Malaysia`s best-selling pick-up truck gets more grunt with a 3.0-litre Variable Nozzle Turbo engine. KON examines the results....
|[+ click to enlarge] |
|Market's best seller just got better|
|New 3.0-litre VNT engine ensures Hilux now has outputs worth shouting about.|
|Cabin is almost unchanged from the 2.5.|
The year was 1987. A fierce war was being fought between the armies of Libya and Chad. The results were bloody - thousands of troops were killed from both sides after nine months of fighting. Libya entered this fight boasting superior firepower, but ultimately lost to the Chadian's fleet of 400 Toyota pickups mounted with missile launchers.
So instrumental was the role played by the Toyota pickups in this conflict, that historians actually nickname it the 'Toyota War'. It most certainly isn't Toyota's only involvement in warfare. We don't know how flattered Toyota is with this 'advertising', but trucks like the Hilux and Land Cruiser are the vehicles of choice by various militias, armies, rebels, and even terrorists worldwide.
Over the generations, the various incarnations of the Hilux have steadily built a reputation of being tough and indestructible. Maintenance of these beasts are almost painless due to their extreme durability. There are many poorly-maintained examples of the Hilux out there that continue to serve their owners with utter faithfulness.
Hilux in Malaysia
In the present, the Toyota Hilux is currently in its seventh model generation, having been launched for our market in 2005. It was then facelifted in 2008 along with its IMV (International Multi-purpose Vehicle) brothers, the Innova and the Fortuner. Toyota has been offering it with the sole option of a 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine paired to either a 4-speed auto or 5-speed manual transmission.
The Hilux sits near-bottom in the power stakes when compared to its rivals. It does not excel in terms of equipment either, but somehow, it consistently tops the sales charts. It also tops another unfortunate chart - car thefts. The Hilux is one of the most commonly stolen vehicles in Malaysia. Its popularity simply beggars belief.
Recently, our judges and readers voted the Hilux as the 'Best Pick-Up' in the CIMB Autoworld Car of the Year Awards 2010, beating the highly-favoured Nissan Navara and Ford Ranger in the process. It should be noted however, that the truck that delivered the winning verdict to Toyota was not the same 2.5 version that everyone else is driving, but something a little better.
In the face of ever-strengthening rivals, Toyota saw it fit to finally beef up the Hilux's arsenal with the addition of a 3.0-litre variant to be sold alongside the 2.5. The new variant endows the Hilux with class-competitive outputs, although UMW Toyota Motor expects the 2.5 to remain as the best-seller. As a result, the company has opted to source the 3.0-litre from Toyota's plant in Thailand while continuing to assemble the 2.5 in Shah Alam.
What's the deal with the 3.0G?
A bigger engine naturally comes along with a bigger price tag and a longer list of equipment. The most expensive version of the Hilux 2.5, which is the 2.5G auto, is priced at RM95,720.90 including insurance in Peninsula Malaysia; the Hilux 3.0G sits nearly RM10k higher, going for RM106,000 under the same terms.
That is a substantial price hike, but fortunately, it is also matched with a substantial power hike, thanks to the additional capacity and also the use of a variable nozzle turbo. The results see the Hilux 3.0G gain an extra 60hp and 83Nm over its 2.5-litre sibling. Peak torque of 343Nm is spread between 1,400 and 3,200rpm, while full power of 161hp arrives 200 revs later.
It gets the same 4-speed auto as the 2.5 along with a part time 4x4 with rear LSD, and Toyota's auto disconnecting differential, which enables shift-on-the-fly operation of the 4x4 system and obviating the need of manual locking wheel hubs. What it does not have, however, is an electronically operated transfer case as per most of its rivals in the market. Toyota's reasoning is that this omission was deliberate to minimize the number of electronic components for better reliability. Fair point, although the 4x4 shift lever needs a real yanking to switch between modes.
Engine aside, however, few things differentiate the Hilux 3.0 from the 2.5. Additional items on the new variant include transmission shift position indicators, new audio HU with USB connectivity, premium solar film, and a multi-info display. You can differentiate the 3.0 from the 2.5 on the outside by the power bulge on its bonnet (for the intercooler) along with the decals and badges plastered on its body.
On the Go
For a nameplate better known for its toughness and reliability, the Hilux is surprisingly smooth and refined on the move. There may only be four gears available, but the automatic transmission shifts as smoothly and as silently as you would expect from a truck. It pairs well with the smooth-revving 3.0-litre turbodiesel lump up front.
Overall refinement levels are rather high, and Toyota's decision to supply the Hilux with highway terrain tyres helped keep road noise to a minimum, although it also means you'll need a new set of rubbers if serious off-roading is part of your agenda in buying this car. Perhaps UMW Toyota might want to consider offering all-terrain tyres as a cost option?
Bear in mind, however, when we say refined, it is still in the context of ladder-frame pick-up trucks. Going over bumps and potholes, you experience the typical pick-up truck sensation - the front end, with double wishbone suspension, absorbs surface irregularities extremely well; but the rear, with leaf springs and live axles, just bounces over, especially when there is no load being carried to press it down.
We took the Hilux out for some light off-roading during our time with it. The impressions that I got behind the wheel was that it felt more at ease off the beaten track than the Nissan Navara, but not as much compared to the Isuzu D-Max or Ford Everest 2.5, both of which felt almost at home when put on less than friendly terrain. It holds its own, but you have the suspicion that this latest Hilux won't be seeing too much action in the battlefield like its predecessors.
Not wishing to undermine the verdict of our judges and readers, but I had personally expected the Hilux to be butchered by the Navara in our evaluations for the pick-up category of the CIMB Autoworld Car of the Year Awards 2010. While the Navara remains as a personal favourite of mine, the Hilux turned out to be a pleasant surprise and genuinely exceeded my expectations of it.
The Hilux is neither the toughest nor the most powerful pick-up around, but it has a good blend of abilities backed by a rich heritage (none of its rivals had a war named after them for sure) and strong branding. And with a new engine, it now has added firepower worthy of its reputation.