Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted September 19, 2016 15:07
Building on strong foundations
Much has been said about the Toyota Hilux. Be it the old or current model, people tend to think similarly about Toyota's venerable pickup: tough, solid, dependable and reliable.
The current Hilux has been around for well over a year now, selling very well in a market that has a good demand for tough pick-ups. Eventually, Toyota explored the possibility of gearing the Hilux for a different customer, and so they gave it some TRD goodies along the way.
While the term “sporty pickup” is a bit of an oxymoron, the Hilux actually can be sporty.
If this truck looks familiar to you, you've probably seen the ad that has been making rounds in social media. It sees this very Hilux going sideways on dirt, plowing through lahar beds and, yes, that jump. With all the TRD accessories, the Hilux looks the part as a sporty pick up with its matt black grill, TRD wheels, fenders extenders, bed rollbar, the bright red skid plate and smatterings of TRD logos.
Paint it black and it's close to a modern interpretation of Marty McFly's Toyota SR5 from Back to the Future. The only thing missing is the bullbar and a full barrage of driving lights. The classic 'TOYOTA' stamping on the tailgate would have been a nice touch too. Overall, it makes the Hilux look tougher, more aggressive and sportier in a pickup truck sort of way.
Inside however, it's the opposite but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In contrast to its exterior, there are no TRD labels to be seen inside. No faux carbon fiber or red contrast stitching in here either as the interior has been carried over from the standard 2.8 G.
It does have all the features you expect from a top of the line pickup. The AVT touchscreen comes standard and so does a TFT screen in the instrument panel relaying relevant driver information. For creature comforts, the TRD Hilux inherits the 2.8 G's automatic climate control system, as well as the Hilux's generous amounts of cubby spaces and large drink holders. Some may say that Toyota could have at least added some TRD parts inside but, personally, I like it the way it is; Clean, uncluttered and free of fuss.
Also carried over is the 1-GD turbodiesel that powers the 4x4 Hiluxes. It is a 2.8 liter mill with a variable geometry turbo with an output of 177 PS and 450 Nm of torque. In this particular unit, it is paired with a six-speed manual with intelligent mode (6 i-MT) which was one particular source of amusement for me. The TRD package can also be specified with the automatic transmission models as well.
I normally dread driving a manual given today's unprecedented levels of congestion but the i-MT in the Hilux takes away most of the strain in rowing your own gears in traffic. Toyota eased any fear of stalling as the system includes an anti-stall device, helping less-experienced drivers by managing the clutch's engagement no matter how well or how poorly it is released. The 6-speed i-MT, along with hill-start assist and a relatively light clutch, made it easier to drive the TRD Hilux around town. Another treat that intelligent mode offers is the auto blip when downshifting. The auto blip not only stops the pickup from jerking forward during downshifts but also prevents cargo from flinging forward when the bed is loaded, helping it stay level. I, for one, hope this becomes a standard feature on most Toyota models with a manual transmission.
Being a pickup, one would expect the TRD Hilux to ride like a pogo stick in the Metro's pock-marked roads. Granted, it rides stiffer than some of its contemporaries but it's not a spine-busting experience. It soaks up the bumps at lower speeds, but running over them about 60 km/h will send a couple jolts into the cabin. Fortunately, the Hilux comes with seats that offer a decent level of padding. On rutted provincial roads, the suspension shines. Gravel, dips and crests are dealt with neatly and tracks straight and through despite the ground's best efforts to upset its balance. It's no rally racer but it feels safe and secure on loose surfaces.
For those who are curious, the Hilux drives like a pickup usually would on the road. There's a bit of play when the steering is centered and it gains feel as you add more input. The Hilux is fairly longer than most of its contemporaries, but it never felt unwieldy when maneuvering it in relatively tight spots. A reverse camera would have been a handy addition as some of its competition offer it as standard. As for fuel economy, the Hilux does a decent 9.1 kilometers per liter in the city (18 km/h average) and 14.5 kilometers per liter on the highway (88 km/h) thanks to its sixth gear that acts as an overdrive.
In conclusion, the TRD Hilux builds on the solid foundation the standard models have established. It scores well in the looks department and I wouldn't doubt its off-road abilities. Go for the full kit however and you may get struck with sticker shock: the Hilux 2.8 G 4x4 retails at Php 1,685,000 but with the full package, you're looking at a price jump of Php 146,540. If that's a little too much, parts can also be ordered individually to suit your personal preferences. For the off-roader (or outdoorsman) in you, I would suggest getting the skid plate, front bumper guard, upgraded wheels and the bed mounted rollbar.
It may be a relatively minor upgrade but the TRD kit does add some off-road goodies and for those who do use a Hilux on and off the road, it may be enough for them to shell out a little extra for this competent truck.