Car Reviews

2017 Toyota HiLux extracab review

Robert Pepper’s 2017 Toyota HiLux extracab review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The HiLux is, and has been Australia’s best-selling 4X4 ute for a long time and that’s because it does nothing badly, just everything quite well.

2017 Toyota HiLux 4X4 extracab 2.8L SR5 manual

(some specs for other variants included below for comparison)

Pricing: $51,990 + onroad costs; Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km; Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbocharged diesel; Power/Torque: 130kW @ 3400rpm (4×4, Hi-Rider), 420Nm @ 1400-2600rpm (manual 4X4, Hi-Rider), 450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm (automatic 4X4, Hi-Rider); Body: 5.33m (L), 1.80m (W), 1.80m (H); Tare weight: 1775-2080kg (4×4); Fuel consumption: 7.3 (manual) / 8.1L (auto) /100km (combined cycle); Fuel tank: 80L; Fuel: diesel; Spare: full sized alloy; Towing: 750kg unbraked, 3500kg braked (manual), 3200kg (auto), max TBM 350kg (manual) / 320kg (auto); Transmission: 6 speed manual or automatic; Drive: part-time 4WD with low range and locking rear cross-axle differential (SR5); Turning circle: 12.6m; Seats: 4 (extracab), 5 (dualcab); Wading depth: 700mm; Approach/Departure angles: 31/25 degrees; Suspension: independent front with coils, solid rear axle with leaves; Ground clearance: 225mm; Crawl ratio: 31:1 auto, 44:1 manual.

Editor's Rating

What's the design like?
What's it like inside and how practical is it?
What's infotainment and communications system like?
Performance: onroad
Performance: offroad & dirt
Performance: towing
How safe is it?
Practical Motoring Says: The HiLux is what it's always been; a solidly reliable, unassuming workhorse ute, better than ever, and you can't go wrong with one. But it isn't the best dual-cab on the market.

What is it?

THIS IS THE EIGHTH GENERATION HILUX, released in late 2015 and improved over the seventh generation in pretty much every way from engine to body to suspension to efficiency (more on that here). There’s now a huge range to choose from; 31 variants covering 2WD, 4WD, auto, manual, petrol, two diesels and every body choice from single cab to extra cab to dualcab, and a cab chassis too, available in three trim levels; Workmate, SR and SR5. Not every transmission is available with every engine or trim level, but even so there should be one for everyone.

New to the HiLux range is Hi-Rider; a 4WD-specification version that is only 2WD, copying Ford’s move with the Ranger. But in keeping with the HiLux workaday ethos, there is no flashy top-end Wildtrak equivalent with special paint and luxury appointments.

HiLuxes are built in Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, Malaysia, Pakistan and Venezuela. Vehicles for Australia come from Thailand, which accounts for around 70% of global production. The HiLux was extensively tested in Australia, clocking up some 650,000km and there was a further 400,000km of testing overseas.

Max Gillard at the Toyota Technical Centre told Practical Motoring that “Australia bucks the trend for commonality of components across various markets, because Australian buyers have a different expectation and usage than some other markets. There are now two different HiLuxes; there’s one for Asia (mainly Thailand) where they use more sealed roads and need a softer suspension, and there’s another, tougher version developed for Australia and also sold in South Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Russia.”

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Our test car is a manual 2.8L turbo-diesel extracab SR5, and it came with a factory towbar and Redarc electric brake controller. We had it for a week during which we did some offroading, towing, two six-hour country drives, some dirt road work and even used it on the school run.

Design

The snub, overbite nose is not to everyone’s taste but the way of such things is that it will become familiar and more acceptable over time. Regardless of initial impressions, it gives the HiLux a distinctive and modern appearance, and it’s practical too with a good approach angle.

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Most utes look similar from the back and the HiLux is no exception but the rear light cluster is now more of a triangle, helping differentiate it from the previous model. The triangle-taillight is becoming a bit of a ute trend.

The high-level brakelight position on the tailgate instead of on the sportsbar is good as it’s not lost with a canopy or a load, but bad as it is lost when the tailgate is down. The sportsbar is purely cosmetic and even has a sticker saying so.

