Words and pictures by Andrew Middleton.
We take the updated Hilux SRX 2.4 for a spin to see if it’s worth the money upgrading to the higher-spec 2.8, or not
After its must anticipated launch last year, the Hilux has been selling like hotcakes, and we were adamant that, for the money, the base SRX 2.4 was pick of the bunch. Unfortunately, at launch, the SRX came with steel wheels and a ‘narrow body’ style without flared wheel arches, making it look like a work truck. The other marques jumped at the chance to leverage more volumes in this sector, so Toyota quickly plugged the perceived price/value gap.
The 2017 update has remedied these woes and added 55mm to the body width through flared wheel arches, just like its 2.8-litre ‘Raider’ sibling. Alloy wheels have also been taken from the Raider, along with the shared 265/65 R17 rubber, and anyone who does serious off-roading will not miss the chrome that’s lacking on the SRX grille, mirrors and door handles − all replaced by black plastic items. Fog lights are also missing, and rather sombre blanks take their place. Still, the overall effect is not downmarket.
Climb in, and you’ll notice the plastic steering wheel (leather on the Raider) and cloth seats, as well as a more basic infotainment system (it still has USB, AUX and Bluetooth, but loses two speakers) and the lack of cruise control (the latter a serious omission for long-haul drives). Pick through the spec sheets, and you’ll see that the 2.4 also loses out on a reverse camera, cooling glove box, split folding rear seat, a TFT display on the instrument panel − and has one less 12V socket up front. Outside, it also loses the retractable side mirrors, daytime running lights and, of course, those halogen fogs. The interior is still on par, though, and bar some shared aesthetic fails like the mock dash stitching etched in plastic, the tacked-on infotainment touchscreen, and the slightly cramped footwell, it’s a great place to be – the cloth seats being notably comfortable.
Around town and off-road, the 2.4 never feels sluggish. Its 110kW power peak is just 20kW down on the 2.8, and delivered at the same relatively high 3400rp/m. The key difference lies in the torque figure, which is only 20Nm down on the bigger sibling, but delivered in a narrower band from 1600- 2000rp/m – versus the long-legged effect in the 2.8 of a peak spread from a low-low 1400 to 2600rp/m.
Yet the 2.4 is a lively, sophisticated engine, very refined and tractable through the rev range (despite the evidence on paper), and the slightly reduced outputs show mainly on the highway (with a load), when overtakes need to be well planned. You’ll need to row through the gearbox more frequently than in the 2.8, but thankfully the Hilux has, in my opinion, the smoothest and slickest-shifting six-speed manual in the business. The action is streets ahead of all the rivals, bar perhaps the Triton.
In the new Hilux Revo range the old ‘donkey’ lever has been replaced with a rotary dial, and although fast-acting if you get it in the right mood, the switch between low and high range can sometimes take frustratingly long. Some examples have been better than others; this test unit was perfectly fast, perhaps down to being used often in its 10 000km bed-in period. Thankfully, the Hilux retains its impressive departure angle thanks to a short rear bumper. Approach angles and ground clearance are good too, making the Hilux SRX one of the most capable standard bakkies in the segment. It does not have the full suite of driver aids, making do with ABS, brake assist and brake force distribution, while the 2.8 sibling benefits from the more sophisticated Active Traction control (ATRC), stability control, trailer sway control, and both uphill and downhill assist. Frankly, with the presence of a rear diff lock, we did not miss these on the mild off-road venturing we did at Groenland 4×4. The 2.4 is plenty capable enough, with good axle articulation adding to its abilities.
A ‘Power’ and ‘Eco’ mode switch change throttle response. Power mode is somewhat useful in sand when you need instant power, though it doesn’t actually increase outright power, and without careful foot modulation can make the vehicle lurch about. ‘Eco’ just makes it feel damped-down, and offers no discernible improvement in the already impressive consumption figure. Speaking of which, a steady foot can get your average down as low as 7.5l/100km, though our test included an off-road section and two mountain passes which pushed it closer to 9l/100km.
Take a drive in both the 2.8 and the 2.4 Hilux, and you’ll be surprised at how competent the 2.4 is. Take away some luxuries that are nice to have, but far from necessary, and you’re left with a 2.4 SRX – a vehicle that now looks almost the same as a Raider, is 95% as competent, but costs R85 800 less. You are the judge, but if it were my money, and I wasn’t intent on regularly towing a heavy load, I’d spend the saving on a bunch of accessories…