BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS MEDIUM
HiLux, the traditional market leading 4WD ute model, has been under Ford Ranger pressure since 2015 and lost its 4WD market leadership in 2017. However, upgraded models helped in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
In May 2015 Toyota previewed the the eighth generation HiLux. The new model, with its 47-year pedigree, went on sale in Australia in October 2015.
The new HiLux had a much-needed frame beef-up, four powerplants, including two new high-torque turbo-diesel engines, increased towing capacity up to 3.5 tonnes and payloads of up to 1240kg.
Toyota’s Australian engineers had the responsibility for developing the suspension package for the local HiLux, with testing at the Anglesea proving ground and over sealed roads and off-road trails in Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
They didn’t do as good a job as Ford, Mitsubishi and Isuzu D-Max engineers did, as our testing has revealed.
HiLux’s two GD-series four-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engines developed substantially more torque than the previous model’s 3.0-litre unit. The 2.8-litre version had 450Nm of torque in the 1600-2400rpm band, a gain of 25 per cent, while its 2.4-litre sibling generated up to 400Nm. Fuel consumption was reduced by around 10 per cent, Toyota claimed.
Upgrades to HiLux’s 2.7-litre four-cylinder petrol engine produced greater power, torque and fuel efficiency, thanks to lower weight, enhanced combustion efficiency and reduced friction. The 4.0-litre petrol V6 engine continued until mid-2017.
There were new six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, including an ‘intelligent’ manual transmission that helped eliminate shift shock by matching engine revs to the transmission speed.
HiLux had 31 variants (previously 23) with 2WD and 4WD, three cabin styles (single, extra and double) and three equipment grades (WorkMate, SR and SR5).
The expansion in HiLux variants was focused on adding more double cabs, more 4WD variants, more diesel options and reintroducing 4WD WorkMate.
For the first time, the HiLux range included Hi-Rider variants – a 2WD with its ride height and heavy-duty suspension coming from the 4WD model.
The range featured 16-, 17- and18-inch wheels, with all-terrain tyres on many variants.
The body was 70mm longer and 20mm wider, with a slightly lower roofline. Some models had LED headlights and daytime running lamps.
HiLux had a larger, 80-litre fuel tank, but that was still nowhere near enough.
Body rigidity was improved with additional spot welds and greater use of high-tensile steel. The entire HiLux range achieved the maximum five-star safety rating with stability and traction control, anti-skid brakes, seven airbags, hill-start assist and emergency stop signal all standard across the range.
A reversing camera was standard on all pick-up variants and available as an accessory on cab-chassis variants.
In a second-quarter-2018 release Toyota
launched three new 4×4 variants – HiLux Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X – to combat the up-market versions produced by Ford, Holden and Nissan, as well as countering the Mercedes-Benz (Nissan Navara clone) X-Class.
Topping the new line-up of hero HiLux models, the Rugged X had a high-tensile aluminium bash plate and a winch-compatible hoopless steel bull bar – both of which were compatible with the vehicle’s airbags and other safety systems.
Rugged X went beyond the top-of-the-range SR5 with a new black honeycomb grille design and gloss-black surround. It was also equipped with a snorkel, LED driving lights, high-strength front and rear recovery points, rock rails, a load-carrying sports bar and other heavy-duty components.
HiLux Rogue, which also sat above the SR5, had a hexagonal upper grille, new front bumper and revised fog lamps.
The third new model, Rugged, was claimed ‘ready for action’ and featured a premium steel bull bar.
We tried for five months to get one of the Rugged models for a test, but were unsuccessful.
In June 2019 Toyota Safety Sense driver assistance was part of a range-wide upgrade. All models gained a pre-collision safety system with day and night pedestrian detection and day cyclist detection, high-speed active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance and road sign assist.
The substantial upgrade came at a price increase of between $800 and $875, depending on the variant.
The updated 2020 HiLux was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and was due in August 2020. The principal change was increased output from the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine: up to to 150kW (+15.3 percent) and peak torque in automatic-transmission models up to 500Nm (+11.1 percent).
Fuel consumption was also said to improve by up to 11.1 percent, but we’ll check that when we get a test vehicle.
Suspension upgrades included revised shock-absorber tuning, new bushes and improved leaf-spring design and were claimed to provide a more comfortable ride, particularly over rough roads and with low loads. It shouldn’t have been hard to improve the standard HiLux’s appalling ride quality.
In 4WD models with downhill-assist control, an additional traction control feature when using 2WD mode limits torque to assist grip in muddy or grassy conditions.
