2016 Hilux, Long live the Kingadmin
By Gerald O’Brien
At first glance, the new Hilux perhaps looks a little mild. I think most of us expected something a little more rugged and robust… that “Macho” look. Agreed, the new Hilux is perhaps not quite as rugged looking as the Ranger. But then again; are you not comparing a dressed up Ranger to a standard Hilux? Undress them both and they are very similar to each, with the exception that the Hilux have a much more refined look about it. As many are already saying, the more I see the new Hilux the better it looks. I have to agree with them! I think it’s awesome.
Aside from the new looks, the real differences are all hidden under the body work and bonnet. It is these differences that are placing the new Hilux comfortably in a league of its own.
On a recent 4×4 trip to Lesotho over the Easter weekend, I put the 2.8 double cab auto through its paces. The route that we followed was a serious boulder-hopping and road-building one over a number or rugged mountain passes, and on many occasions I had to rely on memory rather than visible tracks to find our way.
The convoy was made up of ten vehicles, and all modified in some way or another in preparation for this serious 4×4 route. The new Hilux was standard, having only removed the running boards.
The trip began on the Friday morning in Ficksburg and ended just outside Mokhotlong in Lesotho on the Monday morning.
The 5 hour trip from Scottburgh to Ficksburg was an ideal stretch for me to put the Hilux through its paces and see just what it’s all about before hitting the dirt the following day.
The Tar road
On start-up the first thing that I noticed was the smoother and quieter engine than the previous model, and once going mobile it was still a quiet running diesel engine. Once putting my foot down and working the engine hard (like overtaking or on an inclining road), the engine noise would increase quite a bit, but not to a point that it becomes unbearable. The noise would drop substantially as the Hilux changed down through its gears again and once back to cruising; the noise level drops to that of a quiet running diesel engine.
The 6-speed auto gearbox works extremely well and is a huge leap forward from the previous models. The actual gear changes are just about impossible to tell, and you have to listen carefully to the engine’s change in revs and noise levels to tell that the gears are actually changing. The usual tell-tale jerking of an auto box when it changes up in gears is a thing of the past.
Linked to the gearbox is the speed cruise control. This has to be the smoothest speedo cruise that I have ever experienced in operation. Speedo cruise controls can be quite annoying at the best of times with their jerky and constant gear changes. The new speedo cruise is absolutely smooth and a pleasure to use, with only the change in engine noise letting you know that it is still working. The excellent power of the new engine seems to limit the number of changes as well.
Then there’s the “Power / Eco” buttons to choose from. The way this works is by either raising or lowering the engines revs by 500RPM. If you are simply cruising along at 120 km/h and driving in Eco mode, you are saving fuel as a result of the lower RPM. Should you wish to overtake and require a bit more power for the overtake manoeuvre, simply hit the Power button and your vehicle suddenly becomes a lot more responsive, allowing for a quicker and smoother overtake. If you are towing or driving in mountainous areas, using the power button will give you more power and at the same time a better drive with fewer gear changes. It makes the vehicle feel just that much more sporty and fun to drive. And this is not an overdrive system that only works in the high gears. These two buttons may be used as frequently as you like and really does offer the vehicle increased usable power at the push of a button. At the same time if you are simply cruising along, why burn up all that extra fuel on power that you do not need.
Driver/ Passenger Comfort
The comfort factor in the new Hilux far exceeds the previous model. The revised rear spring setup, together with the revised front suspension has obviously made a huge difference to both on- and off-road comfort. No longer do you experience the sudden thump when a vehicle seems to bottom out after going over a bump or uneven road surface, or being pulled back down when the suspension reaches the end of its travel. The new Hilux is a lot more forgiving. Driving along in an un-laden 4×4 on the tar road may give a slightly firmer ride than when carrying a few passengers or a load, but it is certainly not uncomfortably firm.
Whilst driving along one of the many dirt roads, I found myself comparing the ride in the standard new Hilux very similar to that of a previous model Hilux fitted with Old Man Emu Suspension. The new Hilux simply soaks up the bumps without any hard thumps or harsh jerks that one will so often experience when driving off-road. At one stage, I swopped vehicles with another Halfway Hilux (the previous model) fitted with an EFS suspension system and both me and the other driver agreed that the new Hilux was a lot smoother and more comfortable than the EFS one. The improved comfort factor was also very evident when driving over the serious bolder strewn tracks and pathways in Low ratio. The extended wheel travel becomes very evident in these conditions and is an obvious aid to the improved comfort factor.
Cruising at 170 km/h over a fairly long stretch did not give me the sensation that I was going too fast or that the vehicle was unstable. It handled very well and was quite assuring at all times. I have heard similar comments from others after having been driven at even higher speeds in the new Hilux.
