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Since its initial launch in 1968, the Toyota Hilux has built up a worldwide reputation as a strong and durable workhorse and a capable off-roader. The bulky and tough-looking eighth-generation hit the UK market in mid-2016 and boasted new safety and comfort systems, and, despite the increased size and weight, even better off-road characteristics.
There was disappointment for heavy-duty operators, however, as the 2.4-litre unit is the only engine option for European customers. The higher-output 2.8-litre, which is offered in every other market, hasn’t met the stringent Euro-6 emission standard.
The Hilux comes in four trim levels (Active, Icon, Invincible and Invincible X) and three bodystyles (single, extended and double-cab), and prices at launch range from £29,177 plus VAT to an eye-watering £33,765 plus VAT.
On the inside, the cab is very spacious and the driver’s seat offers good all-round vision. The central cubby and glovebox aren’t the largest on the market, but the dashboard is simple and well appointed, and comes with a whole host of new driver aids and technology.
Even entry-level Active models get air-conditioning, rain and dusk sensors, ‘follow me home’ headlights and heated and electric mirrors. From the Icon grade up, customers receive the Toyota Touch 2 infotainment system with an intuitive seven-inch touchscreen display, although you really have to press down hard to make a selection on it.
Icon grades also get a 4.2-inch multifunction trip computer in the instrument panel along with cruise control, side steps and foglights.
Invincible models come with climate control, keyless entry and ignition and auto-levelling LED headlights. The top-of-the-range Invincible X gets leather heated seats, sat-nav and front and rear parking sensors.
On- and off-road driving characteristics have improved significantly making the eighth-generation Toyota Hilux one of the best in class in both environments. Engineers have installed a dash silencer to prevent squeaks and rattles and additional soundproofing in the engine bay to minimise noise and vibrations.
Due to this, the Hilux is incredibly quiet and features new leaf springs (extended by 100mm) that do a great job of cushioning the blows from bumpy terrain. This makes the Hilux the smoothest and most comfortable pickup to drive with this suspension arrangement, and second only in the whole class to the independent coil suspension of the Nissan NP300 Navara.
Apart from being quiet and refined, the 2.4-litre engine is also surprisingly agile and punchy too. There is just one 148hp power rating, and while that may not sound a lot, it’s quick off the mark and the 400Nm of torque means it’s strong enough for 3.5t towing operations and steep ascents off-road. The steering is quite light and provides little feedback, but there is little bodyroll in the corners.
The base Active grade is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, but a smooth and decisive six-speed automatic is available from the Icon trim-level up.
Driving the Hilux off-road
Torsional rigidity has increased by 20 percent, which means the Hilux feels solid when taken off the road. The approach and departure angles have increased to 31 and 26 degrees respectively, and ground clearance ranges from 277mm on the single-cab to 293mm on the double-cab.
The electronically selectable centre differential has three settings that have to be selected when in neutral: 2WD High, 4WD High and 4WD Low. For the most extreme off-road terrains, Toyota still offers front and rear locking differentials on the Hilux, and this is assisted by active traction control, downhill assist control to keep the car stable when making steep descents, and hill-start assist control to prevent rolling when starting off on an incline.