The Toyota Hilux, as we all know, is nigh-on indestructible. They’ve been blown up, dropped, drowned and squashed, but still they refuse to die. Since then,they’ve also been to the South Pole, Iceland’s Eyjafallajökull volcano just before its eruption brought chaos to the skies of Europe, and conquered Antarctica with the aid of jet fuel. Indeed, the top-selling model in the UK line-up was named – the Invincible – in honour of its achievements.
For 2012, the Toyota Hilux received a restyle to bring it into line with the rest of the Toyota range, as well as a few revisions to its engines, interior and trim levels.
Externally, the 2012 model features a new bonnet, radiator grille, headlamps and bumper – essentially, everything forward of the A-pillar – together with door mirrors (now heated, finally!) with integrated indicators, new alloy wheel designs and new side bars for the top-of-the-range Invincible model.
Around the back, the rear light clusters have an added dash of chrome, and the rear step bumper is now standard on all models.
As face-lifts go, it’s certainly one of the more successful, adding a welcome air of contemporary class without sacrificing its rugged good looks.
Inside, the changes continue, with a restyled fascia and chunky ventilation controls plus the addition of Toyota’s new Touch system with 6.1-inch colour touchscreen, standard on HL3 models and above.
The new Toyota Touch system has been designed in conjunction with Harmon/Becker, and provides a radio, CD player and MP3/WMA digital file player, Bluetooth for hands-free phone operation and audio streaming, automatic phonebook download, and a USB port for MP3 player/iPod connection.
Choosing the optional upgrade to the full Touch & Go experience adds pan-European satellite navigation, advanced Bluetooth functionality with SMS capability and phonebook integration, speed camera alerts, Google local search function, and the ability to connect with services such as live parking information, petrol prices and weather reports.
It’s a much easier system to use than the various iDrive derivatives, and the ability to run a Google search direct from the sat nav (as long as your mobile supports internet connection sharing over Bluetooth) is surprisingly useful while out and about. Sound quality is quite respectable, too, and the ability to load-up a USB stick with your favourite tracks before heading out means you need never be without your favourite choons.
The system is aware of the prevailing speed limit, and this is indicated on the full-screen map – it’ll even chastise you with an audible warning if you disobey it by a preset amount, although you can disable this if you’re into collecting points not prizes. We’re pleased to see Toyota has elected not to disable the system while on the move, so even if you feel it’s unsafe to re-programme your sat nav while driving, at least your passenger still can. They’ve even been smart enough to swap over the controls either side of the touchscreen for right hand-drive models, so the volume and other commonly-used buttons are nearest the driver, although many of these functions are doubled-up on the steering wheel.
Engage reverse, and the screen fills with the output from the tailgate-mounted rear view camera. It’s been thoughtfully angled to include the rear bumper in the picture, corners and all, making parallel-parking a cinch. While the die-hard trucker types might dismiss this as a gadget, it’s surprisingly useful, particularly when reversing to hook-up a trailer.
Elsewhere in the cabin, it’s Hilux business as usual. The instruments are clear and easily readable (Optitron on HL3 and above), there are cubby holes for phones, loose change, sunglasses, the ubiquitous water bottles, and enough cup holders the satisfy the most dedicated Starbucks fan.
In Double Cab models, the rear seats fold upwards, creating a useful area for tall loads, and expose a pair of secret storage boxes in the floor.
Behind the wheel is an accommodating place to be for drivers of a variety of shapes and sizes, although the steering wheel only adjusts for rake and not reach. The gear lever on manual models does look intimidatingly long, but in practice it doles out a satisfying shift action.
The five-speed manual transmission’s ratios have been selected for off-road use, and there’s a reassuring lack of driveline shunt while using 1st gear in heavy traffic. An anti-stall provision in the engine’s ECU makes it particularly friendly both when stuck in town, and while crawling up steep slopes when off-road. A five-speed automatic transmission is available with the 3.0-litre engine, and is capable of detecting and reacting to up- and down-hill gradients.
The 3.0-litre D4D engine is a derivative of that found in the Land Cruiser, and uses second-generation common rail technology, a variable nozzle turbocharger and a swirl control system to achieve efficiency improvements over the previous model. Peak power is 169bhp at 3,600rpm, with peak torque of 360Nm available between 1,400 and 3,200rpm. Manual transmission models are torque-limited to 343Nm – an identical figure to the 2.5-litre unit.
Thanks to these and other enhancements, including the fitting of a DPF (diesel particulate filter), the 3.0-litre’s economy has been improved from 34mpg to 36.7mpg (from 31.7 to 32.8mpg for the automatic) on the combined cycle, while emissions fall from 219 to 203g/km (236 to 227g/km for the auto).
