September 15, 2016 @ 03:16 PM

Review: Toyota Hilux 2.8G AT 4x4 - The king is back

As far as pick-ups go, the Hilux proves that Elvis never really left the building.


You know that something has asserted dominance on its class when the brand achieves noun status in that it encompasses its peers as well. The Toyota Hilux is notorious of that, especially so in the rural areas where it ruled supreme as the pick-up of the people.
 
Its inherent robustness and durability made it the perfect vehicle for the zombie-apocalypse. However, the very same traits that saw it lead the charts as the Armageddon vehicle of choice and made it a firm favourite with terrorists also proved to be a double edged sword in the booming demand for urban-oriented pick-ups.


 
The advent of the Ford Ranger painted a balmy picture for pick-ups as city runabouts. Prior to this, pick-ups were cast under the same dreary shadow of agricultural workhorses that lacked eloquence and poise but the Ranger made urbanites desiring to make a lifestyle statement sit up and take notice.
 
Most pickups then followed suit by doing their level best to fit a passenger sedan’s cabin into the body of a pick-up and replicate the ride. Heck, Nissan even went so far as to outfit its flagship Navara with a multi-link rear over the traditional leafsprings.


 
Toyota however dragged on with the previous Hilux that was over a decade old on paper but drove with the finesse of something twice its age. Out-refined and lightyears behind the technology of its peers, the Hilux nonetheless still outsold the competition purely on its reputation for being able to outlive cockroaches.
 
Getting a little long in the tooth and with buyers beginning to lose their appetite for it, Toyota had their work cut out for them. Much like an oil tanker that takes ages to change its direction on the sea but is unstoppable once it does, Toyota took their time in designing the new Hilux that would integrate the new palate for urban trucking without sacrificing its durability.


 
Before we get under the skin of the new Hilux however, the updated exterior will catch your attention with a muscular and toned physique that its predecessor lacked. Going with the tried-and-tested method of lengthening and widening the body lent it the visual impact that buyers desperately craved. The sharknose front also improved its approach angle.
 
If there was one area to beef up though, it was the cabin. A power-adjustable driver’s seat sets the tone for a cabin that finally toes the line and takes a leaf out of the passenger sedan handbook.


 
A nice chunky steering that slips naturally into your palms houses a plethora of steering-mounted controls for the audio while the dashboard is on the receiving end of some voluptuous curves for something more up-to-date in the design department that blends piano black and faux aluminium trim reservedly.
 
Taking centrestage is a double-DIN touchscreen infotainment system with GPS but the one grouse that we encountered with it was the screen lock anytime the Hilux was in motion. This prevented even the passenger interacting with the unit save for volume controls.


 
With the rest of the world downsizing their engines, Toyota followed suit with two all-new turbodiesel engines; a 2.4-litre that would be the bread and butter offering with a larger 2.8-litre motivating the flagship 2.8G gracing these pages.
 
Losing some displacement hasn’t stopped Toyota from churning out 173bhp together with 450Nm of torque, the latter of which outshines the outgoing 3.0-litres torque figures and places it joint-second to the Ranger Wildtrak that packs an extra cylinder. Gone are the days if sluggish acceleration and turbolag that would make a 80s sports car proud.


 
When the new transmission packs two extra cogs over the outgoing one, it’s as clear an indication as to how far behind the Hilux lagged. Now with six cogs from its creamy automatic, the Hilux makes full use of its peak torque that barges in the earliest among all the pick-ups. This makes for excellent drivability and coupled with its newfound road manners from the top drawer of etiquette school, completely transforms the handling characteristics of this once rustic farmhand.
 
By extending the leafsprings 100mm, the engineers were able to increase the compression motion that in turn results in a longer period of time to compress, further spreading the load to cushion the impact of undulations on the road. This puts it up there with the most comfortable of the pick-ups in on-road conduct.


 
What about when the road ends and a pick-up has to... well, pick up the slack? A 20 per cent increase torsional rigidity means that when the roads end and gravel begins, the Hilux is even more capable than before with increased articulation another benefit of the elongated leafsprings. No matter what we threw at it, the Hilux refused to be intimidated and glided over it all sans any rattling in the cabin, testament to the build quality.
 
In the 2.8G we tested, front and rear differentials reassured its off-road credentials and a locking rear diff further bolstered that. Weighing in with more poundage though has not been a deterrent to it feeling more agile and nimbler on the path less beaten with shrewd weight distribution the key to this.


 
It puts up a good fight as a city truck but avoids falling down the path that would compromise its off-road stature. The Hilux is now a more contemporary offering in the segment and could very well be the most well-rounded of them all. Once renowned for its ruggedness and refusal to die, the Hilux will now do the same but with a better ride and classier interior.
 
Logically speaking, if you can have all the robustness in a nicer package, why wouldn’t you right? Once the bad boy bouncer of a dodgy underground club, the Hilux has donned a tailored suit and moved up to watching the door at the swankiest of nightspots. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking it still can’t take out the thrash and get its hands dirty.



Toyota Hilux 2.8G AT 4x4
Price: RM133,900 OTR with insurance
Engine: 2755cc, 16V DOHC, commonrail turbodiesel, variable geometry turbine, variable valve timing, 173bhp @ 3400rpm, 450Nm @ 1600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, electronically-controlled four-wheel drive
Dimensions (l/w/h): 5330mm, 1855mm, 1815mm
Weight: 2100kg

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