|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
But times are changing and so is the pickup truck. Today, people are embracing it as something of a lifestyle choice. It’s the hipster car: a rolling proof that you enjoy backyard barbecues and quiet hikes in the great outdoors. It’s now become equal parts workhorse and equal parts family car. Understanding this phenomenon leads us to the 2015 Toyota Hilux.
Taking a complete departure from its tough-as-nails looking predecessor (and even rivals), the Hilux instead embraces a much more emotional or dare I say it, feminine design. With a chief designer being a self-proclaimed “passenger car guy”, the Hilux does look it: a raised and buffed up passenger car. It’s less angular and upright and more arrow-shaped. The thick, tapered bumper and thin set of headlights and bright work make it look more Corolla than FJ Cruiser. The blistered wheel arches and curved rear glass are reminiscent of the North American Tacoma so at least you know it’s a global thing. The lines are largely love or hate this time around, but there’s some reason behind this madness. The heavily tapered bumper and raised corners for example, allows the Hilux to traverse steep grades without fear of having its front-end getting ripped out.
While the Hilux’s exterior is polarizing, the passenger car-like cabin execution is very welcome. Hopping aboard blindfolded, you can easily mistake the interior to be something straight from a Corolla or Camry. Granted the materials used are still quite hard to the touch, at least there’s boat loads of style everywhere you look. The all-black motif is nicely brightened up by the different aluminum-like highlights as well as the piano black accents on the dashboard itself. Speaking of the dashboard, the asymmetric design works well to give it stellar ergonomics. With the exception of the AVT-sourced touchscreen; everything is operable at a glance. Single-handedly though, the best part of the cabin is the driving controls. The LED backlit instrument cluster (complete with a nifty 4.2-inch colored TFT display sandwiched in the middle) feels very upscale; the thick-rimmed four-spoke wheel is nice to hold and offer extensive adjustment thanks to the tilt/telescopic column; and the front seats are surprisingly supportive even for a whole day of crawling in urban traffic.
As with any other pickup, cargo versatility is limited unless you happen to frequent Home Depot. However, it does have one trick up its sleeve and that’s a single action 60/40 split-folding rear seat. An improvement over the previous Hilux, this system folds the seat cushion upward, perfect for loading stuff like potted plants or groceries. The under seat cubby holes are also perfect for smuggling things through checkpoints (it also reveals the toolbox and jack).
Given the extensive competition out there, Toyota has actually gone on a limb and equipped the Hilux with all-new drivetrains. Thus, you really don’t know what to expect in terms of performance and fuel efficiency. But after spending some time, it can definitely be concluded: this 2.4-liter engine is the best one fitted to a pickup yet. The 2GD-FTV won’t win in terms of outright power or torque figures: considering it tops out at 147 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 400 Nm at 1,600 to 2,000 rpm, but it wins hands down in quietness and refinement. In other words, Toyota has traded in paper worthy numbers for actual usable performance.
There’s good tractive push at every speed and it’s especially so when felt from a standstill. This is one diesel that loves to rev and doesn’t rely simply on boost to get things going. What’s more, Toyota has introduced a selectable drive mode located in front of the shifter. It has three modes: Normal, Eco, and Power that noticeably changes the sensitivity of the throttle pedal. In Eco or Normal, it feels perfectly suited and smooth for everyday use, but it gets a bit raunchy and rough in Power Mode. Whatever the mode though, the engine is quiet and regular conversation can actually be carried out even at full throttle.
The previous-generation Hilux’s biggest weakness is the refinement of the manual gearbox, or rather, the lack of it. This time though, it’s fairing much, much better. The new 6-speed manual still has long throws, but the engagement this time is positive and crisp making it livable even when doing continuous rope-a-dope rowing action in three-hour traffic jams. The spacing between gears is much more even, particularly with the first gear being now more of a proper gear as opposed to “use only when towing”. Surprisingly enough, as you go up, the spacing gradually becomes taller and taller with sixth rarely being engaged in the urban setting. That said, even with an average speed of just 14 km/h, it does 10.20 km/L in the city climbing up to 17.86 km/L on the highway. The final average is 13.88 km/L.
The basic platform is what all other pickups are made of: Double Wishbones upfront and Leaf Springs at the back, so one can expect the same sort of ride. Surprisingly though, it does have a better-than-average low speed ride. It’s still not as plush as a typical SUV, but it manages to soak up overnight potholes very well. However, as the speeds increase, the bumps do get magnified tenfold. This is especially true when hitting small, undulating surfaces such as broken pavement or concrete ribs at 60 km/h where it tends to jar over them. In fact, the entire body seems to shimmy and rattle. In terms of handling, it’s a lot more stable and secure in tackling bends and curves. There’s still some propensity to understeer and the steering takes a couple of turns to get the body where you want it, but generally, it’s come a long way since the previous generation. Oh, and the brakes bite very well.
The Toyota Hilux’s almost car-like execution to its design and engineering is aimed squarely at people who look at pickups as more than just beasts of burden. It’s still no SUV in terms of its comfort, but it can get pretty close sometimes. More than anything, the Hilux manages to become the new breed of pickups: it’s become a true dual-purpose machine. Not only will owners want something to haul cargo occasionally, it can ferry people comfortably as well; and if needed, in a single go. In that respect, the Hilux does what it’s intended to do. It’s not the perfect choice out there (it does lack in interior toys for the price for one), but it does make up for it with the great new powertrain, surprisingly good fuel economy, and improved handling. Some will never get the reason to own a pickup truck, but for those coming from a passenger car and want to try out the lifestyle, the Hilux is certainly the right place to start.
2015 Toyota Hilux 4x2 G
|Ownership||2015 Toyota Hilux 4x2 G|
|Body Type||4-door + 1 tailgate pickup|
|Engine / Drive||F/R|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Direct Injection, Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||147 @ 3,400|
|Nm @ rpm||400 @ 1,600 - 2,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,860|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||Leaf Springs|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Dunlop Grandtrek AT 265/65R17 T (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|