Hilux returns to top gear
The Ford Ranger may have at last ended the Toyota Hilux’s record-breaking run of 31 years in the No 1 spot, but don’t for a minute think Toyota is just going to lie down and say, “Ah well, it was nice while it lasted ... ”
In fact, you could realistically argue that the reason the Ranger managed to nick the lead in the first place is because Toyota extended the Hilux’s model life from its standard seven-year cycle out to 11 years in order, in part at least, to build a ute that will be better than a Ranger ...
Now the new Hilux has been revealed and, on paper at least, it certainly seems to have the right ingredients to take the fight right back to the Ranger. And then some ...
While the Ranger’s forthcoming facelift model does little to change a successful package, other than a new face and a far more car-like interior, the Hilux shakes things up a bit more, with an all-new look, a fantastic interior that challenges the Ranger for car-like features and comfort and a new diesel engine.
With the Ranger sticking with the same 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel, the Toyota gets an all-new 2.8-litre 130kW four-cylinder diesel with either 420Nm in six-speed manual guise, or 450Nm with a six-speed automatic.
Where the Hilux really lost out to the Ranger last year was in the 2WD segment, where the Toyota simply didn’t have the right transmission. As a result of this, the 21-model line up of the new Hilux features nine new models, five of them with automatic transmissions and three of them in 2WD guise, without doubt filling the gap in the range that allowed the Ranger to take the lead.
Both new utes feature bold, heavily chromed new faces, with the Hilux’s being possibly more polarising than the Ranger, but both are distinctive and very aggressive.
Another area that Toyota isn’t holding back in is standard specification. A reversing camera is standard on all wellside models (one is only standard on the XLT and Wildtrak in the Ranger), while the impressive tablet-like Display Audio system is standard across the range.
Toyota also jumps on to the high-rider 2WD band wagon that the Ranger popularised, by offering a low-riding 2WD in base S spec, but going up to the 4WD ride height for the 2WD Pre Runner model in SR, SR5 and the new SR5 Limited specification.
While the Ranger still outguns the Hilux in the grunt department (in terms of numbers on paper, that is), so much will depend on how refined the new diesel engine in the Hilux is. We can make a fairly educated guess at how the Ranger will ride and handle, given that Ford hasn’t changed much in this department. But the Hilux is now an unknown quantity.
The only thing we know for certain is that Toyota hasn’t taken the Ranger’s assault lying down. Getting the pair of them on the road together will be a fascinating exercise indeed ...