Extensive local development gives new Toyota HiLux the Australian seal of approval

TOYOTA may be a renowned global Japanese brand, but with six years of local development under its belt, the next-generation Toyota HiLux one-tonne ute has Aussie blood coursing through its veins.

The eighth-generation HiLux goes on sale around Australia this week priced from $20,990 before on-road costs, and hides many locally honed features beneath its all-new look.

The Japanese car-maker has numerous testing and evaluation facilities worldwide, but decided that the new HiLux would be bred “tougher” if it spent more time under development in Australia’s punishing environment than anywhere else in the world.

Toyota HiLux executive chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima made a special appearance at the new model’s local launch in southern Victoria, and told GoAuto that a significant majority of the car’s development was conducted in Australia.

“We realised we could do approximately 80 per cent evaluation here,” he said. “Of course we have many test courses in Japan but we don’t have the same conditions or long range courses.”

The end result has been significantly affected by its time in Australia and Mr Nakajima explained that, while Australia-specific features include tyre choice, suspension set-up, underbody protection and ESC programming, many features for other markets resulted from its time Down Under.

The Toyota engineer said Australia’s varying and often poor road surfaces played a key part in the chassis tuning, and the locally sold car was honed to cope with our diverse terrain, with particular attention on unsealed surfaces.

“In the case of a pick-up truck, when unloaded, has very poor stability compared with fully loaded condition,” he said. “We found potholes on many public roads. It can be very difficult to adjust and recover so some drivers would counter-steer and then over counter-steer.”

For the new HiLux, Toyota’s main focus has been on increasing the “toughness” of the new model and Mr Nakajima explained that existing HiLux owner feedback had been influential in the creation of the new version.

“The current model is not tougher than the previous model and some customers complained about this. For example, some side panels were very easy to deform. For the next generation we changed the thickness of that material.

Mr Nakajima also explained that where the HiLux traditionally has had the leanest frame of Toyota ladder-chassis vehicles, this time around, it had been beefed up for a 20 per cent increase in bending and torsional rigidity.

“This time we changed the cross-section size of the side-rail cross-section to be the same size as the Prado,” he said.

According to Toyota, the focus on toughness ensures the new model is better off-road as well as being a more pleasant driving experience on-road thanks to a greater concentration on build strength and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.

The extra equipment and comfort features that the new HiLux carries has increased overall weight, but Mr Nakajima said that the sacrifice is justified in such a vehicle, and that customers would not feel the extra mass thanks to a more efficient and powerful range of engines.

“Approximately 150kg heavier over the previous model,” he said. “But it’s not only the structure, its also the safety equipment and technology.

“How to harmonise the high QDR (Quality Drivability and Reliability) and stress-free driving? This is my concept so I decided to increase the weight.”

While other companies such as Ford explore aluminium construction for its F-Series truck, Mr Nakajima said Toyota would not follow suit in the name of durability and global compatibility, but may consider it for future generations.

“We already have aluminium technology however, for something like a HiLux it’s very difficult to maintain in developing countries.

“Technology wise, it’s not so easy but in the future we can replace the steel with aluminium, but it’s very difficult to implement in some countries because it’s more difficult to repair.”

Toyota’s local technical centre president Max Gillard explained that the local development efforts are so highly regarded that the Japanese office had affectionately renamed the Australian Automotive Research Centre in Anglesea, Victoria “Minami Fuji” meaning south of Mount Fuji, adding that it was “a great commitment to the great work they have done in Australia”.

Mr Gillard went on to say that Toyota’s perception of a tough Australian environment was not just limited to the climatic conditions.

“We are the global centre of excellence for Toyota’s off-road vehicles. We have the toughest road conditions all in one country and we also have the expertise,” he said.

“We also have some of the toughest customers in the world. In TMC’s view, if the HiLux is tough enough for Australia’s customers it will survive anywhere.”

The HiLux covered 650,000km in pre-production and prototype vehicles testing Down Under and, alongside the vehicle, Australian engineers also developed a wide range of accessories including a choice of three airbag-compatible roo-bars.

Where many aftermarket suppliers can offer bolt-parts, Toyota was quick to point out that the chassis tune takes into consideration the mass of its own bars, and will even deliver a HiLux with different grade front suspension springs if a winch is optioned.

Its locally-developed underbody protection covers 30 per cent more of its belly and is 40 per cent thicker, as well as having a new shape that better resists pointy objects and more effectively prevents mud build up.

Thirty-one variants will be on offer in a combination of one of four engines combined with either a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmissions consisting of 12 two-wheel-drive versions and 19 4×4 variants.

The line-up also offers a choice of single-cab, double-cab, extra-cab or Hi-Rider body styles with specification grades including Workmate, SR, SR5 and SR5+ which adds leather upholstery and electric adjustment in the front row.

The Hi-Rider option is a newcomer to the range and allows customers to get into the jacked up look of a four-wheel drive HiLux without the all-corner transmission.

Check out our full pricing table below for the full body, engine, transmission and spec breakdown.

For the 2015 model, Toyota is offering a range of more efficient but power and economy-boosted engines with two diesels and two petrols available, depending on the variant.