Towing capacity for automatic 4WD HiLux variants, including new double-cab-chassis Workmate and SR5 derivatives, has been raised to a maximum of 3500kg to match manual versions.
Revised exterior styling included LED light clusters on high grades.
Inside, all models were upgraded to an 200mm (eight-inch) display screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. SR and higher grades were equipped with satellite navigation and digital (DAB) radio.
A 105mm(4.2-inch) multi-information display in the instrument binnacle incorporated a digital speed readout and other new functions.
The HiLux Rogue scored a motorised roller shutter for 2020, with remote power-operated opening and closing linked to the central-locking system. It was also equipped with an anti-jam function and integrated lighting.
Toyota claimed the new shutter was dust-proof.
Rogue also featured new 18-inch wheels; changed rear bumper and tailgate and two front and four rear parking sensors.
At launch, the Rogue was priced from a heady $68,990.
Rugged X had a restyled grille for 2020 and retained heavy-duty front springs, snorkel with a reversible head, red-painted front and rear recovery points, heavy-duty rock rails, sports bar with recreational attachment points, moulded tub tray with tailgate protection and a heavy-duty rear bumper with integrated step.
Lighting included outboard driving lights and a centrally-mounted LED light bar.
The Rugged X was priced from $69,990.
Standard features for Rogue and Rugged X included towbar, tongue and seven-pin flat trailer wiring harness.
Black perforated leather-accented seats had grey outboard accents. The front seats were heated and the driver’s seat had eight-way power adjustment.
Front and rear mats were included: carpet for Rogue and all-weather for Rugged X.
Strangely, Toyota increased HiLux pricing dramatically in 2020, with some variants up to $13,000 more expensive than previously.
In mid-2021, Toyota Connected Services was made standard. The system is able to generate an emergency call automatically to Toyota’s 24/7 Emergency Call Centre and relay the location of the vehicle in the event of a collision that requires intervention, or if an airbag deploys.
Occupants can also manually trigger an emergency call to the call centre via an SOS button, allowing them to determine the vehicle’s location and coordinate with emergency services.
If the vehicle is reported stolen, Toyota Connected Services can assist authorities to help track the vehicle’s location via the stolen vehicle tracking (SVT) service.
On and off road
We tested the Rogue and Rugged X HiLux variants back to back, spending little time in the urban-equipped Rogue and a lot more time with the bush-oriented Rugged X.
Both models shared the latest updates and we found the suspension settings much better than with previous HiLuxes. We think Toyota has finally worked out the correct spring rates, but the shock absorbers can still do with upgrading. Those who tow would benefit from adjustable rear dampers and, possibly, some air spring assistance.
We tested both vehicles with two aboard, plus with half and full loads, as well as a towing test.
The upgrade engine worked beautifully and we appreciated its increased torque when towing our 2.8-tonnes plant trailer. However, fuel consumption increased from an average 9.2L/100km to 14.5L/100km.
Interestingly, the diesel particulate filter regeneration systems cut in several times during our tests, but there was no visible white smoke, nor any effect on performance. Hopefully, Toyota has fixed the class-action-inspiring issues highlighted below.
Ergonomics were very good, apart from the display screen being hard to see when there was sunlight on it. There are better-shielded screens in the market.
Off-road ability was excellent, thanks to powerful traction control, backed up by a rear diff lock. Unfortunately, when the diff lock was activated the traction control system was disabled and there’s no sense in that at all; you still need front axle traction control on steep uphill climbs. Toyota’s not the only maker to have this compromise.
Another issue was hill descent control that simply didn’t work in very steep conditions, where some brake application was need to control downhill progress.
We couldn’t see any benefits in the Rogue package, with its useless plastic sports bar and marine-carpet tub and tailgate lining, but the Rugged X package set the HiLux up well for typical bush tripping.
Check out our video test:
Since we recorded the following road test and video we’ve heard of hundreds of in-service complaints about the 2.8-litre engine’s diesel particulate filter system.
The fifth injector that is supposed to heat the DPF can clog and malfunction, making DPF regeneration impossible. Toyota has fitted a manual regeneration button to the dashboard, but that’s fine if the injector isn’t blocked and people understand how and when to use the ‘regen’ function.
There’ was a well publicised owners’ class action underway as at late 2019
We’d tell you a lot more, but Toyota is busy suing anyone in the industry who makes disparaging remarks about the Big T and they’ve got a much bigger barrister
fund than we have!
On and off road
We didn’t score an invite to the October 2015 press launch – odd, when we have 60-80,000 visitors to the website every month – which is why our report was a tad late: we had to wait until road-test vehicles became available.