The 142bhp 2.5-litre D4D engine has received similar revisions, with CO2 emissions cut by more than 10% to 194g/km, and combined fuel consumption improved by a similar degree to 38.7mpg.
On the road, both engines feel strong and more than equal to the task of lugging around a full load-bed or towing a heavily-laden trailer. While overtaking in the 2.5 can require careful planning, it’s not as far behind the 3.0-litre as some might have you believe, and in truth is more than capable of getting up to speed – and staying there – no matter the terrain.
While both engines are a touch louder and coarser than anyone used to a modern passenger car diesel might be expecting, they do at least emit a reassuringly solid, truck-like quality, and inside the noise never becomes tiresome or overbearing. Wind noise and tyre roar are both kept well in check, too.
In common with all leaf-sprung suspended pick-ups, the ride can be a little bouncy when unladen. Those of an excitable disposition may find tail-slides can be easily provoked, but for the more restrained driver, there are quite dependable levels of grip available – certainly more than enough to provide for spirited progress, even in the wet. The 3.0-litre model is equipped with Toyota’s VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) system as standard to further reduce the chances of an unwanted Hilux/hedge interface.
The 2012 Hilux carries over the previous model’s part-time four wheel-drive system, and that’s no bad thing. It allows the driver to shift from two- to four-wheel drive at speeds of up to 50mph, and back to two-wheel drive at any speed. Shifting into low-range can be performed up to 5mph.
Toyota’s Automatic Disconnecting Differential (ADD) is fitted as standard to all models, and this automatically engages and disengages the front axle according to transfer case mode, improving fuel efficiency and lowering noise levels. A rear diff lock, operated by a dash-mounted button, is standard on all 2.5-litre models.
In the mud, the Hilux is surprisingly capable for a vehicle with a long wheel-base and a large rear overhang. The mechanically simple 4WD system gives excellent traction and, while the independent front suspension doesn’t offer as much articulation as its solid axle forebears, there’s still more than enough to get you into – and out of – most situations.
Officially, the Hilux boasts 212mm of ground clearance, a 30 degree approach angle, 22 degree departure angle, and 25 degree ramp-over angle. While these figures won’t trouble a Land Rover Defender, it can happily wade through 700mm of water – more than either the Defender or a Jeep Wrangler.
If lugging stuff is more your thing, the Hilux Double Cab models feature a 1,545mm long by 1,515mm wide cargo area, while the more utilitarian Single Cab models boast a 2,340 x 1,520 load bed. A middle-of-the-road Extra Cab model sits between the two, with figures of 1,830 x 1,515. Maximum towing capacity is 2,500kg braked, 750kg unbraked.
A range of accessory packs are available: the Protection pack adds front and rear parking sensors; the Style pack adds front and under-guards, chrome trims for the tailgate and door handles and aluminium door sill kick plates; the Sport Deck adds a chrome high-over bar, under-rail bed liner and ‘Roll ‘n’ Lock’ load-bed cover; the Towing pack adds a tow bar with either seven or 13-pin electrical connection; and the Leather pack for the Invincible model adds grey leather upholstery, a leather handbrake gaiter and padded central armrest.
Prices start at £20,000 on-the-road (or £16,706.66 CVOTR if you’d prefer) for the HL2 Single Cab. The more popular HL3 and Invincible Double Cab models are £23,255.00 (£19,419.16 CVOTR) and £25,355.00 (£21,169.16 CVOTR) respectively. Automatic transmission adds £1,110 to the 3.0-litre, while the prices of the various accessory packs are listed below:-
Touch & Go navigation upgrade: £750
Leather Pack: £1,450
Sport Deck: £2,100
Protection Pack: £550
Style Pack: £625
Towing Pack: £425
Metallic Paint: £498
The pick-up market is enjoying something of a resurgence of late, and with new models such as the Ford Ranger and VW Amarok snapping at its heels, the revised Hilux certainly has its work cut out to maintain its reputation. The 2012 model is a timely update to a well-respected work-horse, and there’s something reassuringly old-school about it, even with its new-found high-tech gadgetry.
It’s true that much of what underpins the Hilux dates back to the sixth generation model first launched in 2005 and, seven years later, there’s a real sense that Toyota are, presumably, working on an all-new replacement. In the meantime, however, while newcomers like the Amarok undoubtedly move the game on as far as car-like manners are concerned, the Hilux continues to show us that the correct phrase is “pick-up truck,” not “pick-up car.” If you want a tough, reliable, load-lugger to take you and your gear to some of the most inhospitable places on the planet – and back – this is where it all started: the Toyota Hilux.