Toyota Hilux TRD: Because coming second hurts
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It's no secret that the Toyota Hilux suffered a fall from grace last year at the hands of the Ford Ranger. It should also be no secret that Toyota is exceptionally keen to regain that coveted trophy of “best selling ute”.
After driving several Hilux variants last year, the Hilux end-of-year report would have been “could try harder”.
It seems Toyota has listened and has started the New Year with some serious effort in the form of the Hilux TRD Special Edition.
The Ranger is a great ute — but its main buyers seem to be people who want, but don't necessarily need, a ute.
The Hilux has always been a great ute, and has suffered in the sales race because it is no longer only farmers who buy them.On any given drive to your local city beach you will be surrounded by dozens of inner-city folk who have out-grown the DOHC turbo of their youth and now own a ute.
The ute owner is no longer solely a hardworking tradie or man of the land. The ute is fashionable, and needs to look the part, too. The only off-road experience most “new” ute owners usually get is on the unsealed driveway at the bach in Matakana.
I've driven the Ranger and it is great off and on road — but the main appeal it has for the current market, or perhaps more accurately “generation”, is that is looks great. It has plenty of bells and whistles, all of which delicately stroke the masculine ego. This was something other new Hilux models lacked.
But where past Hilux models missed the egocentric add-ons, the TRD lacks for little. Matte black wheel flares superbly amplify the Maxxis offroad tyres and TRD 18 inch alloys. They look great and they are made to perform offroad, without the excessive drone of most offroad tyres. It’s a perfect compromise, allowing you to drive on the tarmac and practically anywhere else.
Street appeal is something the inner-city ute-buying market craves and the TRD meets those desires. The chunk of the tyres will tick the box, as will the nudge bar and matching sport bar. A black TRD-badged grille and several other TRD decals splattered about the truck improve the visual feast.
Spacewise, there is plenty of room in the cab, even for adults in the back row. Fabric seats are comfortable and can take the knocks, plus you get a navigation system as part of the 7-inch touch screen entertainment hub, with bluetooth connectivity.
There’s a push-button start, an automatic lid for the tray, a pre-heat system for the diesel engine (if you need it) and everything else can be controlled via the buttons on the steering wheel; all of which you would expect in a top of the range ute that costs upwards of $55,000.
On the tarmac, the TRD is smooth and in “power” mode, there is loads of grunt from the new 2.8 litre diesel engine. Inside it is a comfortable ride, even without a load in the back — which is what ute suspensions are designed for.
Given this, it is a great option for townieswho need a ute for the weekend drive to the beach, SUPs and children in tow. Regarding towing, you get 3500kg worth, should your jet ski weigh that much.
On the farm, it has always been hard to find fault with a Hilux. Toyota has always delivered offroad and the TRD, despite its fancy trim and accessories, keeps up that tradition.
For true off-road enthusiasts, the new 6-speed manual gear box of the model tested will impress. There was loads of control at low revs and the low ratio four-wheel drive proved up to the challenge of steep banks and heavily rutted fields.
Toyota is keen to recapture lost ground and nothing will make you try harder than when you are coming second. With this addition to the Hilux range you get choice. You can get a ute everyone else has, or you can get a Hilux TRD.
Hilux TRD Special Eddition
• Street appeal in excessive amounts
• It’s not a Ranger
• Automatic boot lid doesn’t open up enough
• It’s not a Ranger