The wait was worth it, because the new HiLux’s engine-transmission matching was the best in the ute business. The new diesel 2.8-litre engine pulled smoothly from very low revs, without any turbo ‘lag’.
The six-speed manual box was a delight to use – unlike the Ford Ranger and VW Amarok manuals – and dropped engine revs below 2000rpm at freeway cruising speed.
The auto also shifted well and downshifted automatically if the brake pedal was pressed on downhill grades: handy when towing.
The new interior was classy, even on base models and ergonomics were very good – much better than the Ford Ranger’s hard-to-see console switches. Seat comfort was good, but lumbar adjustment would have been nice on other than the top-shelf model.
The main gripe we had was with the rear suspension that still had the traditional HiLux ‘bounce’. That horrible ride persist with 2020 models.
Historically, Toyota has benchmarked the HiLux against itself and it’s time the company took a hard look at its competitors.
The Triton, D-Max and Ford Ranger have better ride quality than the HiLux, let alone the new dual cab models from Ford, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz that have coil rear springs.
The suspension’s plus sides are a good-handling front end and excellent off-road wheel travel at the back end.
Weight is the enemy of utes and the HiLux gradually put on ‘pudding’ over the years. There’s already advice to the dealer body about the risk of overloading the front axle with two front-seat occupants, if a heavy steel bar, side rails, a winch and second battery are installed.
Check out the video of our 2016 testing:
The prevous-shape HiLux was released in September 2011, with new sheet metal from the A-pillar forward – a new bonnet, radiator grille, headlamps and front bumper. The profile was enhanced in SR5 models with newly designed fenders, new door mirrors with integrated turn signals and redesigned wheels.
The new models were introduced with general – and long overdue – price reductions. Across the range, ABS was made standard. Cruise control was standard on all SR and SR5 variants, as well as automatic 4×4 WorkMate 4x4s. A limited-slip differential was included in all 4×4 WorkMates.
Vehicle stability control remained standard on all SR5 Double Cabs and optional on all SR Double Cab pick-ups. All SR5 models received satellite navigation as standard, viewed on a 6.1-inch LCD touch screen.
Side seat and curtain-shield airbags, and sports-style front seats were fitted to all 4×4 SR5 and SR variants. SR5 variants scored climate control air-conditioning.
New audio systems were fitted to all variants, with top-shelf units featuring voice recognition, touch screen, radio text, 3D graphics for satellite navigation and safety warnings for school zones and speed and red-light cameras.
Toyota lavished attention on the price-reduced 4×4 SR5 turbo-diesel Xtra Cab, which picked up satellite navigation, dusk-sensing headlamps, steering wheel-mounted telephone controls, re-designed alloy wheels, sports-style front seats with side airbags, curtain-shield airbags and auto control for the air-conditioning.
The entry price for a 4×4 turbo-diesel HiLux came down $6150 to $31,990 with the introduction of a WorkMate Single Cab with manual transmission. Its feature list included ABS, driver and passenger airbags, tacho, limited-slip differential, 16-inch wheels and protective covers for the engine and fuel tank.
The upgrade for this model HiLux came in November 2013, with the receipt of the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating for all 4×4 HiLuxes. The five-star safety rating was due to the standard fitment of stability and traction control, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution on all variants. A front passenger seat-belt reminder was also part of the package.
HiLux 4X4 SR5 Extra Cab was upgraded to 17-inch aluminium wheels and SR 4×4 variants were shod with 225/70 17-inch all-terrain tyres.
Other improvements included display audio systems across the board, a new five-speed automatic transmission behind the diesel engine and fresh interior colours and materials. The display featured a 6.1-inch screen, auxiliary and USB inputs, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, and audio control switches on the steering wheel hub.
Top-of-the-line SR5 versions gained a reversing camera and upgraded satellite navigation with SUNA Live Traffic. S teering-wheel controls operated a multi-information display, telephone and voice recognition.
The HiLux 4×4 has undergone seven major model changes since its introduction to Australia early in 1979. The first series, known as the RN and LN models, came firstly with a two-litre 18R petrol engine, then a year later, a 2.2-litre L diesel. Four-speed transmissions were standard.
New bodywork, introduced in late 1983 on YN65 and LN65 models, covered an engine upgrade to the two-litre petrol 3Y engine and the 2.4-litre 2L diesel.
Two years later, the 3Y was replaced by the 2.2-litre 4Y engine in YN67 models and was also the powerplant for the then new 4Runner. Five-speed transmissions were standard on all variants.
The next bodywork change came in late 1988. The petrol-powered RN versions were powered by a 2.4-litre 22R engine – already seen in petrol Bunderas – and diesel LN models came with a new 3L, 2.8-litre diesel.
