Ready To Work, Ready To Play
I've always had a preference for pick-up trucks.
When I first told my friends my decision to get a midsize truck, many were surprised that I didn't go for an SUV. But I have always been a truck fan. The rise of lifestyle-oriented trucks that can bridge the gap between a hardcore workhorse, a weekend adventure vehicle, and the comfortable trappings of an SUV appealed to me.
That is what Toyota went for when they launched the new Conquest line.
Strictly speaking, the Conquest isn't a new name in our market. It's been around since early 2018 and was meant to be the more lifestyle version of the range. It's known by many names depending on the market. In the UK, it's known as the Hilux Invincible X, Hilux Adventure in Vietnam, Hilux Revo Rocco in Thailand, and Hilux Rogue in Malaysia and Australia. Essentially, all are the same; if the Ranger has the Wildtrak and the Strada has the Athlete, the Hilux has the Conquest.
This new Hilux Conquest is part of the update that Toyota launched in 2020. It isn't a new generation model; it's still an eighth-generation model, albeit redesigned with new headlights, new taillights, new wheels, so on and so forth. The Conquest version, however, takes it further.
As before, the Conquest has a different look than the standard versions. The bumper is different with a more pronounced front grille, and bi-beam LED headlamps that look nice. I do like the way Toyota redesigned the foglamp assembly. It appears to be integrated with the fender flares and forms a somewhat C-clamp structure.
The body color is what Toyota calls “Emotional Red” and it contrasts very nicely with all the details like the grille, fender overrides, door handles, side steps, and side mirrors that are finished in matt black with some gloss gray accents. The 18-inch wheels are finished in gloss black and look neat and clean.
The bed is the same, measuring in at a near-perfect box. It's about 1.5m x 1.5m x 0.5m, not counting the wheel arches and the bed liner. However, we do have some criticisms with some changes, particularly with non-functional accessories.
We're not too keen on plastic sports bars like the one Toyota has on the bed of this Conquest. It does look good but takes away from the bed's functionality. It could limit the options for a bed cover. Still, it's better than the non-functional “fashion” roll bar from the 2018-2020 model. Also, we're not fans of those roof rails; those aren't functional either and cannot take a load.
So yes, we have some gripes over the exterior as some of the accessories do hamper functionality. On the flip side, we do appreciate the new Conquest decals. Instead of that big, gaudy CONQUEST decal on the tailgate (that doesn't look centered on some examples), Toyota opted for smaller ones on the side. We would have still preferred that Toyota just removed all the badging and stickers altogether and go for a TOYOTA embossed on the tailgate like the great Hiluxes of the past.
Inside, Toyota didn't change much; the only real design updates we can see are the trim pieces on top. That's fine because the interior is still very much functional, despite looking a bit too busy. There's a split glove compartment with an upper glove box (with a cooling function) and a lower glove box. There's a dropdown pocket up here that is good for either your sunglasses or your RFID cards. There are also cupholders that pop out in front of the side A/C vents to keep drinks cold or cool down hot drinks, just like before.
The steering wheel has been carried over with the full suite of buttons to control the audio system, the multi-info display, and Bluetooth. Looking around, we can tell that the instrument cluster has changed from white to black with blue highlights. Those needles for the tachometer, speedometer, fuel meter, and temperature meter look pretty neat, as does the new 4.2-inch multi-info display in the middle.
On the driver's armrest, you can see all the normal power controls like the central locks, the side mirror adjustment including the folding mechanism, as well as four full-auto one-touch window switches. For comfort, you have an automatic climate control system so you can just set it and forget it.
We can also tell that Toyota really listened to their customers for the new Conquest. For instance, there is cruise control in the Conquest. That is very useful for long drives on our expanding expressway network. There is also a reverse camera that activates when you put the shifter into R.
The back seat of the Hilux is a rather pleasant place to be. Getting in is effortless with these chunky handles to pull yourself up. The seats are nicely scalloped for comfort, and there's a good bit of cushioning. There are hooks up on the ceiling for a clothes hanger you need to have a coat or an extra shirt in your Hilux, and there are also hooks behind the front seats if you have bags or packages you don't want rolling around on the floor.
If you don't need to have passengers in the back and require a bit more space for cargo, you can fold up the 60/40 split seat cushions. There are also compartments underneath for extra storage for things like tools or other accessories.
For safety, this has anti-lock brakes with EBD and brake assist. There are vehicle stability control and traction control for slippery terrain. Hill-start assist control is standard for all Hilux variants, but the Conquest also gets downhill assist control which is useful for steep descents.
Seven airbags are also standard in this version; two in front, two on the side, two curtain airbags, as well as one more for the driver's knee. Hopefully, we won't have to put those to the test. Oddly enough, this one still doesn't have Toyota's next-generation safety suite called Toyota Safety Sense.
The most significant interior upgrade is a new 8-inch multifunction touchscreen display audio unit. It can display a variety of information about your drives like average speed, elapsed time, cruising range, and the like. It has the usual things like AM, FM, USB input, and Bluetooth, but no more CD slot for those of you that still use optical media. But the key thing here is the connectivity system.
