ROAD TEST: Toyota Hilux 2,8 GD-6 4×4 Legend RS AT

The Toyota Hilux has been updated with a striking front-end design and more power from its oil-burner. The price has jumped significantly, though…

Since its inception, the purpose of a double-cab bakkie has changed significantly. Initially, the concept was a perfect practical offering to business owners who needed to lug about their workforce and equipment. Over the years, however, this segment has evolved from catering to the utilitarian buyer to one where the double cab is considered a viable family vehicle. Consequently, manufacturers have focused on equipping such models with more lifestyle-minded features.

One such example is the updated Toyota Hilux in GD-6 4×4 Legend guise which boasts the new roller shutter package. As the flagship of the range, it also ushers in several comfort and convenience features to the rugged bakkie.

Despite bearing the same bones as the first phase of the AN120 generation, launched in 2016, the new Legend is almost unrecognisable from the front. With its more prominent grille, a larger anti-scuff plate and significantly updated headlamps, its face looks more aggressive and robust than that of its predecessor. This is amplified by a profile that incorporates plastic-cladded wheel arches, “Legend Black” door mirrors and handles, rock sliders and 18-inch alloy wheels. The rear remains largely unchanged apart from the attractive revised taillamps.

These subtle alterations result in nominal differences to the exterior dimensions, with a 20 mm reduction in length and 45 mm increase in width. Owing to the new grille, the front overhang sees a 10 mm increase but the rear decreases by 30 mm.

In the cabin, things remain largely untouched with the only notable change being the nine-speaker JBL audio system in this model. Making it a more compelling family car, the revision introduces safety equipment such as adaptive cruise control, pre-collision brake intervention and lane departure warning. As before, there are seven airbags. Comfort and convenience features such as an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality for the infotainment system and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror give the cabin an air of sophistication. Thanks to these upgrades, perceived quality is closer to the likes of the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.

The automated roller shutter, which rather contentiously lends the bakkie its “RS” moniker, adds convenience and a welcome layer of security. Together with a rubberised bed as standard, this feature makes the Hilux a viable option for families who lead an active lifestyle and need to safely stash their equipment away from prying eyes and hands.

Mechanically, the Hilux has undergone some significant revisions, most importantly to the GD-6 turbodiesel. While it’s still a 2,8-litre four-cylinder unit, the peak outputs have been increased from 130 kW and 450 N.m of torque to 150 kW and 500 N.m (should you opt for the six-speed manual, the torque output remains at the pre-facelift figure of 420 N.m), thanks to a larger turbocharger and improved common-rail injection system. Although torque has increased, its range has decreased into a narrower band (now between 1 600 and 2 800 r/min).

Based on figures we gathered from the GR-Sport we tested in 2019, which also weighed 72 kg less than this model, the facelifted Hilux is now 1,62 seconds faster in the 0-100 km/h sprint. In-gear acceleration has improved throughout the range; 40-60 km/h is 0,28 seconds faster and 100-120 km/h sees a handy 1,32-second improvement. Not only is the engine more capable, but mechanical refinement at motorway speeds has improved markedly. The engine still emits the traditional common-rail diesel clatter at idle, yet, it’s less evident in the cabin on the move. The engine is coupled with a smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission carried over from the previous bakkie.

Despite the increased power output, the GD-6 unit is 0,50 L/100 km more efficient, based on the CAR fuel index. On our fuel route, we achieved 8,00 L/100 km; 0,40 L/100 km lighter than the GR-Sport.

Where the facelifted Hilux falters somewhat is in its stopping abilities. Using the same brakes with a set of Dunlop Grandtrek tyres – rather than the Bridgestone Dueler All-Terrains used on the GR-Sport – the Hilux Legend averaged 3,25 seconds in our 100-0 km/h braking tests; 0,06 seconds slower than the previous model, transitioning its rating from “good” to “average”, based on our criteria.

With this updated model focusing on lifestyle usage, the question is whether it can be driven with ease in an urban environment. One change Toyota made to accomplish this is adding a variable flow control system to the hydraulic power steering which adjusts the stiffness of the steering wheel feedback based on the speed. As a result, the Hilux is notably easier to control in both city and open-road settings, expanding its versatility.

Detracting from this, however, is the Hilux’s ride quality on-road. Thanks to new spring rates, shock absorbers and suspension bushes, there is an improvement in ride comfort but it’s still not on par with the Volkswagen Amarok. On tarmac, its wallowy body control and inability to ride bumps with finesse can become tiring on long commutes. Yet, the Hilux shines off the beaten path, where the suspension and drivetrain make easy work of loose surfaces and challenging obstacles. The variable-steering system further aids its agility on gravel and makes the bakkie more responsive to steering input and easier to control.

Wearing the RS pack, the Legend retails for R851 100, pricing it close to bakkies such as the Ford Ranger Raptor and Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks. Opt for the equivalent Hilux sans the RS pack and you’ll lop off R85 500.

TEST SUMMARY

Collectively the updates to the new Hilux have made the Legend more user friendly. Revisions to the power steering, the respectable level of standard convenience features and the upgraded powertrain have ushered in some welcome improvements in performance and refinement.

The roller-shutter package on the other hand, as useful as it may be, commands a steep price and we have to conclude better value can be found further down the range. The Hilux is already South Africa’s most popular bakkie in terms of sales. We have no doubt the more bullish front-end design and improved specification – together with the nine services in 90 000 km and complimentary Wi-Fi package – will only build on its success in our market.

ROAD-TEST SCORE: 3,5 stars

Test Summary

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CAR magazine