The next-shape HiLux was launched in late 1997, with a choice of twin-cam 2.7-litre petrol or three-litre diesel power.
The petrol donk put out a respectable 108kW at 4800rpm and had peak torque of 235Nm at 4000rpm. Although it was touted as the leading 4WD ute petrol engine on the market it was a busy engine that needed revs to perform.
The three-litre 5L diesel was a bored-out development of the previous model’s 2.8-litre 3L, with maximum power of 65kW at 4000rpm and peak torque of 197Nm at 2400rpm. The 5L engine had much-needed improvements to cylinder head and block cooling, and also adopted a larger fan than the 3L engine.
The head gasket design was also improved. The durability and cooling system changes were exploited by many owners, who fitted after-market turbochargers to their three-litre diesels.
Live front axles were replaced across the board by independent front suspension with wishbones and half-shafts – previously only available on SR5 variants. The automatically disconnecting front differential (ADD) was carried over from the previous SR5 models.
Dual airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners and three-channel ABS brakes were optionally available. The ABS system was designed to switch off when speed dropped to 10km/h, so as not to compromise off-road braking at low speeds.
The new cab was 30mm higher and 50mm longer on Double Cab models. The Xtra Cab scored an additional 80mm in cab length.
Unfortunately, although fuel tank capacity was increased over the previous model’s the tanks on all variants were still too small: 77 litres for Standard and Xtra Cab HiLuxes and only 66 litres in the case of Double Cabs.
In early 2000 Toyota released a turbo-diesel option. The 1KZ-TE engine came with a larger radiator, a cross-flow aluminium cylinder head, water-cooled turbocharger, electronic fuel injection and twin balance shafts. Output went up to 85kW at 3600rpm and peak torque jumped to a then class-leading 295Nm at 2400rpm.
This more powerful three-litre was bolted in front of a R151F manual transmission that was lifted from the LandCruiser 100 Series.
The turbo-diesel option was available on the single cab ute and cab/chassis and on the Double Cab ute. Pricing in 2000 was $38,020, $36,930 and $43,160, respectively.
The next HiLux upgrade came when Toyota released a detuned version of the Prado’s 3.4-litre V6 to replace the 2.7-litre petrol four across the board. Maximum power from the 5VZ-FE engine was124kW at 4600rpm, with peak torque of 291Nm at 3600rpm. Toyota claimed that there was 250Nm available in the band from 1600rpm through to 4800rpm.
The standard transmission behind the V6 was a R150 five-speed manual, but an A340F four-speed automatic transmission option was available on Xtra Cab, Double Cab and Double Cab SR5 ute models. Pricing in 2002 was $37,040, $36,840 and $ 44,040, respectively.
Other 2002 HiLux mechanical changes included exhaust gas recirculation valves on the diesel and turbo-diesel models and recalibrated rear suspensions on Double Cab versions. The frontal appearance of the HiLux was changed by a new bonnet and grille, with ‘edge’ styling.
Double Cab petrol and diesel SR5 specifications were upgraded in 2002 to include height-adjustable driver’s seats, a rear sports bar, a four-speaker CD sound system, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, a chrome exterior package, side steps and aluminium wheels shod with 255/70R15 LT tyres
The next-shape HiLux was introduced in April 2005, with styling that people either loved or hated.
However, passive safety levels were raised, thanks to a new body and chassis design, and new safety equipment. All models had dual SRS airbags. ABS anti-skid brakes were standard equipment on high-grade SR5 models and optionally available on volume-selling SR grade.
The new-look HiLux had a common-rail version of the previous diesel, with twin counter-rotating balance shafts to reduce noise, vibration and harshness.
It also had electronic engine management, an electronic drive-by-wire throttle and a variable-vane turbocharger with water-cooled bearing housing.
The 1KD-FTV diesel delivered 120kW of power at 3400rpm and 343Nm of torque from 1400 to 3200rpm and met Euro III emission requirements.
The new turbo-diesel engine could be matched to a four-speed automatic transmission for the first time.
A VVT-i equipped quad-cam V6 petrol engine with 175kW of power at 5200rpm and 376Nm of torque at 3800rpm was also available.
A new double-wishbone coil-spring front suspension improved HiLux’s active safety, ride comfort, handling and stability, but detracted from its off-road ability, because of front end ground-clearance issues. Another off-road restriction was a maximum wheel diameter of 15 inches, when all its competitors had adopted 16-inchers.
