Well, this is it, the 2017 Toyota HiLux. The HiLux is not just Australia’s best-selling ute, it’s the nation’s best-selling car. An achievement that is nothing short of remarkable.
The sales success of the HiLux has firmly established the ute as a lifestyle vehicle, a versatile option for those wanting the flexibility to get to and from the office during the week and seek adventure after 5.30 pm on Friday.
This incarnation represents the eighth-generation of the HiLux. Like a few of its Toyota stable mates, the name has been with us for a long while. It’s a nameplate the market is very comfortable with.
On test here is the HiLux SR5 4x4 Double Cab, a very popular model and the flagship of the current range. In this specification, the list price starts at $54,390 plus on-roads. Our test car was optioned with an automatic transmission and leather-accented trim that will lighten the bank balance a little more.
At that price, the HiLux SR5 does come with plenty of standard equipment, including keyless entry, push button start, climate control air-conditioning, automatic up/down for all windows, auto-levelling LED headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, fog lamps, 18-inch alloy wheels and a stainless-steel sports bar.
Importantly, for a vehicle that is now on the shopping list of many family buyers, the HiLux SR5 is also well equipped in terms of safety. The SR5 comes standard with seven airbags, reversing camera, vehicle stability control, active traction control, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. The HiLux has been tested by ANCAP and has achieved a full 5-star safety rating.
The look of the HiLux is something we grew fond of over our time with the car. It’s not as masculine looking as the Volkswagen Amarok and doesn’t have the same attention seeking face as the Ford Ranger, yet the subtle styling that lends itself to a softer look actually gives the HiLux an exterior that means business.
The interior of the HiLux SR5 is made up of hard plastics that feel out of place in a car at this price point. Volkswagen has shown, it’s possible to use hard plastics that still achieve a premium look. This isn’t a deal breaker, the overall feel of the cabin is good and the layout is familiar. Essentially, everything is where it should be.
The infotainment system is a comprehensive offering. A 7-inch touchscreen display provides AM/FM radio, CD player, auxiliary/USB input, and Bluetooth for phone connectivity and music streaming. The SR5 is also equipped with digital radio, satellite navigation and Toyota Link which can provide access to things like Pandora internet radio. The system is responsive to user commands with fast reaction times.
To date, there is no word on if or when Toyota may incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into its infotainment system.
Toyota’s infotainment system does the job, but some of the tradies I spoke with preferred proper dials for the volume control instead of the touch sensitive buttons on the screen or those located on the steering wheel. The reasoning behind this is the need for gloves during a cold Victorian winter.
As more families make the move to models like this, more charging options in the form of USB ports and 12V sockets are needed in the rear to keep the peace on longer drives with kids.
Settling in behind the wheel is easy, the optional leather seats have plenty of adjustment to allow the driver to get comfortable. Toyota has expanded the range of seat-height adjustment, so finding the sweet spot is easy. Once the optimal position is found you don’t feel like you are sitting on top of the HiLux, but sitting in it.
To further enhance driver comfort the steering wheel has both height and reach adjustment, something of a rarity in the segment.
While comfort up front is impressive, those stuck in the back will find rear accommodation to be tight, more so if the driver and front passenger go over the 190cm mark.
This version of the HiLux SR5 is powered by a 2.8L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. It’s tuned to deliver 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque. When the start button is pushed, and the engine comes to life, a slightly gruff note can be detected from the engine bay. It’s a strong offering that can deliver 80 per cent of its maximum torque at a lazy 1200rpm.
Power is put down through a new 6-speed automatic gearbox. Toyota claims this new electronically controlled offering uses new technology to support both performance and economy. Six ratios may seem a little outdated when you consider some of the HiLux’s competitors are using eight, however, throughout our testing the transmission provided decisive shifts in typical no-nonsense Toyota style.
Driving the HiLux on road is a surprising experience indeed. Toyota has gone to great lengths to improve the driving experience. Many of the improvements made to this eighth-generation HiLux are found under the skin. The chassis and body have been updated for increased strength and durability while lowering the levels of noise, vibration and harshness.
