In an effort to capture even more market share of the bustling bakkie segment, Toyota has officially launched its boldest and sportiest model yet and let us behind the wheel of their 165 kW Hilux GR-S 2,8 GD-6 4X4 automatic in the magnificent Greater Kruger area. It’s the brand’s second Hilux locally to feature the GR badge but unlike the previous Hilux GR-Sport from 2019 which was limited to a production run of just 535, this model will be a permanent fixture in the range.
As we flew over the Greater Kruger Region and touched down at Eastgate Airport, once a military airforce base where the spectacular Mirage paraded itself, there was an ever-growing buzz and excitement that filled the cabin while coming into land. We watched wide-eyed tourists from foreign countries and listened to them share our keenness and sentiments, in a variety of different languages and dialects, as we all anticipated the Safari experience that lay ahead of us. But try as we might, nothing could have prepared us for this phenomenal experience, and there was no better way to spend time with the box-fresh and highly-anticipated Toyota Hilux GR-S.
We were warmly welcomed (it was a sweltering average of 36 degrees Celcius during our stay, so pardon the pun) by our friendly and courteous safari tour guides roofless Toyota Landcruiser game-viewing vehicle and then set off for our short drive to our accommodation, Kapama Private Game Lodge. Despite how short the drive was, it was certainly not short of animal sightings and goose-bump moments as we spotted a number of wildlife en route. The best part was arriving at the lodge and meters before the entrance gate, the traffic officer of the wild, fondly known as Gerry the Giraffe by your average Grade R pupil, welcomed us in all his long-legged majesty.
The staff at Kapama Private Game Lodge settled us in with 5-star treatment and wasted no time in getting us oriented with the stunning yet vast space (80 000 hectares), and by late afternoon it felt like home. The Kapama Private Game lodge can only be described as a sanctuary for the mind, body, soul and spirit. It boasts a number of facilities that effortlessly transport you into a different place from time and the mood of comfort, relaxation and luxury was not difficult to get into.
After meeting up with Team Toyota as well as everybody else in the motoring fraternity and their wonderful partners, we sat down for a delicious lunch at a restaurant that overlooks a sizeable body of water where we watched one of the Big 5, the Buffalo, enjoy some much-needed hydration in the numbing heat. We then set off for some R & R which involved unwinding with some drinks around the pool, a walk about the reserve or if it was your turn for your spa treatment, that is where you were heading. Our unique African Spa treatment was unmatched, and the serenity was a religious experience. The disposable underwear that we were given to wear under our gowns resembled a thin disposable face-mask, made popular by the dreaded Covid-19, and our inner teenagers could not be curbed. It is said that our guffawing can still be heard by a pride of Lions on the other end of the park closer to the Drakensberg Mountain range. It was then time for the product briefing and presentation where the pricing, specs, performance and other graphic details around the Hilux were discussed with the brands product planner Mtobisi Cele, a man who knows all things Hilux like the back of his hand.
Dinner time was an opportunity to catch up again and enjoy some mouth-watering meals that undoubtedly turned us all into ‘foodies’ for the night. It was also where some of us had decided to join for the 05:00 AM Game Drive the next morning, and although the wine may have contributed to this decision to be up at the Crack of dawn after a day of traveling. As it turned out it was single-handedly the best decision made during our time there before setting off on a scenic route to drive and experience the Hilux GR-S on the best roads Mpumalanga has to offer…
Toyota Hilux GR-S 2,8 GD-6 4X4 Fast Facts
Price: R 865 400
Engine: 2,8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission with Auto LSD
Power: 165 kW
Torque: 550 N.m
Top speed: 175 km/h
Stay tuned for part two for eye-watering heights, gin-tasting, a starlit game drive and the Hilux GR-S on potholed roads.
The full Toyota Hilux GR-S 2,8 GD-6 4X4 automatic launch review will feature in the CAR February 2023 issue on store shelves January 13th.