It’s the updated eighth-generation Toyota Hilux. This Japanese truck has been on sale continuously since 1968 and, in that time, more than 18 million units have been sold across the globe. This makes it the best-selling pick-up everywhere on Earth bar the United States, so it’s an important machine to its parent manufacturer. The Mk8, which launched in 2016, has already had one minor programme of changes in 2018, but this round of revisions involves a much more significant set of alterations to the engineering underneath the bodywork.
While the current Hilux has always done well as a light commercial vehicle (LCV), given it has a solid reputation for indestructibility built up across five decades of sterling duty in some of the harshest environments across the globe, it didn’t quite match up to some rivals in terms of its engine, power and aspirational ‘lifestyle’ connotations. Although all ‘one-tonne’ (so-called because they can carry more than 1,000kg in their load beds at the back) pick-ups start life as LCVs, there has been an increasing trend across Europe in recent years for the highest-spec, highest-power models to sell well to private buyers, who see them as an interesting alternative to a default SUV.
Toyota has a high specification for its truck, called Invincible, already in place but it never had the beefier engine to match. Buyers of these top-end trucks want more than 175hp and the Hilux was sold with a solitary 2.4-litre turbodiesel, delivering 150hp and 400Nm. So Toyota has decided to add to the engine line-up for the 2021 model year Hilux, bringing in a 2.8-litre, 204hp/500Nm alternative to the 2.4 (which continues on base and lower models). It has also altered the Hilux’s leaf-sprung rear suspension to be more comfortable on road while running without any load in the rear of the truck, fitted a new steering system and revised the appearance of all models – with this range-topping Invincible getting its own specification of front fog lights and radiator grille, as well as a ‘design’ tailgate and black plastic cladding running over the wheel arches down the sides of the vehicle. It looks great on the outside, all purposeful and tidy, while the cabin has been updated with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system – although this is one area where the Toyota still feels a tad behind its key rivals.
How is it to drive?
As a 2.8-litre automatic Invincible, the Hilux is a significant step on in terms of its pace and its refinement, when compared to the pre-facelift 2.4-litre models. The 2.8 engine idles at a lower speed, 680rpm instead of 850rpm, which helps with delicate off-road manoeuvring, but out on the road its additional 100Nm of torque is most welcome (manual 2.8 SR5 models get less torque). It makes the Toyota much more urgent and able to easily keep up with traffic flow on open roads, dual carriageways and motorways, and it means you don’t have to rev it much beyond 3,000rpm, where this generally dignified four-cylinder turbodiesel does finally become a touch raucous.
It’s the suspension that is the star, though. Instead of bouncing and skittering as these pick-ups are wont to do when they aren’t fully laden at the back, Toyota’s suspension changes make the Hilux far more civilised to travel in than it was previously. It will still occasionally thump, crash and shudder if it hits a really big compression, like a pothole or a large expansion joint in the road surface, but these instances are few and far between, with the ride quality broadly being as good as that of most SUVs out there. It’s also a hushed pick-up to travel in, with little to report in the way of wind or tyre noise at higher speeds.
Off-road, the Hilux is as imperious as ever. Even without recourse to mud-specific, chunky tyres, it will take on and easily defeat some difficult surfaces away from the tarmac – such as thick, cloying mud and large axle articulation stretches of holed tracks – with a nonchalance that’s quite remarkable. Further additions to the Hilux’s arsenal include a monitor in the instrument cluster that shows the steering angle of the front wheels at all times, revised throttle response in the ‘4L’ mode to make it more controllable when venturing into the countryside, and lighter steering weight from when going slow. This is because heavy steering, when off-roading, eventually induces driver fatigue, so the Hilux senses when you are travelling at walking pace in difficult terrain and makes the steering exceptionally light to compensate. And then, when you’re back out onto asphalt, the steering weights up again to prevent the truck from becoming flighty and hard to control at extra-urban velocity.
When is it coming to Ireland?
It’s available now, starting at €29,310 in Toyota dealerships. That’s for a DLX grade model with the Single Cab and the older 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine. A DLX Double Cab increases to €36,110, while the more luxury-oriented SR5 – the first trim level at which the new 2.8-litre engine is available – starts from €38,955; it’s a Double Cab only. So is this Invincible range-topper, which comes with lots of kit, its own bespoke styling and the 2.8-litre engine paired exclusively to the six-speed automatic transmission, all kicking off at €49,795.
Any juicy technology?
While the Hilux obviously has a full low-ratio ‘box at its disposal, with 4H and 4L settings, if it is running in 2H then it is only sending power to the rear wheels. To ensure that it still has excellent traction in such circumstances (say, you’re driving it on a rough, muddy track but nothing too strenuous) then there’s a function in the traction control called Auto LSD. This is activated by briefly pressing the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) button when in two-wheel-drive mode and it uses the rear differential and automatic brake application to ensure the rear wheel with most traction gets more of the torque. This makes the Hilux surprisingly capable on muddy lanes, even when it’s not in 4WD.
Carzone.ie rating: 4/5
Much improved in terms of refinement and performance, the Hilux now feels like one of the best trucks in its sector, capable of taking some lifestyle private sales to go with its strong performance as a commercial vehicle. The interior is a little way off the best in this segment and the larger 2.8-litre engine can still be a touch too noisy if revved hard, but otherwise this is a capable and accomplished all-rounder, with all of the legendary reliability and toughness that the Hilux has become known for across more than 50 years of service.