Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Toyota knows a thing or two about utes. The HiLux is on track to be Australia’s best-selling car for the third consecutive year.
It’s not hard to see why the HiLux is a popular model, it has one hell of a reputation for being robust and reliable. These two characteristics can't be understated if your income relies on your vehicle.
In Australia, Toyota is the car company equivalent of a triage nurse, it has its finger on the pulse of the market. The brand can assess its priorities on the run.
This is exactly how Toyota has responded to the demand for upmarket, decked out utes, or lifestyle vehicles if you prefer the terminology from the marketing department.
The growing thirst for high-end utes would have Eric Northman and Bill Compton blushing with embarrassment.
Following the ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it’ mantra, Toyota hasn’t reinvented the wheel, instead, it has extended the HiLux range to include the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X to fend off rivals approaching from the south.
Last week we drove the Rugged, this week we are tackling Victoria’s Goulburn Valley in the 2018 Toyota Rugged X, the new off-road flagship of the HiLux line-up based on the SR5. In this case, giving the neighbours something to stare at requires a spend of $61,690 plus on-road costs. At that price, Toyota has the Ranger WildTrak in its crosshairs.
The exterior of the Rugged X is very similar to that of the Rugged in many ways, however, the X variant takes a slightly more refined approach by incorporating a heavy-duty, winch-compatible steel hoopless bullbar at the front. Combined with the new front grille and LED light bar, it looks the business.
To further establish the Rugged X’s off-road orientation, a steel bash plate, snorkel, heavy-duty steel rear bar with integrated step, front and rear recovery points, side rock rails, black side mouldings and 17-inch ‘Tough’ alloy wheels have been fitted.
Toyota lists a tub liner as standard, this is an overreach, it’s nothing more than a glorified mat that doesn’t provide any protection for the sides of the tray. A better solution could easily be found without adding a great deal more to what is already an expensive ute.
Down the back, Toyota has fitted a tow pack that includes the towbar, towball, tongue and a seven-pin flat trailer wiring harness. Depending on the transmission, the Rugged X can pull 3500kg.
While Toyota has made the process of accessorising a ute for off-road use fairly straightforward, hardcore 4x4 fans will most likely want to add a winch to the bullbar, proper bush bashing rubber and a suspension upgrade. Undertaking these additional upgrades not only increases the ute’s capability, it gives greater peace of mind.
The Rugged X has 251mm of ground clearance, down from the 279mm offered by a standard SR5 HiLux.
Digging a little deeper into the specs we find an approach angle of 28 degrees, a departure angle of 21 degrees and a corner approach angle of 49 degrees.
For most off-road trails frequented by part-time nature conquerors, the above digits will get the job done. We had no trouble negotiating a series of off-road tracks. It is worth noting the 12.6m turning circle, it can make a wrongly chosen path in thick scrub a royal PITA.
Loose gravel roads are easily dispatched by turning the knob to 4H. The Rugged X remains unflustered on surfaces that should cause an occasional slip.
Our tester had a manual gearbox, we don’t see too many stick shifters these days. The market has spoken in favour of automatic transmissions. The manual did make the off-road test more engaging and therefore more enjoyable.
Back on the blacktop, in city traffic, the manual quickly loses its charm. It’s much easier to enjoy a coffee on the morning commute without needing to worry about changing gears. Selecting the automatic also nets an addition 30Nm of torque.
If the Rugged X is going to primarily be a weekend toy, the manual is worth serious consideration. If it needs to undertake weekday duties, the extra $2000 to get the automatic is money well spent.
It’s a compliant ute to get around in, although the Rogue is the one for the townies. The suspension isn't as harsh as off-roaders of yesteryear meaning the motion sickness inducing bounce from an unladen rear is gone, thankfully.
With the manual transmission, the Rugged X proved more efficient than the auto equipped Rugged. We returned a combined fuel consumption figure of 9.6L/100km after our 780km test week.
Where the Rugged X wields some authority over the Rugged is the interior. The Rugged X gets leather seat trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel that is much nicer to hold, heated front seats, climate control air conditioning, rear vents and a bespoke instrument cluster with white illumination and orange needles.
As a result of all the extra gear, the cabin atmosphere is elevated well beyond what would traditionally be expected of an off-roader.
It would have been helpful to install a USB port (or two) in the second-row. Smartphones, tablets and the like seem to multiply as easily as gremlins and keeping them charged is becoming a blood sport. Rear charging points help the peacekeeping process.
Also missing is the latest safety tech: autonomous braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring are all unavailable. It’s not a good look at this price, this technology is now standard on cars considerably more affordable.
Unfortunately, Australia’s best selling car might be waiting a while before things like AEB are available. In the not-too-distant future, it will be socially unacceptable to omit features such as this regardless of the vehicle's cost.
All HiLux variants are still engulfed by the tyranny of short maintenance intervals. Fresh oil is required every 6 months/10,000km. Toyota is rectifying this situation as it rolls out next-generation models, however, an all-new HiLux is still a while away.
Although the short turn around times for servicing can be annoying, Toyota does offer a very competitive capped-price service program. The Rugged X’s first six visits back to the dealer are capped at $240 each.
The evidence is clear – Toyota buyers are not the type to stress about warranty coverage. The subject of warranty duration has again been in the news with Mazda’s recent move to a five-year plan.
In light of the move, Toyota remains steadfast and is sticking with a three year/100,000km package, and why wouldn’t they? Toyota is selling nearly twice the number of new cars as its closest rival, so the old ‘if it ain't broke, don’t fix it’ applies. 
The Rugged X ticks most of the boxes for those willing to get out and about. From the showroom, it will easily handle the needs of the majority. Enthusiasts who really want to push their luck will still need to add an accessory or two. But for us weekend warrior types, the convenience Toyota is providing with models like the Rugged X goes a long way to justifying the cost of admission.
2018 Toyota HiLux Rugged X Specifications
Price from $61,690 plus on-road costs Engine 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 130kW @ 3400rpm Torque 450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 8.6L/100km Tank Capacity 80L Length 5350mm Width 1885mm Height 1815mm Wheelbase 3085mm Ground Clearance 251mm Kerb Weight 2252kg Turning Circle 12.6m Service Intervals 6-months/10,000km Warranty three year/100,000km