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Once the sidesteps are thrown in the bin there’s very little left to break off or bend. Yes, those are 18-inch rims, no, we don’t know why Toyota thought it was a good idea to fit them over the 17s.

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The new Hilux is also know as the Hilux Revo, as that is now its name in the Thai market.

WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE AND HOW PRACTICAL IS IT?

The HiLux may be a ute, but the interior isn’t completely spartan and it’s now comparable to any other Toyota. The designers put a lot of effort into making the HiLux more car-like, and it’s paid off… although Toyota car interiors are nowhere near the most stylish on the market.

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There’s a dual glovebox, USB port and centre storage for a phone. There are drinks holders in each door, but unusually, just one in the centre. The climate control system is not split left and right. Dual-cab SR5s get a 220v socket, but not our extracab.

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The steering wheel controls are simple and easy to use, and don’t get in the way when you’re twirling the wheel.

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The rest of the controls are nicely labelled, within reach and not hidden from view, important in a vehicle like the HiLux that may see many different drivers.

Our tester is an extracab, so it seats two in the front and two in the rear, just, with micro seats. There’s storage pockets on the back of the front seats, always handy for big maps (remember those?) and the like.

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There are four doors – the rear two are backward-opening suicide doors which means the fronts must be opened before the rear can be opened. The rear windows angle open for a bit of ventilation.  

Toyota supply decent rubber mats, but I’d like a bit more depth to them to catch mud and water. The rear seats are not actually completely cramped in the back for me and I’m just under 6ft, but it’s not as good as a dual-cab ute. I reckon extracabs are best used for storing extra kit, and you can fit a fair bit back there. The seat bases lift up to reveal a bit more storage too.  

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The extracab tub length is 1805mm, and for comparison, the tub length of the dualcab is 1569mm (+19mm over 7th gen). Make your own tradeoff, but I’d suggest offroad tourers should choose the extra or dualcab over the single so you have a bit of cabin space for gear you don’t want to put in the back. 

The tub has only four tie-down points, and none are in the floor so you can’t secure flat objects. Time to drill your own which is possible but tiresome and you shouldn’t have to do it.

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The tailgate can’t be locked either.  There’s no opening rear window, no 12v, no light, no anti-slip, no lip tiedowns, no extras. At least the tailgate can be operated with a single handle. And while no ute tailgate is dustproof, there are some really visible gaps on this one. Overall – Toyota could have made a bit more of an effort at the back, but the rest of the cabin is reasonably good looking and practical, certainly not the rather basic, plastickty design of old.

Click any image below to start the HiLux interior gallery.

WHAT’S THE COMMUNICATIONS AND INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM LIKE?

The infotainment system is Toyota’s usual unit. It is bright, clear, easy to use and responsive. Satnav is included, and it’s great that there is navigation prompting on the driver’s dash display. Another good feature is the way it reads emails and text to you, and the voice recognition works well too. It has all of the features you’d need, but of course as these things tend go, has way more fuel consumption information than anyone would want, especially HiLux owners.

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It is annoying that the volume control is touchscreen, so you can’t quickly change volume. The touchscreen itself is also difficult to use when in motion as you’re never quite sure where your finger will end up.

The dash display is clear, useful and easy to toggle through. It works, to some degree, in harmony with the main display for example showing navigation information.

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Performance, ride and handling

What’s it got?

The basic HiLux is the same as it’s been for years; independently sprung front coil suspension, live rear axle with leaf springs and a part-time 4WD system with no locking hubs, but Toyota have made some improvements for the 8th generation:  

  • Rear cross-axle differential lock for SR5 4X4 vehicles. This can only can be engaged in low range when stopped, and disables brake traction control on front axle, unfortunately;
  • iMT system on manuals to match revs when downshifting;
  • Power and Eco modes for the engine. The eco mode reduces the aircon and changes the throttle map to “slow”, the power mode sharpens response but doesn’t deliver any more power;
  • Electronic downhill assist control (DAC) for SR5 4X4 automatics; and
  • Six-speed transmissions – both auto and manual, with a wider spread of ratios than the 4 and 5 speed transmissions previously used. 