Kicking off the range is the petrol single-cab Workmate, which costs $20,990 when fitted with a manual gearbox. That price represents a $2000 increase over the previous equivalent variant but Toyota says the base car has $5000 of extra kit to justify the increase.

Its 2.7-litre 2TR-FE engine produces 122kW and 245Nm of torque and uses between 10.4 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and 11.1L/100km depending on the body, drivetrain, transmission and specification combination.

Stepping up to the entry level 2GD diesel – also a manual single-cab Workmate – costs another $4000 but brings a 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 110kW and 343Nm of torque, but that figure jumps to 400Nm when installed in a vehicle with four-wheel drive.

Fuel use for the smallest diesel is rated at between 7.3L/100km and 8.1L/100km with CO2 emissions ranging from 191g to 224g, depending on the application.

The second more powerful diesel is available from the SR equipped single-cab HiLux costing $28,490 and has 125kW when under the bonnet of standard ride-height versions, or 130kW in a Hi-Rider or 4X4 variant.

Torque for the 1GD 2.8-litre diesel is up 25 per cent and rated at 343Nm for standard ride-height vehicles, but rises to 420Nm for manual Hi-Riders or 450Nm when decked-out with the auto. Fuel use is between 7.3L/100km and 8.1L/100km.

This is the same new unit that made its debut earlier this month in the updated Prado SUV.

The engine range is topped off with a 4.0-litre petrol V6 which is only available in automatic double-cab pick-up variants starting from $41,990 for the two-wheel-drive version.

Power is rated at 175kW and 376Nm in all applications and uses 11.5L/100km when driving just two wheels or 12.0L/100km when all four wheels are powered, representing an eight per cent improvement to efficiency.

The six-speed automatic transmission is a new design for the 2015 model and adds $2000 to the price of any variant where available, and Toyota says the HiLux propshaft, differential and transfer cases are all stronger.

Towing capacity is a maximum of 3500kg for certain 4X4 variants, while the minimum rating is 2500kg for entry level HiLux’s. Maximum payload ranges from 1240kg for the 4X2 single-cab Workmate when powered by the 2.4-litre diesel. Minimum rating is 1000kg or lower for all of the 4X4 double-cab pick-ups.

In addition to its unique Australian-specific ESC tuning, each HiLux has a range of passive and active safety systems including seven airbags and trailer sway-control, while a reversing camera is standard on all pick-up variants or optional on cab-chassis versions.

Automatic 4X4 SR5 versions have hill descent, SR and SR5 have a locking differential, while all versions have a pair of Isofix child seat positions with top-tether where a full sized second row of seats are present.

SR5 safety equipment is also capped off by new LED headlights that are complemented by match LED daytime running lights and a self levelling function for when the cargo area or tow-bar is loaded up.

The previous 76-litre fuel tank has swollen to 80 litres which Toyota says, in combination with the more efficient engines, has increased range from about 900km to approximately 1100km for the most efficient versions.

New rear suspension is still leaf-sprung as per the previous version but are 100mm longer, 50mm wider apart and have a front attachment point 100mm further forward for more suppressed road vibrations and reduced body roll, especially when loaded.

At the front end, the set up is double wishbone with a fatter anti-roll bar for improved road manner, while damper rates all round have been revised and relocated to improve stability at speed.

Electric power steering has been tuned for Australian tastes with an even lighter set-up for 4×2 variants to reduce driver fatigue on longer trips.

Top end HiLux’s have 319mm vented front disc brakes pinched by four-pot callipers and an uprated servo with drums at the rear. Lower-spec variants get a smaller 269mm ventilated front disc and floating single piston callipers.

All versions get a dash-mounted touchscreen that measures 6.1 inches for the Workmate, but grows to 7.0 inches for all other specification levels, and allows access to a CD player and Bluetooth connectivity.

Higher-spec versions have the Toyota Link multimedia system while top of the range SR5 has an additional 4.2-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster.

On the outside, Workmate variants have a set of 16-inch steel wheels, which grow to 17 inches if all four are driven, and back by popular demand is the hard-wearing fabric for the seats with easy-to-rinse vinyl on the floor.

Mid-range SR versions have carpets and a more premium seat fabric as well as monochrome version of the top-spec multi-information screen, and thirsty occupants can fit two 600ml drink bottles in the cooled glove box.

Exteriors are defined by a B-pillar black out, matching side steps for the higher ground-clearance versions and chrome-look door handles.

At the top of the pack, SR5 HiLux’s get a good dose of exterior embellishments with 18-inch alloy wheels, fog-lights, stainless steel sports bar, chrome-effect grille, door mirrors and rear step.

The silver garnishes are continued inside with matching silver trims and chrome-look door handles, while privacy glass adds to the longer list of equipment.

All vehicles with a second row of seating have greater head and legroom for occupants compared with the previous-generation HiLux.

Extra comfort kit includes keyless entry and starting, climate control in place of more orthodox air-conditioning, sat-nav, digital radio and extra 220v and 12v power sockets.

The 4X4 and Hi-Rider Hi-Lux variants are equipped with an expandable fuse-box which houses 10 blanks for neatly retrofitting auxiliary electrical systems such as extra camping and four-wheel driving gear.

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