Sunday January 13, 2013
Hilux - Not for the faint-hearted
By SUJESH PAVITHRAN
Photos by GEORGE WONG
Tired of wannabes? The new Hilux promises exactly what it sets out to be ... a pick-up truck.
THERE was a time when pick-up trucks were just that Ė clattering and lumbering load-carriers for contractors.
Along the way, those with a diesel-sipping engine acquired a turbocharger, and with this came impressive torque and power.
Then, the trucks evolved into lifestyle vehicles, and manufacturers fell over themselves trying to imbue them with urban appeal and car-like environs.
Thereís a point to this, at least in the Malaysian market Ė those craving power plants with loads of muscle but canít afford the RM200k plus price tag that comes with sedans, SUVs and MPVs of such a disposition Ė are easily drawn to pick-up trucks, which cost considerably less.
As a result, and to appeal to a bigger market whose denizens are less likely to go off-road or spend weekends with just the sky above, land below and a 4WD truck for company, manufacturers have packed in all sorts of features and creature comforts into their offerings.
However, those who donít approve of where pick-up truck designs have been going in recent years should take a second look at the Toyota Hilux.
Here is a truck that makes no excuses for what it is, inside and outside. Tall, somewhat ungainly and brutish, the Hilux isnít for the driver tempted only by the idea of a powerful vehicle on the cheap.
The Hilux is blatant about this Ė you want a car-like experience, get a car. You want a host of sophisticated features and creature comforts, get an MPV or SUV. You want something to thrash about and survive years of abuse Ė get a Hilux.
It is for those who donít mind getting drenched in nature.
And, it is a Toyota, which also assures reliability and ease of ownership.
The latest iteration of the Hilux comes with the VNT designation Ė Variable Nozzle Turbo, and itís a system that controls exhaust gas pressure and flow speed into the turbo unit depending on driving conditions.
The result is better low-end torque, which means engine output is maximised at all times, while efficiency is enhanced and emissions reduced.
The Hilux Double Cab 2.5G passed to us for the test drive Ė sporting 2.5-litre common rail diesel engine, four-speed automatic transmission, 4WD, 144PS and 343Nm Ė effortlessly delivered whatever output demanded at any time.
Sure, weíre not talking about brisk starts, but thereís ample juice at the low revs and I hardly felt the truck was making effort to propel itself.
Once out on the open highway, there was always the temptation to step on the gas, and the Hilux showed not the slightest sign of strain Ė the engine may be noisy, but not rough, and the gear shifts were smooth and, well, you could say, car-like.
The ride isnít always what you would want it to be, though. The Hilux, Iím told, has the highest ground clearance in its class, so you would expect a level of bumpiness. Itís something you learn to live with Ö but the Hilux is pretty spacious inside, you wonít knock your head on the roof! Getting in and out, though, is not a graceful affair.
Thereís really not much finesse in the drive and ride, but thereís heady power and a fine view of the road ahead. On rougher terrain, this would be better appreciated.
What I wasnít crazy about was the spartan dashboard, aside from the Garmin navigator built into the LCD screen.
The instrument display is fine, but a glance at the centre console tells you that Toyota has kept it to the necessities, though the audio and display controls on the steering are a bonus.
Surprisingly, there was the minimum creatively-designed storage compartments. The rear isnít too cramped and whatís also good is that one can tip up the seat to carry bigger items. Which can, in a way, make up for the lack of a proper boot.
The large cargo deck at the rear is provided with a scratch-resistant bedliner Ė I reckon most city drivers will opt to fit a tonneau cover to maximise usage of this space.
Other features include power-adjustable and retractable wing mirrors, an audio system with tuner, backlit meters, CD player (with MP3, AUX in and iPod compatibility), sunglass holder and a few (but not enough) storage holds. The Hilux also comes with anti-lock braking sysem, front airbags, reverse sensor and massive 255/70 R15 alloy rims.
The Hilux Double Cab 2.5G, available in solid white, dark steel mica, silver metallic and medium silver metallic, is priced at RM99,988.
Not exactly what pick-up trucks used to cost before they were turned into lifestyle statements a decade ago.
Then again, the Hilux doesnít stake any claim in that territory, instead, itís turning out to be a solid and powerful performer.
Those wanting a lifestyle pick-up track may look at the competition, which is prettier. If the quest is for a utility vehicle with just a few extras, the Hilux stands out in front ... and that 76-litre fuel tank will certainly take you a long way between refills.