than ideal pressures.
We then attempted the same section of track with the diff-lock engaged (traction control off by default) and the SR5 nosed into each offset depression and clawed its way to the top with barely a hint of wheel spin. Yep, the old-fashioned locking diff still sets the standard off-road.
While I described aspects of the SR5’s on-road ride as unresolved, it’s off-road ride was well controlled and mostly comfortable; surprisingly it rode over ruts and washouts noticeably better than the 79 Series ute we also had on the day (the 79 was smoother on the bitumen). It proved to be a comfortable place to spend a half day rocking and rolling off-road.
David noticed some improvements under the front of the HiLux that he’ll possibly expand on in a subsequent article, suffice to say some thought has gone into improving clearance on the Gen 8 HiLux to avoid hanging up the front end.
Serious off-roaders will need to look closely at the diff and gearbox breathers. The rear diff is the one-way valve type and that’s potentially the case with the transmission, transfer case and front diff. I’ve seen these valves on other makes do not a whole lot and fill transmissions with water. Extended breathers would be the ticket.
The other possible area of concern for tourers or off-roaders is the wiring that runs over the top of the rear diff – we suspect it’s the ABS and TC wiring – which looks like it could be susceptible to damage off-road.
Yes, damn it, we like it…
It’s difficult not to as there isn’t a whole hell of a lot wrong with it. I’ve got a moderate question mark hanging over the on-road ride, but that’s nothing that some aftermarket suspension gear wouldn’t fix.
The engine is as sweet as a nut, the gearbox is lovely to use, it’s very impressive off-road, well finished, comfortable, safe, big enough for the family, will lug close to a tonne and you can pop a can in the glovebox and keep it nicely chilled – it can even go online for you apparently.
Sure, there’s a bit of ‘Toyota tax’ in the pricing but at full retail it’s cheaper than the roughly equivalent Ranger Wildtrack, similar in price to the Z71 Colorado and a Christmas bonus or three more exy than the BT-50 and Triton Exceed.
The reality is that the Toyota faithful aren’t for the most part, going to cross-shop their next HiLux purchase, they’ll just buy it, but would we?
When I cornered David with this prickly question he admitted that the HiLux had impressed him – considerably – but he couldn’t possibly ever buy one because, well just because. I knew exactly what he meant.
I on the other-hand would have no qualms about parking one in my driveway. I won’t go so far as to label it the best 4X4 ute on the market just yet, we’ve yet to put Ranger, Amarok, Triton and Colorado through the Loaded4X4 test regime, but I’m convinced it’s right up there.
Got a Gen 8 HiLux 4X4? Tell us what you think of it.
Engine: 2.8 litre DOHC turbo-diesel with electronic sequential fuel injection
Power/Torque: 130kW @ 3400rpm /420Nm @ from 1400rpm
Transmission: 6-spd manual or 6-spd sports automatic
Suspension: Front: independent double wishbone; rear: solid axle with leaf springs
Steering: Power assisted rack-and-pinion; turning circle: 12.6m
Brakes: ventilated front discs | rear drums
Fuel consumption claimed: 7.6 l/100km
Wheels and tyres: 18×7.5 alloy wheels / 265/60 R18 tyres
Approach/departure: approach 31 degrees; departure 26 degrees
Ground clearance/wading depth: 279mm / 700mm
Tow rating: 750kg (unbraked); 3,500kg towing (braked) and carrying capacity of 925kg; gross vehicle mass is 3,050kg
NA category – “light goods vehicle”
SR-5 HiLux Double Cab 6-speed manual
12V Socket(s) – Auxiliary
18″ Alloy Wheels
6 Speaker Stereo
ABS (Antilock Brakes)
Adjustable Steering Col. – Tilt & Reach
Air Cond. – Climate Control
Airbag – Driver
Airbag – Knee Driver
Airbag – Passenger
Airbags – Head for 1st Row Seats (Front)
Airbags – Side for 1st Row Occupants (Front)
Armrest – Rear Centre (Shared)
Audio – Aux Input Socket (MP3/CD/Cassette)
Audio – Aux Input USB Socket
Audio – Input for iPod
Audio – MP3 Decoder
Body Colour – Bumpers
Bottle Holders – 1st Row
Bottle Holders – 2nd Row
Brake Emergency Display – Hazard/Stoplights
Camera – Rear Vision
Carpeted – Cabin Floor
Central Locking – Key Proximity
Central Locking – Remote/Keyless
Chrome Door Handles – Exterior
Chrome Door Handles – Interior
Chrome Door Mirrors
Chrome Rear Garnish
Control – Electronic Stability
Control – Hill Descent
Control – Traction
Control – Trailer Sway
Cooled Compartment – Front
Cup Holders – 1st Row
Cup Holders – 2nd Row
Daytime Running Lamps – LED
Digital Instrument Display – Partial
Disc Brakes Front Ventilated
Door Pockets – 1st row (Front)
EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution)
Fog Lamps – Front
GPS (Satellite Navigation)
Headlamps – Electric Level Adjustment
Headlamps – LED
Headlamps Automatic (light sensitive)
Headrests – Adjustable 1st Row (Front)
Headrests – Adjustable 2nd Row x3
Illuminated – Entry/Exit with Fade
Illuminated – Key Ignition Barrel/Surround
Independent Front Suspension
Intermittent Wipers – Variable
Internet Connectivity via Paired Device
Keyless Start – Key/FOB Proximity related
Leather Gear Knob
Leather Steering Wheel
Metallic Finish Interior Inserts
Multi-function Control Screen – Colour
Multi-function Steering Wheel
Power Door Mirrors
Power Windows – Front & Rear
Radio – Digital (DAB+)
Rear Step bumper
Rear View Mirror – Manual Anti-Glare
Seat – Height Adjustable Driver
Seatback Pockets – 1st Row (Front) seats
Seatbelt – Load Limiters 1st Row (Front)
Seatbelt – Pretensioners 1st Row (Front)
Seatbelts – Lap/Sash for 5 seats
Seats – 2nd Row Split Fold
Seats – Bucket (Front)
Skid Plate – Front
Skid Plate – Middle (Transmission case)
Spare Wheel – Full Size Steel
Storage Compartment – Centre Console 1st Row
Storage Compartment – Under 2nd Row (Rear) Seat
Suspension – Leaf
Tinted Windows – Extra Dark/Privacy
Trim – Cloth