Recommended retail price was $51,850 for the top of the range, Double Cab Turbo-diesel pick up SR5. The Turbo-diesel, Single Cab Cab/Chassis had a recommended retail price of $34,950.
In September 2006 the 3.0-litre Turbo-diesel engine was upgraded to Euro IV standard and power was increased by 6kW. All HiLux SR5 grade models scored front fog lamps and a Sports bar. All Double Cab models were fitted with centre-seat head rests.
In February 2007 Toyota previewed the supercharged 4.0-litre V6 HiLux TRD sports utility, with 225kW and more than 400Nm – one of the scariest 4×4 vehicles we’ve ever driven. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) was set to ‘become an important brand in Australia’ according to Toyota’s press blurb, but fortunately the Global Financial Crisis provided an excuse for it to be dropped, quietly.
The next HiLux initiative was in September 2007, when all HiLux SR grades picked up power mirrors and SR vehicles with automatic transmissions were fitted with cruise control.
In October 2008 HiLux exterior changes include a new trapezoid-shape radiator grille and new front bumper and headlamp design.
All SR5-grade models had audio and multi-information display controls on a four-spoke leather-bound steering wheel.
The 2009 changes to HiLux SR5 Double Cab 4×4 models included sports-style front seats, six airbags and privacy glass on the rear door windows and back windows.
The SR5 audio unit had a six-CD multi-changer and colour LCD screen.
In September 2010 there was a safety recall on 116,507 four-wheel-drive petrol and turbo-diesel HiLux vehicles produced between January 2005 and February 2010, for inspection of the rear tail shaft centre bearing support brackets.
A 4WD Double Cab turbo-diesel SR5 upgrade in October 2010 introduced vehicle stability control and traction control as standard equipment. In addition, the existing ABS brakes were enhanced with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. The package also included long-awaited 17-inch aluminium wheels, replacing the antiquated 15-inch wheels. RRPs remained at $53,690 for the manual and $55,690 for the auto.
The HiLux has always been a very reliable workhorse, with most major troubles caused by overloading, abuse or lack of maintenance. Many standard cab/chassis were expected to work as hard as LandCruisers, which they were not designed to do.
The four-speed models didn’t like to run at 120km/h, but a lot were driven that hard, with their little 18R engines spinning like crazy, so they wore out rapidly.
A harmonic balancer problem with 3Y and 4Y petrol engine models mainly shows up in three-belt models with air conditioning. The balancer can work loose and mangle the end of the crankshaft, which used to mean a major repair, but there’s a way of repairing the end of the shaft.
HiLux diesels don’t like revving over 3000rpm and pre-electronic-injection versions overfuel and overheat if pushed. The underslung HiLux rear axle poses a propshaft angle problem if cambered leaves lift the chassis more than 50mm. The rear propeller shaft on some models has a rubber-mounted centre bearing, which is prone to wear. Most cardan joint troubles are caused by too much lift, physical damage by rocks or lack of proper greasing in the joint. Centre bearing problems have been ongoing with HiLuxes.
HiLux axles are much more lightly built than LandCruiser items, so the housings are more easily deformed by overloading and abuse, causing symptoms like leaking half-shaft seals and CV joints.
HiLuxes don’t like water, with water entry into the transfer case being a common problem. Diesels are also easily affected by water entry into the air inlet, causing severe engine damage. A snorkel is an essential accessory on a diesel HiLux.
Well maintained HiLux diesels give little trouble. Even after-market three-litre turbocharged diesels are usually reliable, if the job has been done properly and oil and filter changes have been regular. Timing belts need to be replaced every 80-100,000km, but there’s no easy way of knowing if the job has been done, so a new belt is a good investment.
The HiLux’s inner mudguards are quite thin, so any auxiliary gear mounted inside the engine bay needs to be fitted carefully. Battery boxes often crack the inner guard metal.
The HiLux is the traditional 4WD ute market leader, so there’s a wealth of after-market gear available.
As ex-HiLux owners we can recommend fitting a Detroit Locker or Eaton MLD into the rear axle, to control wheel spin on and off road, and a Harrop E-Locker in the front end.
Locked axles give better traction in severe off road conditions and protect vulnerable CV joints from spin-related damage.
A set of remote breathers helps keep water out of the transmissions and diffs. A Long-Ranger 130-litre tank gives a diesel HiLux a 1000-kilometre touring range and a swing-away rear bar can carry a second spare.
A suspension upgrade is a good idea, incorporating a maximum 50mm height increase.
If you’re running your HiLux well under its gross mass rating you’ll find that a set of Prado 7×16 steel wheels will replace the undersized 15s that Toyota fitted until 2011.