There’s quite a few other useful little improvements too. All 4×4 and Hi-Rider models have a purpose-designed fuse box in the engine bay to allow safe connection of accessories to the vehicle’s power supply. The front axle capacity has been engineered to accommodate a bull bar and a winch. This is a rarity as with most wagons and utes the front axle maximum load is exceeded by a winch and bar. The HiLux’s front axle load is 1450kg, up from 1340kg. As a comparison, the MQ Triton is 1260kg and the Ranger PX2 is 1480kg, although it is a heavier vehicle by about 230kg, so the Toyota wins. This is exactly the sort of subtle offroad design that doesn’t appear on headlines but all helps to make Toyota 4X4s properly bushable. That said, it took Toyota long enough to sort the problem as Gen 7 vehicles could barely take a winch and bar without exceeding the front axle limit.

Toyota also say there is a “new under-body protection package, fitted to all 4×4 and Hi-Rider models, which is larger and thicker to deflect sticks and rocks to protect vital mechanical and fuel-system components.” They also claim a range of improvements; strong, more rigid chassis, use of higher tensile steel, larger and more efficient radiator, improved noise/vibration/harshness.  

Suspension has been improved too; rear axle flex is now 520mm, compared to the previous model’s 433mm left and 474mm right. That’s in part thanks to 100mm longer leaves which are further outboard than before.  

Steering has been a big focus, and effort is reduced by 13% for the 4X4 models, 3.43 turns lock-to-lock. The front disc rotors have increased in size from 297 to 319mm. We have a full explanation of the HiLux’s offroad traction aids here -> HiLux and Fortuner offroad tech explained.

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HiLux 4WD selector; 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low. The lower button engages the rear cross-axle differential lock, and the one to the left disables stability control with a single press and everything else bar ABS with a long press.
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iMT = Intelligent Manual Transmission: matches revs on downshifts. Eco and Power modes can be used with iMT or not.

Around town

The HiLux is a bit slow off the mark… unless you switch it into Power mode. You don’t get any extra grunt, but you do get a much snappier throttle response which helps a great deal. Handling is competent but unexciting, but top marks for the steering which is fast and responsive. Personally, I can forgive a great deal on a car if the steering is up to the mark and it certainly is on the HiLux.

Traction around town is always a weak point of modern utes that must run in 2WD on the roads, but the HiLux is reasonably well sorted and reluctant to spin an inside wheel – when it does, the electronics smooth things out with minimal fuss. The Eco mode, like every single such mode I’ve ever used, is useless. Just drive more slowly.  

The reversing camera quality is adequate at best, but it does help cope with the 12.6m turning circle which is about average for a ute. It has guidelines that move to help a little.  

After each fuel fill you get prompted to enter the fuel cost, a useful feature for those inclined to calculate such things.  

Asks you for fuel pricing!

The iMT system is interesting. You slot the car into a lower gear, and up comes the revs. Heel-and-toe shifting was always a challenge in a ute, so this feature is useful. However, sometimes it does forget to work and isn’t all that fast – you can slam home a gearshift before the computers realise what’s happened and have had a chance to raise the revs. iMT is disabled every time the engine is switched off. It’s a feature worth having but not one worth paying a lot for.

The manual gearbox is beautiful – easy to operate, precise and with a shorter throw than before. Testers did however struggle a bit with finding reverse, but you get used to it.

Open Roads

I bounced my way to Mildura and back in order to test the HiLux. The suspension is an anti-fatigue device; you’re never going to fall asleep while you’re being jiggled by the back end. Power isn’t exactly abundant – 110km/h freeway hills are not done in sixth even unloaded, and the ute doesn’t much like 80km/h in sixth either. The HiLux does not drive like the V8 79 Series in terms of torque.

