Can raptors swim? We drive Toyota NZ’s Hilux Mako
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Meet Mako, the new locally developed Hilux flagship that has the Ford Ranger Raptor in its sights.
A halo model for the revised Hilux range that goes on sale on New Zealand from October, Mako is based on the Hilux SR5 Cruiser, but goes off the deep end with extreme customisation to create a genuine Toyota rival for the popular Raptor.
Off the deep end and into open water: “It’s named after the strongest, most aggressive shark in the ocean,” says Toyota NZ (TNZ) chief executive Neeraj Lala. “That’s what we believe we have here.”
At $79,900, the Hilux Mako is $21,000 more expensive than the SR5 Cruiser. But that buys a bespoke truck entirely developed by TNZ that will be available to customer order. While it’s technically a “special launch edition”, it’ll be part of the regular range for the foreseeable future.
There are extensive body modifications including front steel bulbar with integrated LED lightbar, unique fender flares, side steps with “Mako” logos, T Custom Sports Guard non-slip deck liner, soft-close tailgate and heavy duty rear step bumper.
Inside, Mako features custom leather and a bespoke steering wheel.
But the real changes are underneath. “A few months back we tested the key competitor in the segment,” says Lala. “The suspension upgrade was the thing that we really needed to work on, so we’ve gone for a full ARB Old Man Emu suspension and shock absorber upgrade.”
The new suspension gives a 40mm front and 50mm rear lift. The brake package partly borrowed from the Fortuner SUV has 15mm-larger discs and different pads, with braided front and rear brake lines for improved feel.
The wheels are 18-inch Black Rhino rims sourced from the US, wearing Maxxis Razr 265/60 all-terrain tyres.
“We think this is the best combination of on-road and off-road ability on the market,” says Lala.
The only option is a $1500 towbar kit, which also includes prominent red rear tow hooks. The Mako gets one-up on its Raptor rival by maintaining the same 940kg payload and 3500kg braked tow rating as other double-cab 4WD Hilux models.
TNZ dropped the Mako into the media launch for the revised Hilux range near New Plymouth this week – quite literally, because it was suspended underneath a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter before joining the rest of the range on the ground at the Cape Egmont Lighthouse.
Aside from lending some action-movie atmos to proceedings, that also meant that Mako joined the launch fleet for the rest of the drive. We were able to grab a bit of wheel time.
There’s no extra power, which is par for the course: Raptor shares its 2.0l biturbo engine with other Rangers and even the (now-defunct) HSV SportsCat was powered by a standard Holden Colorado engine.
But Mako does join the revised Hilux range in getting the upgraded 150kW/500Nm 2.8l turbo diesel, which means a much meatier low end and mid-range than owners of the outgoing generation enjoy.
Conditions weren’t ideal for our first drive of the one and only Mako in existence (build of customer cars will start before year’s end, with delivery February-March). There was wild weather and some very wet sections of narrow backroad.
We can’t speak to the Mako’s USP of extreme off-road ability just yet, but we did give it a bit of a workout on the winding stuff.
Like the Ranger, that squishy yet precisely controlled suspension results in a vastly superior on-road ride to anything in the mainstream range. It’s like jumping off a hard-tail MTB onto a full-suspension 29-incher: where undulations grab at the standard car’s chassis, the Mako seems to glide.
It turns into corners with assurance, although on our rain-soaked test route, the chunky tyres made the rear a lot more lively than the standard Hilux.
Overall it feels good – cohesive and very polished. It’s all in the attention to detail, obviously; TNZ is particularly proud of the Mako’s bespoke steering wheel for example, which boasts a sports-car-thick rim.
Lala reckons Mako would have been good for 400 sales annually prior to Covid-19, but even in the current environment expects 250. Given the Kiwi appetite for high-end, highly specialised and (let’s face it) highly expensive utes, that surely shouldn’t be a problem; the Mako’s OE brand status means it’s sold at a Toyota Driveway Price (TDP) that includes on-road costs and up to five years warranty, roadside assistance, WoF coverage and capped-price servicing. Just like a Yaris hybrid.
TNZ will be making the most of the Mako’s local content. Each pre-ordered vehicle will be built at the company’s plant in Thames and the company is looking at ways to give owners regular updates on the progress of their new machines, including images from the factory.