DRIVING IMPRESSION: Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 Double Cab Raider 4x4 AT


Being the lead engineer or designer responsible for developing a new generation Toyota Hilux probably rates as one of the most daunting jobs in the automotive industry, especially given the hype and expectations normally associated with what has affectionately become South Africa’s people’s car.

With the long awaited arrival of the eighth generation version of Toyota’s iconic bakkie, the list of demands could not have been greater as the previous Hilux, although still a runaway success despite two facelifts and a market run lasting 12 years, faced stern competition from the Ford Ranger, often playing second fiddle to its Blue Oval rival in the monthly sales charts.

Less than a month after arriving on dealership floors however, with 3 273 units already snatched up and order books rapidly reaching their limits, it would be fair to say that the Hilux has wasted little time in regaining its position as the country’s best selling bakkie.

Amidst the fanfare continuing to surround it, the opportunity to experience what is likely to be the most important new vehicles of 2016, finally presented itself when an Arctic White range topping 2.8 GD-6 Double Cab 4x4 Raider auto recently arrived for a day’s stay.

While often lamented for its conservative lines and emphasis towards function rather than looks, it remains highly unlikely that even the most diehard of Hilux detractor would not sit up and take a second glance at what is arguably the best looking iteration of Toyota’s local success story in quite some time.

Gone is the old Hilux’s flat and smiley frontal appearance in place of a more muscular and striking appearance, characterised by a smaller yet imposing wraparound chrome grille, angular swept back headlights with black inserts, flared wheel arches, and a V-shaped “pagoda” cab designed to aid and improve aerodynamics.

Capping the looks off, and to astonishing effect, was the addition of a number of optional items fitted to our tester, which included the black plastic wheel arch covers, Hilux-badged stainless nudge bar, chunky side steps, roof bars, stainless rollbar, tonneau cover, rubberised loadbin and chrome rear bumper with integrated step.

Combined with the standard 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 265/65 section Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain rubber, you could say that the Hilux, now more than ever, looks the part and is unlikely to be referred to as conservative or boring.

Where things have taken a considerable change is when you open the front door and climb aboard. Appearing more SUV than bakkie, the layout not only looks modern and smart, but feels upmarket with the newly designed concave dash finished in a mix of soft touch materials, leather, metallic inserts and piano-key black detailing.

Rating as the undoubted highlight however, the freestanding tablet-like seven-inch touchscreen display departs from the traditional dash-integrated setup, and proved not only easy to use, but offers a number of segment firsts such as a digital audio broadcasting (DAB) and DVD compatibility.

Replacing the previous Optitron gauges, a new 4.2-inch TFT display occupies centre position on the instrument cluster while, in another break from the tradition, the outdated second gear makes way for a rotary dial located opposite the new ventilation switches.

Often the downfall of many double cabs, space in the rear has been increased by 10 mm and while this might sound small on paper, the upshot is that the Hilux feels more spacious in the rear with headroom also coming at a premium.

Given its range topping status, creature comfort in the Raider are inclusive with a six-speaker sound system boasting Bluetooth, USB and Aux inputs, climate control with cooled glovebox, cruise control, auto lock/unlock doors, electrically retractable mirrors, electric windows all around with one touch up/down function for the driver, tilt adjustable steering wheel, daytime-running LED’s, Hill Start Assist, Hill Decent Control, ABS with EBD, BAS and VSC, seven airbags, rear parking sensors with reverse camera, traction control and trailer sway control.

A hot topic of discussion since its international unveiling last year, the flagship Raider’s brand new 2.8-litre GD (Global Diesel) engine replaces the much loved but aging 3.0 D4-D and, despite being 200 cc’s smaller, is not only more powerful but somehow manages steal some the exterior’s shine.

Producing 130 kW and a meaty 450 N.m of torque in auto trim (420 N.m when connected to the six-speed manual), the GD-6 immediately made its intensions known by pulling strong low down with little turbo lag, and being more refined than the D4-D.

Making up a big part of the drivetrain’s performance, the six-speed automatic gearbox represents a quantum leap over the D4-D’s four-speed self-shifter, and offered smooth and precise shifts with its operation really coming to the fore when in Sport mode.

In addition to its new heart, the Hilux also comes fitted with an industry first Drive Mode Selector that is aimed at either improving fuel economy (ECO) or boosting performance (PWR). With ECO selected, throttle response is dulled with the box going about its business unfazed. Press the PWR button however and everything changes; throttle response is more immediate while the box responds quicker with each up/down shift.

Underpinned by a completely new frame and a body made from thicker steel, the Hilux’s improved suspension layout of double-wishbones at the front and longer leaf springs with twin-shocks at the rear, has gone some way in addressing the often hard ride setup that sets it apart from its SUV-feeling rivals. The end result is a firm but much more comfortable ride than the previous Hilux on tar, but without sacrificing much when it comes to the business of going off-road.

Taking on an admittedly not very challenging gravel road outside Uitenhage, the Hilux felt planted and remained composed, no doubt thanks to the addition of an innovative torque splitting system known as Pitch and Bounce Control, which uses wheel mounted sensors to reduce body roll based on the surface and angle of the nose.

Its arrival may have been long overdue, but few could have predicted how the new Toyota Hilux has made the transition to a luxury lifestyle double cab. With its newfound looks, levels of comfort, an engine finally capable of challenging its rivals and ubiquitous bullet-proof reliability, the Hilux has once again proved that progress can be made irrespective of time.



MAX POWER 130 kW @3400 rpm
MAX TORQUE 450 N.m @1400-2600 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Rear-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] 10.8 secs
TOP SPEED 175 km/h
EMISSIONS 224 g/km
PRICE R547 900*

*excludes options fitted