Cruise control is easy to use. Steering is fine, but the suspension bump-steers a bit too much. A good point is that the HiLux is reasonably quiet by ute standards. The infotainment system is hard to use when driving as it’s touch-screen only, and your hand bounces around when trying to operate it. I ended up stabilising my hand by holding on to the unit with three fingers and using the others to stab buttons.

Utes are never going to be the interstate cruisemobiles of choice, but even so this is not the HiLux’s top strength. Fuel consumption is not great – that Mildura trip recorded a 9.1L/100km figure which for a long cruise on country roads when unloaded is not impressive. However, I did a manual check and the real figure was 8.8, so about 3% better. Still not great though, but what would you rather – an engine tuned for minimal fuel consumption, or one designed for heavy duty loads and variable fuel? Thought so.

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Dirt Roads

Like any part-time 4WD vehicle, the HiLux needs to be slotted into 4WD for dirt road use so it has a chance to put power to the ground. That done, there’s still a bit of bounciness but the suspension handles the rougher stuff relatively well. The fairly direct steering is a bonus, you occasionally wish for more power, and progress is made without much fuss or any excitement. The ABS is well tuned for dirt roads, and the stability control does not intefere with progress so can be left on. There are no particular strengths or weaknesses on dirt roads. 

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Toyota claim the HiLux is unbreakable, but it is scratchable so we cleared Donald Trump’s hair out the way before we proceeded. Also, dry thin tumbleweed can easily get caught around the hot exhaust and catch fire. It doesn’t take much to start a bushfire; one began, apparently one began from a thrown cigarette butt just after we left the freeway.

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Offroad

The HiLux performs offroad as it does pretty much everything else – it’s competent but not outstanding, there were no “wow” points during the test. However, that’s compared to the current crop of utes. Compared to previous generations it is outstanding.

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HiLux suffers from the usual ute problems of a long wheelbase which limits ramp-over angle and increases turning circle, plus less flexible leaf-sprung suspension, and those differences to its wagon-based Fortuner stablemate were evident on test. Still, for a ute it works well. The engine is nicely strong offroad, never lacking for torque. Like all modern manuals it has an anti-stall mode so you can simply put the car into first low, take your feet off the pedals and it will just keep driving over anything, only stopping when it runs out of traction. That ability is helped by the pretty good 44:1 crawl ratio, as it does with the descents where engine braking is good.

You can also engage the rear locker when descending which also knocks out ABS, so despite the fact there’s no electronic hill descent system descents aren’t a problem in steep terrain. You’d miss the hill descent system on flatter, slippery terrain though.  

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Toyota need to be commended, again, on their traction control system which is just superb, really effective and quite smooth. Most of the time you’re better off using it than engaging the rear locker – as usual, the exception is when there’s a lot of traction for the rear wheels and the terrain is such that you’re going to lift one or more wheels.

There were a couple of times on test where we had the HiLux halted with the rear locker engaged as both rear wheels had lost traction, and with an open front diff the front axle wasn’t helping progress. But switch the locker off which re-enables brake traction control and away you go. Toyota really need to follow Ford’s lead and ensure that brake traction control works on the front axle when the rear locker is engaged so we can have the best of both worlds. Apparently the reason that you can’t have both is “driveline stress”, but I’d argue the opposite, it would allow even slower and more controlled progress. 

You can switch all the electronics completely off if you want to by a 5-second press of the VSC switch, but there’s never any need unless you want to run high range in sand. We have a full explanation of HiLux/Fortuner electronic and 4WD systems here, and a test of the related Fortuner that included sand work here

There are two backward steps on this new HiLux. One is that you can’t keystart – that means leave the vehicle in gear, then start it. This is a useful and time-honoured technique for failed hillclimbs and stopping on downhills which is now no longer possible, sad to see HiLux joining the other utes in the nanny-state camp.

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The second is hill start assist, which is where the vehicle recognises it is on a hill, and when you take your foot off the brake it holds the brake for you, well for a few seconds anyway. In theory this is good, but in practice it gets in the way. Firstly it’s only momentary, so there’s a risk of people not knowing about it and trusting the system, then it gives up.

