Marcus De Guzman / Marcus De Guzman | June 18, 2018 10:14
Upping The Ante
Little things can often make a big difference. Adding mint leaves brightens up the taste of any salad. Adding a lemon wedge makes a cocktail so much better. Heck, even just adding a smiley to a text gets you a better reply, especially if its for that special someone.
In cars, the same thing applies. Add an armrest, and your car will be more comfortable for you on long drives. Add a better headlight bulb, and visibility will dramatically improve. Add Bluetooth, and you've got plenty of tunes on the go.
Vehicles can be made so much better with just a few little tweaks, and that's exactly what Toyota did for the Hilux, particularly this Conquest variant.
Now on its eighth generation, Toyota's pickup truck now looks, feels and drives like a modern vehicle. Little changes meant that the Hilux has shed some of its utilitarian roots, making for a sleeker and more practical ‘lifestyle-oriented’ vehicle. But despite being more high-tech and refined than its predecessors, some lament the loss of the pickup’s ‘macho’ looks in favor of a softer, more rounded design.
For 2018, Toyota responded with the introduction of the Hilux Conquest. Serving as the new top-of-the-range offering, the Conquest comes packed with new features along with more aggressive looks. Will it be enough to make a difference in the hugely popular segment?
If there’s one thing that I really liked about the Hilux Conquest is its Tacoma-inspired look. The bolder-looking front grill, sleek LED headlights with daytime running lights, and sporty front bumper give the Hilux a more upscale presence. Then there’s the striking Nebula Blue Metallic paint job which frankly made the pickup quite the head-turner. I wasn't so sure about the color when I first laid eyes on it but over time I actually grew to like it. Other standard additions present in the Conquest are the bedliner, sports bar and black taillight trim pieces.
What's not nice with the Hilux's exterior? That 'Conquest' sticker placed at the tailgate. Personally, most of us at AutoIndustriya.com agreed that it would have better for the automaker to put in the iconic 'TOYOTA' lettering at the back. The 18-inch alloy wheels look nice but they are the same set found in the Fortuner. I wished Toyota gave the Hilux Conquest its own set of wheels to make it stand out more.
Overall, Toyota made the Hilux cooler and more dashing in the new Conquest trim. But again, they could have done more to fully exploit the refresh and changes applied on their pickup truck. Toyota Thailand did much better with their 'Rocco edition'.
Pop the doors open and the Hilux gets a bolder interior feel with gloss black trim pieces replacing the aluminum silver painted ones. It also gets cleverly-appointed faux metal accents giving the pickup a more upscale look and feel. However, there are still plenty of hard plastic throughout the cabin which serves as a reminder that you are in a pickup truck that can take on every day abuse.
To differentiate it from standard Hilux models, the Conquest trim gets an updated dual gauge cluster as well as keyless start-and-go. It also comes with an updated infotainment system with navigation (dealer option). Apart from those, the Hilux Conquest is now fitted with automatic headlights and rear parking sensors. All well and good but I wished Toyota would have added a reverse camera system for easier parking.
To be honest, I was expecting a bit more changes and additions in the cabin such as an much-improved entertainment system with a larger screen. Toyota did add several new features for the refreshed pickup but on the whole, the non-Conquest 2.8G in 4x4 trim has almost the same level of equipment.
Pop the hood open and a 2.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine makes its home in the Hilux Conquest. Internally known as the 1GD-FTV, it generates a healthy 177 PS along with a massive 450 Nm of torque that’s readily available at 1600 rpm. On this particular model, the engine is connected to a 4WD system and six-speed automatic transmission.
Right off the bat, the Hilux delivered plenty of low-end torque which made short work of overtaking slower vehicles. Also the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic went through the gears without a hitch. The transmission does come with manual-select but I mostly left it to its own devices as it was doing a good job of going through each gear. A light prod of the throttle was all that was needed to get the Hilux Conquest moving in city streets and along town roads.
Put your foot to the floor, however, and the Hilux is ready to deliver all its power to the road. Even with just 177 PS, it feels like the Hilux has more to give when driven on the limit. The healthy 450 Nm of pulling power also meant that it has loads of torque which is great for towing, or carrying heavy cargo. Steep hills, muddy terrain and long stretches of roads also pose no challenge for the Hilux Conquest.
Should you need more oomph, the Hilux's powertrain can be set to 'Power' mode which unleashes the full potential of the turbo-diesel engine. Also. the revs build up quicker while the transmission shifts through the gears quicker. Press on the 'Power' button again and the pickup reverts back to 'Normal'. It also comes with 'Eco' mode which makes the pickup more fuel efficient.
In terms of handling, the Hilux Conquest was alright. It's not exactly the kind of vehicle you'd want to carve a mountain road with but it did manage to handle itself well through the twisties. Body roll was quite prominent but that was to be expected from a high-riding pickup. Steering, on the other hand, was good. It was not that heavy nor was it too light and it delivered plenty of feedback which is always a plus for me. With it, driving the Hilux around tight back roads and along side streets was not intimidating despite its huge size.
The brakes were equally impressive as it gave me confidence in slowing the Hilux down at any speed. They felt responsive and car-like to use which was great.
Fuel economy on the Hilux Conquest was pretty good as it was able to return about 15.0 km/l on the highway. City driving, on the other hand, netted an average fuel consumption of around 10.0 - 10.5 km/l. If you’re stuck in heavy traffic, the Hilux will sip fuel at around 8.0 km/l. Do expect those figures to drop slightly when 4WD is engaged or when you're carrying additional passengers / cargo.
Ride quality on the Hilux Conquest still leaves something to be desired however. While Toyota did mention they made tweaks on the suspension and chassis to improve riding comfort, the pickup truck still had a relatively stiff ride. Granted, the Hilux Conquest does come with softer dampers which made the ride slightly better.
Surprisingly the 2018 Hilux appears to have better sound and vibration deadening than before. Whether idling or cruising on the highway, there was less engine noise and vibration creeping into the cabin. Meanwhile, both front seats were comfortable although I do wish the driver’s side had adjustable lumbar support. Getting into the right driving position was also easy as the Hilix Conquest comes with a fully-adjustable driver's seat and a tilt & telescopic steering rack.
Accommodations at the back were generous and there was plenty of space for three adults. The backrests are still a bit upright but you are in a pickup truck, not in an SUV. Plus, passengers at the rear can slide their feet below the front seats more a for relaxed seating position. Did I mention the rear seats also have a center armrest with integrated cupholders? A nice touch if I do say so myself.
Retailing at a cool Php 1,777,000, the 2018 Hilux Conquest in 4x4 A/T trim is quite the investment. Granted, the pickup now comes with additional features along with a cooler exterior. But at its current sticker price, the Hilux Conquest is now by far the most expensive midsize pickup in the market.
Most of the Hilux Conquest’s closest competitors are cheaper by a few hundred thousand Pesos but have the same level of equipment, give or take. Some even come with additional features like cruise control, reverse camera, 360-degree around-view monitor, lane-keep assist (or lane departure warning), forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and even automatic emergency braking. Some also support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on their infotainment systems which is fast becoming a must-have in almost every new car.
But for those that are not bothered by the pickup’s steep price, the Hilux Conquest still presents itself as a reliable, practical and powerful pickup truck that can practically go anywhere.