It is a much nicer ute to drive than the previous generation and it does offer ride quality that can rival its more expensive competitors. The effort to stiffen things up doesn’t go unnoticed. The additional body rigidity provided by thicker side rails and an extra 120 spot welds brings a feeling of stability as the HiLux is put to work.
One area where the HiLux can more than hold its own is the rear suspension. It is far better than what we were expecting. It was nowhere near as jittery as some of the older HiLux models when the tray is empty. Toyota undertook more than 650,000km of local testing to ensure the suspension calibration was suitable for Australian conditions, both on and off-road leading to an impressive result.
When driving around town, the HiLux is comfortable and compliant. The only thing that detracts from the drive is vague steering, more precision is needed for city driving.
Out on the highway, the HiLux can effortlessly handle any overtaking manoeuvre. It will happily cruise at low revs with plenty of power in reserve should it be needed. Like other Toyota models that are powered by turbo-diesel engines, torque delivery is immediate. In the HiLux, there’s no noticeable lag.
Toyota’s measures to deliver a more refined ride by reducing the noise and vibration in the cabin has paid dividends. Wind and tyre noise has been reduced thanks to a larger dash silencer, extended weather strip and additional seals between the front and rear doors.
Toyota utes are something of a rare breed, they aren’t just accessories for pretenders, these utes actually get dirty. Like the legendary LandCruiser 70 Series, the HiLux is a capable off-roader and many of those who own them are happy to go beyond the blacktop.
The HiLux SR5 has a vast array of features to get you to that secluded fishing or camping spot. The HiLux utilises a Rear Differential Lock and an electronic transfer switch to easily move between 4x2 and 4x4 modes. There is also ground clearance of 279mm, a wading depth rating of 700mm, and to top it off, this new model also has a greater level of rear wheel articulation.
We undertook some off-roading around the Victoria’s Goulburn River. The HiLux was always surefooted and could easily deal with everything that stood in its way. The level of grip on slippery climbs and descents was excellent.
Many utes are now purchased by caravan owners, making towing capability a significant consideration when deciding on an appropriate vehicle. With an automatic transmission, the HiLux SR5 is rated to tow 3200kg, more than enough to satisfy the towing needs of many.
At the conclusion of our test week, the HiLux SR5 returned a very economical consumption figure of 8.7L/100km. This is a great return when you consider the official combined figure is 8.5 litres of diesel for every 100km covered.
In terms of ownership, the HiLux SR5 requires servicing every 6 months or 10,000 km. This is inconvenient and falls well short of the 12 month 15,000km intervals offered by other manufacturers. Toyota does go some way to redeeming itself with the Toyota Service Advantage. This capped price service program is exceptional value for money and covers the first six visits back to the dealer over 60,000km. At only $240 a throw, it’s hard to knock.
Toyota back the HiLux with a 3 year/100,000km. For a ute that is marketed as ‘unbreakable’, the warranty coverage is too light. While this warranty is standard for the majority of the mainstream utes, Toyota can and should do better.
With the HiLux being so popular, you are never far from an owner or ten. In country Victoria, these things are found parked in most streets and in Car Conversations with owners, the three Rs – reliability, reputation and resale value are often referred to. Those who utilise the HiLux as a commercial vehicle tell me there is no other choice when your business and income are reliant on the car you drive.
Capable and dependable performance is what the HiLux is all about. This eighth-generation HiLux builds on these qualities and brings improved levels of refinement and economy. It doesn’t lead the competition in every aspect, but it is a compelling enough package to hold its position as the ute most Australian’s turn to when there’s a job to be done.
2017 Toyota HiLux SR5 4x4 Double Cab Specifications
Price from $54,390, plus on-road costs Engine 2.8L In-line four-cylinder, Turbo-Diesel Power 130kW @ 3400 rpm Torque 450Nm @ 1400rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 8.5L/100km Tank Capacity 80L Length 5330mm Width 1855mm Height 1815mm Wheelbase 3085mm Kerb Weight 2075kg Ground Clearance 279mm Turning circle 12.6m Service Intervals 6-months or 10,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
Let's start a Car Conversation, does the 2017 Toyota HiLux pack enough punch to stay at the top of the sales chart? Do you think the HiLux SR5 is the best lifestyle vehicle option?
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