Secondly, it makes hill starts more difficult some situations; for example, it’s more than possible to pull away up a steep hill in first low just by bringing the clutch up with your right foot on the brake, modulating brake/clutch. The anti-stall takes care of the throttle, and your right foot takes care of the brake. However, the hill start assist gets in the way and “helps” with extra brake making the pull away more jerky, and then decides halfway through it’s not going to help at all. I’m actually a fan of hill start assist in some circumstances, but I wish you could switch it off for offroad vehicles. Bizarrely, you can do just that in the Toyota 86 I just tested, a car where I cannot see any reason why you’d ever want it off.   

Then we come to iMT, the rev-matching system for downshifts. It still works in low range, and is useful enough but doesn’t really add anything a half-skilled driver can’t do.   

The HiLux runs a DPF, but there’s no manual way to clear it, unlike the LC200 Sahara, an odd omission given the HiLux’s working focus.

Overall, the HiLux is an effective offroad performer. It has brilliant traction control systems, a strong engine and gearing, decent underbody protection and the controls are easy to operate. A couple of the electronics get in the way, but they can be driven around. Yet for reasons I will never understand the HiLux SR5 comes on 18-inch rims… offroaders are much better off with 17s even though the range of 18-inch offroad rubber is increasing steadily. Unfortunately, the vehicle is only placarded for 18-inch rims.

Towing

Here’s Toyota’s ratings:  

  • 3500kg – 4X4 turbodiesel 2.8 manual
  • 3200kg – 4X4 turbodiesel 2.8 auto, turbodiesel 2.4 man
  • 3000kg – turbodiesel 2.4 manual, auto 2800kg – Hi Rider (4X2) turbodiesel 2.8 manual and auto
  • 2500kg – all other 4X2  

Toyota’s Max Gillard said there was no industry standard for determining towing capacity, and that’s true. It is whatever the manufacturer decides is appropriate. However, he also said that “when Toyota says its vehicle will tow 3.5 tonnes, customers can be confident it will do just that – day in, day out – even in the toughest of environmental and climatic conditions” – and I know that’s more than what other manufacturers would be prepared to say.  

All HiLuxes have TSC, or Trailer Sway Control. This is a great move and something that means nothing to people who haven’t experienced the terror that is sway, but if you have, you’ll love it. Another good point is that the towball mass is 10% of the max braked tow, not something every other 4X4 can claim, so there’s a decent 350kg available for our 2.8L manual diesel.

However, the numbers story is not so good when we look at the GCM, which is 5850kg, the tare mass which is 2040kg (2075kg for the dualcab) and GVM of 3000kg.

What this means – subtract the 3500kg max tow from the 5850kg GCM and we have 2350kg, which is the most the HiLux can weigh when towing 3500kg without exceeding its GCM. As the HiLux weighs about 2075kg, that’s only 275kg of payload which has to include the driver. Not enough, Toyota.

Going the other way, a GCM of 5850kg – GVM of 3000kg = 2850kg, which is the most your HiLux will pull if it’s loaded to GVM. And we haven’t even got into the effect on towball mass.

The summary is that the 3500kg rating is just a marketing headline figure, something the HiLux has in common with most other utes, notably the Ford Ranger, and 2800kg is a more realistic safe and legal figure. You can read more at this link:

Everything you need to know about towing heavy trailers

We actually did get to spend some time towing with the HiLux, pulling a 2800kg single-axle trailer. Even at 100km/h on the flat the HiLux preferred fourth gear, and it didn’t take much of a hill to need a shift back to third. The bouncy ride was accentuated with 250kg of towball mass, and of course there was the usual ute problem of a long distance from towball to the centre of the rear wheels to give a long moment to destabilize the rig, leading to some fore/aft pitching.    

The reversing camera isn’t centralised on the tailgate, so while it works well enough it’s not as easy to line up the towball as those which are centrally located. However, good on Toyota for fitting a factory towbar that doesn’t destroy the departure angle. Ford et al., take note.  

