CAPE TOWN – The Hilux badge has been worn by Toyota bakkies for more than five decades. Now in its eighth generation, the Hilux received its first facelift in 2018, with the Japanese automaker opting to debut the updates on the Dakar model. Other variants soon followed suit, receiving the latter model’s fresh face, with the Legend 50 arriving in mid-2019.

Now, however, Toyota has again handed the eighth-generation of its pick-up some exterior revisions, plus mechanical upgrades, “in keeping with evolving market trends”, while addressing the issues consumers had with the pre-facelift model’s styling, standard specification and power output. The updated Hilux has now touched down on South African shores. And we had the chance to sample the top-of-the-line model, the Legend RS 2,8 GD-6 4x4 in automatic guise, on an off-road course at the local launch. Has Toyota addressed the three issues mentioned above?

Bullish bakkie

The most notable exterior update comes in the shape of a large trapezoidal grille. Flanking the latter item are revised, slimmer headlamps which house LED daytime-running lights. The lower front bumper, which incorporates foglamps, has also been redesigned which, with the grille, lends the bakkie a more imposing stance. It looks bullish, especially with the addition of fresh fender cladding on Legend models. The set of two-tone dark-hued alloy wheels looks great. Round back, revisions are less pronounced; the taillamps have received a nip-and-tuck, while the tailgate’s handle is now surrounded by a robust housing, featuring the Hilux badge.

Standard specification

Opening (via keyless entry) the Hilux Legend reveals a cabin which looks largely similar to that of the outgoing model. However, adhering to customers’ demands, various tech upgrades have been made. Sited on the centre facia is a fresh eight-inch display, which can be operated via touch or the multifunction, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Volume is pleasingly adjusted via a physical dial, positioned left of the screen. The infotainment software does, however, feel a bit outdated when compared with that of its rivals.

However, the Toyota’s system incorporates screen-mirroring (a welcome addition to the cabin), such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Bluetooth functionality. Listening to your favourite tunes is simple as sound is relayed through a nine-speaker (including subwoofer) JBL sound system. Satellite navigation is included too, while USB ports and a 12 V socket can also be found inside. In addition to the above, our Legend press car featured the optional RS kit.

So, what does RS stand for?

You’d be mistaken if you thought the “RS” denomination is at all to do with anything performance related. Although the Hilux’s oil-burner has been tweaked to deliver more power (more on that later), in this case “RS” stands for "roller shutter". Currently available on only 2,8 GD-6 4x4 Legend derivatives, the RS accessory package adds a motorised roller shutter, which is linked to the bakkie’s central-locking system; a graphite-coloured sportsbar; a dust-defence kit; and 12 V socket and LED lighting located in the no-cost (on Legend models) rubberised loading bed.

Accessing the latter is a cinch, thanks to the Legend’s easy-lift tailgate. In addition to this package, Toyota South Africa Motors offers an array of other optional (official) accessories for the Hilux.

 

Powered-up pick up

Endowed with an uprated version of Toyota’s 2,8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine, the Hilux now produces 150 kW and, when mated with a six-speed automatic transmission (as with the press unit we drove), 500 N.m of torque, the latter available between 1 600 and 2 800 r/min. Making do with the same number of cogs, manual models’ torque output, however, remains 420 N.m. Thanks to the increases of 20 kW and 50 N.m in engine output, the Hilux Legend AT now more closely matches its closest rival, the Ford Ranger Thunder (and Wildtrak), which employs a 2,0-litre twin-turbo diesel motor producing 157 kW and 500 N.m.

In addition to these upgrades, the Hilux has received various under-the-skin modifications, such as retuned coil-spring rates, revised shock absorbers and suspension bushes. Thanks to these revisions, the double-cab Hilux felt more at ease when traversing the rough stuff. And this should, as Toyota claims, translate to enhanced on-road comfort and refinement as the Japanese firm says these modifications have also resulted in improved NVH levels.

Low-range engaged

With the press of a button, the Hilux’s engine starts churning. An animated graphic of the Hilux appears on the standard trip computer’s display. Now for some off-roading. I engage low range. While ascending a steep hill on the off-road course, a Toyota representative mentions the traction-control setup has been updated, too, and showcased how the system has improved in the facelifted model by putting the Legend 50 on the same incline. Although commendable, there was a definite improvement on the latter bakkie’s setup, with the Legend finding traction quicker.

Downhill, the Hilux Legend impressed, too. With downhill-assist control (DAC) activated and a gentle push on the throttle, I steered the Hilux to the peak. With the Hilux’s revised nose tipped over the apex of the hill and now pointed downwards, I remove my feet from the throttle and brake pedal (a feeling I admittedly still need to get used to) and left the bakkie to its own devices; the only human input required – steering. The DAC function made light work of the incline as the double cab descended.

Following in the Legend 50 lead car’s tyre tracks, I noticed the upgraded Legend’s torsion beam suspension going about its job as we traversed rocks and other off-road obstacles, which included driving through some water and on steep side angles. The steering feels light though not disconnected, making it a trouble-free task to tilt the thick-rimmed tiller and steer the double-cab in the desired direction.

The six-speed automatic transmission did, however, at times, feel reluctant to shift to a higher gear, which resulted in some engine noise permeating the cabin. The latter aside, the interior does feel quieter than before. Although, as previously mentioned, the Hilux should be more refined on the black-top, here – off the beaten track – it feels right at home. It’s certainly an improvement over the still-very-capable Legend 50.

Verdict

The brief was simple: address the three issues – styling, specification and power output – consumers had with the outgoing Hilux, while keeping with evolving market trends (such as the continued shift towards leisure-orientated bakkies); and improve on the already popular pick-up. Now boasting even more bullish exterior styling, myriad convenience items as standard, an array of mechanical modifications and a more powerful 2,8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel motor, has Toyota managed to address these issues with the second update to its eighth-generation Hilux? It's a resounding yes.



FAST FACTS

Model: Toyota Hilux Legend RS 2,8 GD-6 4x4 DC AT
Price: R851 100
Engine: 2,8-litre, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Power: 150 kW @ 3 000-3 400 r/min
Torque: 500 N.m @ 1 600-2 800 r/min
0-100 km/h: 10,0 seconds
Top Speed: 175 km/h
Fuel Consumption: N/A
CO2: N/A
Transmission: six-speed auto
Service Plan: nine-service/90 000 km