This new one doesn't use the older mirroring or T-Link system. It also has screen mirroring, but the tech-inclined out there will like is that finally, the Hilux Conquest has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from the showroom. My Android phone doesn't seem to work (which may be a phone issue), but my older iPhone doesn't have a problem activating CarPlay. While better, the resolution and the user interface of the system could be better. We're also a bit envious that foreign market Conquest equivalents have a JBL audio system (like the Fortuner LTD); this one has standard speakers all around.
What we did notice right away, however, was the absence of certain things we expected in the price range that the Hilux Conquest V is competing in. For instance, much of the materials inside are still hard plastic and rather obviously so. Perhaps the most major shortcoming the Conquest has for a top-of-the-line lifestyle truck is the upholstery: this still has fabric seats, not leather.
Powering the Hilux Conquest is the 1GD-FTV 2.8-liter diesel with a 6-speed automatic gearbox that can drive the four wheels via the shift-on-the-fly 4x4 system on the dash. Hilux fans will know that it's the same engine code as the previous Conquest, but here's where it gets interesting: this isn't the same. The last Conquest had 177 PS and 450 Newton meters of torque from this engine. This new Hilux Conquest with the 6-speed automatic has 204 PS and 500 Newton meters of torque; that's a 15% power increase and an 11% increase in torque.
Toyota achieved these enhanced figures by upgrading the gaskets and seals in the block for better cooling. It also has a new ball bearing variable geometry turbo that Toyota calls Variable Nozzle Turbo (VNT) with a revised turbine. Yes, this one should be more enjoyable to drive with the extra bump in power.
At full throttle from a standstill, we managed a 0-100 km/h time of 10.8 seconds on concrete, according to our GPS data. That's pretty quick for such a heavy truck. The brakes could be improved upon because it took 3.76 seconds and 48.18 meters to come to a full stop from 100 km/h on concrete. What was noticeable was the slight nosedive the Hilux took. We reckon it's because it was unladen and the brake set-up. The front brakes are discs, while the rears are still drums.
For fuel economy, this new Conquest seems to be better too. In city driving, we were getting 8.8 km/l at a 19 km/h average speed. When traffic lightens up, the fuel economy improves to 9.2 km/l. On the highway with an average of 93 km/h and the RPM low, don't be surprised if you get north of 15 km/l. We were getting 16.3 km/l. Of course, all these readings were with the truck unladen.
If your goal is a truck for the trail, the Conquest has the credentials to be a great machine for that. Toyota says the approach angle is at 31 degrees, the departure angle is 26 degrees, while the ground clearance is at 295mm; we're not quite sure where they measured that (probably the bottom of the rear diff), but there you go.
4x4 fans will love the presence of an electronic locking differential to prevent the unloaded wheel from just spinning away wastefully and leaving you stuck on a trail. Retrofitting one of those can be quite expensive, and this one has it out of the box. All you need to change are the tires unless you're aiming for hardcore trails.
The big difference with the 2021 Hilux Conquest over its 2018-2020 predecessor is not in the off-road experience but on-road. We've become used to driving Hiluxes bouncing around like there's no tomorrow when unladen; that's the reality of a truck like the Hilux that's meant to carry weight, often above and beyond its rating.
The new Conquest, however, has been engineered to deliver a better ride given its intended target market. Toyota has changed out the shock absorbers and put in a new leaf spring system. Even the bushings have been changed. This was done to refine the ride of the back, even when unladen. And yes, you can really feel the improvement over the predecessor model. The only concern is whether the softer rear compromises the payload, but it's still rated for one metric tonne or about 1000 kilos.
One major change is the power steering unit. Pick-ups usually come with hydraulic systems given that these are more robust units compared to electronic power steering units. However, those can feel a bit heavier at low speeds because of the lower hydraulic pressure generated at low RPM.
That's why the new hydraulic unit has a variable flow control system. The result is that it brings it to crossover-levels of lightness when maneuvering in city streets at low speeds but stiffens up to give you more control at higher speeds. And given that it's hydraulic, you get a bit more feedback when cornering; that's why I had a bit of fun kicking the tail out in 2WD mode on a dirt road. I would still contend that the Strada is still the best sorted out when we're talking about fast driving dynamics on loose surfaces, but the Hilux is getting better overall.
Yes, the Hilux Conquest 2.8 V 4x4 is a significant step up if you're in the market for a Hilux that can be great for the city, great for carrying heavy loads, and great for the trail. There are some shortcomings like the lack of leather, the interior plastics, and the non-functional exterior accessories like the sports bar and roof rails. All in all, though, this product has improved.
It is pricey, too. If you order the Conquest 4x4 V A/T in any other color but red, you're already paying PHP 1.83 million. You'll have to add another PHP 20k for this color.
Is the Hilux Conquest worth it? That depends on you. There are more affordable options with similar (or even more) features, but the one thing the Hilux -any Hilux- has going for it is the hard-earned reputation for reliability over the decades. That is a very important selling point, and will likely sway buyers towards something with a T on the grille.