By any definition, the Toyota Hilux is a true workhorse, plain and simple.
The last few years, however, the pick up truck class has seen a bit of a paradigm shift, turning from pure workhorse to semi-lifestyle vehicles. Trucks like the Navara, Strada and the upcoming Ford Ranger are transforming the breed.
How does the new Hilux, fresh from a recent -uh- refresh, fare then?
Essentially, the body and mechanicals are the same as the Hilux 2.5G we tested: tough body on frame construction, a 2.5 liter D-4D engine and the high-rider suspension set up. Where Toyota went to work was updating the look of the whole vehicle.
From the front, the differences are profound, as the entire front end has been changed. There's a new, proud chrome grille, redesigned headlamps and a reshaped bumper accented with a skid plate to give the Hilux that tougher look. On the side, Toyota replaced the old wheels with a new set of allows that have 6 split-spokes. The fenders are flared nicely, while all four doors get body cladding to beef up the design, along with a pair of roof rails for light duty roof racks. Not much has changed at the back end apart from the taillamps, but overall, the new Hilux certainly looks good and fresh.
Inside, Toyota have made several welcome changes. The steering wheel has been replaced with one that closely resembles the Camry's, and the gauge cluster has been updated too. The center console that houses the audio and main aircon vents is now painted silver, while the A/C knobs are bigger too.
Toyota also added some nice features, as the Hilux 2.5G has a new 2-DIN stereo with full iPod compatibility along with an aux port. It also has a Bluetooth handsfree function to allow you to make and receive calls safely. Airbags are now available for the driver and front passenger.
On the hood, the familiar scoop for the 3 liter model is gone because the Hilux 2.5 D-4D doesn't have a top mount intercooler. Instead of the variable vane turbo intercooler 3.0L engine, the 4x2 G gets a 2.5 liter turbo diesel driving the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission.
Power and torque figures are just adequate, with 102 horsepower and 260 Newton meters, translating to rather difficult acceleration for such a hefty (at 1.7 tonnes) pick up truck body. In flat surfaces and city streets, the Hilux 2.5 D-4D does pretty well, but when taking on an incline or when fully loaded with passengers and/or cargo, it gets a little trickier planning overtaking maneuvers.
There's no denying that the Hilux was designed and engineered to be a workhorse, first and foremost. The bed is one of the deepest and largest in the class, measuring over 1.5 meters in both length and width, with half a meter of depth. I would recommend getting either a canopy or cover for the truck bed, especially if you're transporting items that don't respond well to monsoon rains.
As expected, the ride is stiff. Toyota didn't make an attempt to make it a lifestyle (read: soft) truck, even though the new look and added features might imply the contrary. Through and through, the Hilux is still every bit the workhorse its customers need it to be, from fleet corporate clients to the celebrated small and medium enterprises, and that can't be a bad thing.
If you want a soft riding truck, perhaps its better that you look at what else is out there. If you need a real truck that you can depend on for your business, then the Hilux certainly rides high on the list.