One good point was the way the trailer could be backed easily in high range just by lifting the clutch up without touching the throttle, leaving right foot on brake. But really that’s the only HiLux highlight, and if I had to pull 3500kg I’d be looking elsewhere…not least at Toyota’s own LC200 (test here, including towing).

Two-tonne utes and 3500kg trailers are not the best of combinations, and the sooner the marketing people stop their race for ever better numbers the better, preferably before someone gets hurt.

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Well positioned rear towbar. Good to see the hitch is as close to the rear axle as possible too.

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How safe is it?

As usual with modern utes the HiLux scores 34.45 out of 37 to make a 5-star safety rating. There is stability control, ABS, TSC and airbags. However, there’s no advanced safety aids like lane departure warning or blind-spot warning. You do get a fairly basic reversing camera, now standard on all vehicles except the cab chassis for which it is an option.

The vehicle cannot be started unless the clutch is dipped, a small but important safety point although that should be disabled for offroad work in low range. There are two ISOFIX child restraint points on dualcabs, unusual for a ute and a welcome move. Overall, the HiLux does well for safety but isn’t the best on the market. That accolade goes to the Ranger, but only when it is optioned with all the safety extras.   

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Pricing and range

The range below shows only key specifications, omitting bling items like colour-coded trim:  

Workmate  

  • Aircon, power windows, central locking
  • Cruise control
  • 7 airbags (previously 6 on 4X4 models)
  • Reversing camera
  • Stability and traction control
  • Trailer sway control
  • Hill start assist
  • Tilt/reach adjustable steering
  • DRLs
  • 17 steel wheels (4X4s)
  • 6.1″ touchscreen with Bluetooth 

SR in addition to Workmate

  • Air-conditioned cooler/heater box
  • 7″ touchscreen
  • More speakers
  • 40/60 rear seat split (dualcab)
  • Rear cross-axle differential lock
  • Vertical seat height adjustment  

SR5 in addition to SR

  • 18″ wheels
  • iMT (see above)
  • LED headlights
  • Foglamps
  • Keyless entry
  • Folding mirrors
  • Tint
  • Climate control
  • Auto/up down on all windows
  • Satnav
  • Additional 12v socket, 220v socket
  • Alarm
  • Downhill assist control (4X4 auto only)
  • Option: leather accent trim, power driver’s seat on 4X4 SR5)  

Pricing

4X4 Extracabs are only available in diesel manual and SR trim:  

  • SR – $44,990, SR5 – $51,990  

4X4 Dualcabs

  • Workmate diesel 2.4L – $43,990 (manual), $45,990 (auto)
  • SR diesel 2.8L – $46,490 (manual), $48,490 (auto)
  • SR petrol – $48,490 (auto)
  • SR5 diesel – $53,990 (manual), $55,990 (auto)
  • SR5 petrol – $55,990 (auto, no manual 4X4 petrols. Petrol is 95RON.)

So much choice it’s like ordering a Subway but not as tasty. The 2.4L is, according to our previous tests, a bit anemic – 110kW, 400Nm compared to the 2.8’s 130/450 even if the latter figure varies a bit between auto and manual, so the extra $3k for the 2.8L and an upgrade to SR spec is well worth it.  

The bigger question is whether to jump from SR to SR5 for a rather hefty $7000, and as usual with Toyotas, I find the case hard to make. You don’t want 18s for offroading, you can easily add aftermarket spotlights and a tint, the satnav isn’t that great, the extra electrics can be added easily and the rest of the spec is not essential. That leaves the SR as my choice and a trip down to the local 4X4 accessory outlet with cash in hand.

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Why would you buy one?

The ute market is crowded with many very well established vehicles. For my money, the Ford Ranger PX2 remains at the top due to handling, capability and features, but that’s not to say the likes of HiLux have no place. Toyota do robust offroad engineering like nobody else, and the HiLux itself does nothing wrong even if there’s no standout features. The HiLux is what it’s always been; a solidly reliable, unassuming workhorse ute, better than ever, and you can’t go wrong with one.

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Further reading


Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is the editor of PM4x4, an offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/