Does the recently enhanced SRX-grade Hilux present itself as the pick of the range?

The release of the new Hilux in 2016 was a highly anticipated event, revealing a much-improved bakkie over its dated predecessor. It was immediately evident that Toyota had managed to develop a product that had been enhanced in every way. In our first test of the Hilux, a comparison with the Ford Ranger, we concluded by stating, “We’re particularly interested to find out whether other engine options, including the new 2,4-litre turbodiesel, would make the grade.” And that’s what we’re here to do with the recently tweaked 2,4 GD-6 SRX, specified in this guise with Toyota’s all-wheel-drive system, with low-range controlled via a knob on the facia.

SRX specification means that the exterior, which now features the wide-body configuration from top-spec Hilux models that’s 55 mm broader than before, makes do with black-plastic door handles, blanked-out bits where foglamps normally go, and unpainted side-mirrors, but it does feature Raider-shared 17-inch alloy wheels in place of the previous version’s steel items. Move to the interior, and the touchscreen infotainment system from the Raider model has been replaced with a more basic version that lacks a touch function, but still boasts USB, aux-in, CD and Bluetooth functionality. To manage these features, there are satellite buttons on the urethane steering wheel.

The lower specification level means the interior doesn’t offer the lashings of chrome trim that differentiate higher-rung versions. However, the cloth seats are very comfortable and support your body where necessary, while perceived build quality is impressive. When you start the engine and pull away, the 2,4-litre unit feels similar to the 2,8-litre in terms of response and refinement. Up the pace, however, and the differences in power between the 2,4 and 2,8 are soon apparent. The former offers enough punch to accelerate in sixth gear from 110 km/h, but you'll need fourth if speedy overtaking is called for. If you plan to do heavy towing, the 2,8 GD-6 is still the Hilux to go for, as evidenced by the results of our performance testing.

On our test strip, the Hilux recorded a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 13,16 seconds, 2,32 slower than the 2,8 GD-6. In terms of in-gear times, the 2,4 required 8,34 seconds (versus 6,68) to get from 100 to 120 km/h in fifth gear. The 80-100 km/h dash in third gear took 3,56 seconds versus 4,50 for the 2,4 GD-6.

Between the front seats, there are eco and power buttons, the latter of which sharpens the throttle response. The sensitivity is slightly too heightened for city use, but on the open road it does make the Hilux feel sprightlier. That high sixth gear pays dividends in terms of fuel economy, though. On our mixed-conditions 100 km fuel route, the SRX consumed a very respectable 7,8 L/100 km; incidentally, the 2,8 also gulped 7,8 litres…

Although the red line starts at 4 400 r/min, there is no need to push the powertrain past 4 000 r/min, as performance tapers off sharply. Keep the engine between 2 000 and 3 500 r/min, and it delivers its best work. The controls are light and direct, be it the short-throw gearbox or the steering. Compared with the Ranger, the Hilux feels lighter (which it is) and nimbler, a boon on traffic-congested roads.

The emergency-braking result was the same as the 2,8’s; the Hilux posted an average of 3,30 seconds, far off the times we record for SUVs at this price point. Where the argument for this particular Hilux wanes slightly is its lack of stability control and that it offers just three airbags. The Ranger XL-Plus adds a traction-control system, a suite of additional safety systems, plus three more airbags. Oddly, Ford charges extra for Bluetooth on this model, a feature that should be standard.



TEST SUMMARY

The Ranger 2,2 TDCi XL-Plus pips the Hilux 2,4 GD-6 SRX in terms of overall specification, as the Hilux also doesn’t offer hill-descent control, hill-launch assist or trailer-sway control, important factors when considering a bakkie to use every day as well as on holiday trips with passengers onboard and a trailer behind. For that reason, and the difference in price, we'd put the Ford above the Toyota in a head-to-head.

That said, as an exercise in restraint, many testers lauded the Hilux SRX for its back-to-basics approach, refined ride and nippy feel. What’s more, the excellent new 2,4-litre will be sufficiently powerful for most business and leisure users. It’s only when your requirement extends to a higher specification or more power for towing that we’d advise opting for the stronger 2,8-litre turbo-diesel.

*From the February 2017 issue of CAR magazine