One may at first expect to find a more rugged and tough looking dash for a vehicle that is built for the harsh African outdoors and 4×4 trails. I found the dash board with all its buttons and switches to be ergonomically very well designed and if there was a negative to anything, I must say, I would like a control knob for the volume on the sound system. The 4×4 related buttons were all within easy reach just in front of the base of the gear lever and the ventilation/aircon system just above that, with simple and easy to read buttons and knobs. Possibly a little on the large side is the Multi Information touch screen, that does look a little like an add-on. Having said that, it works well and is easy to read. It also offers a host of useful information other than the radio and reverse camera video feed.
The dash setup is what you may expect to find in a luxury SUV, but it works very well in the Hilux and offers a refined touch to a classy vehicle.
It was in off-road conditions that I believe the vehicle really excelled. I have already discussed the comfort factor which, when off-roading over rough and rugged rocky terrain, puts the new suspension setup in a class of its own. The increased wheel travel on the rear suspension makes a huge difference to the ride. The vehicle does not bottom out or extend to its full travel as quickly and, together with good shock absorbers, provides for a smooth and comfortable ride.There are obviously times when the vehicle does throw you around, but overall it’s a noticeable and pleasant improvement over the previous model. When off-roading, it’s all about keeping your wheels on the ground. After all, that’s where the traction is and the new suspension does a really good job of keeping you solidly planted on all fours. Improved traction means a safer and improved ride with peace of mind for all those in the vehicle.
The 4×4 drive train
Firstly, the switch to change from 2 wheel drive to 4 wheel drive is within easy reach of the driver.Shifting from two to four wheel drive or back again can be done whilst on the move, no stopping or clutch required, simply move the switch 1 click in a clockwise direction. Shifting to Low ratio requires the vehicle to be stationary and in neutral position, the same for going back to high ratio from low.
The traction control (TRC) is undoubtedly one of the biggest improvements to the new Hilux. The TRC works in 2-wheel drive, high ratio 4-wheel drive and low ratio. The TRC system is extremely quiet and works from a very low RPM making it a really user friendly system. It improves the vehicle’s off-road capabilities dramatically over even the roughest of terrain. The vehicle does have a rear diff lock, but I found the traction control to be a better option.
At one stage during the trip, climbing a steep rocky pass where the other vehicles were in low ratio 4-wheel drive, I was able to move along very comfortably in 2-wheel drive without any problem at all. This was simply due to the excellent power of the vehicle and of course the traction control coupled with the new suspension, which in turn prevented my wheels from spinning. Very impressive indeed! Should you choose to engage the rear diff lock, then the TRC is automatically disabled. Rear diff lock works in low ratio only.
Down Hill Assist
Another very impressive function on the new Hilux is the Down Hill Assist (DAC). It is the first time that I have seen the system working in high ratio 4-wheel drive and it is certainly a very useful new addition. Unlike some other 4×4’s the DAC on the new Hilux is extremely quiet with no braking or actuator noise coming through.
Having the sequential select mode makes driving the vehicle manually over rough terrains a pleasure and easy to use by simply tapping the gear lever either forwards or backwards, depending on whether you are changing up or down. This system works very well on the tar roads too.
I have mentioned a lot about the suspension already but, because it is such a big improvement and vital part of the vehicle, I would like to mention about the improved wheel travel (articulation). By lengthening the rear springs by 100 millimeters, Toyota have been able to improve the rear wheel travel by around 65mm. This is a lot when off-roading in rough conditions. Traction is all about keeping your wheels on the ground, and that is exactly what that extra 65mm does for the vehicle. I could feel this big improvement driving over the rocks and where I was expecting the wheels to begin spinning, they did not. This additional travel naturally leads to improved driver comfort as well.
I did not tow on the trip but I thought I must mention what has been relayed to me by a friend of mine. He recently towed his 2, 4 ton caravan on a 3500 kilometer tar road trip around the Cape, covering many mountain passes in the process. He was driving a 2.8 automatic 4×4 Hilux. His overall fuel consumption was 13,4 lt/100km. He also did most of the towing in the ECO mode and says that he never had any problems at all with the available power. He has previously towed the same caravan with his 3.0lt Fortuner and once with his ranger before selling it. He said that there is no comparison! His new Hilux out-tows them all.
He said that he was also very happy with the handling of the vehicle in the mountain pass stretches, which could be attributed to the new Trailer Sway Control working at times.
In Conclusion, after my four day 4×4 trip and having driven the previous model Hilux in very similar conditions, I would say that the new Hilux can do anything that the previous Hilux could plus much more, and with far better comfort and style.