So, this is it. Already launched in May in Thailand, the 8th generation Hilux (due in local showrooms in the first quarter of 2016) is set to make waves in South Africa, almost certainly reclaiming the best-selling-bakkie crown from Ford. New engines, a whole new chassis, plus striking looks and a luxurious interior, will step up the game. Under the hood in the petrol department, the old faithful 2.7l VVT and 4.0l V6 motors do duty with all-new transmissions. A first in the bakkie segment, the six-speed manual with ‘i-MT’ will automatically rev-match the engine speed to the transmission, providing seamless down-changes.
A six-speed automatic is also available, along with a more basic five-speed manual, presumably to be placed in lower-spec models. The old 3.0D4-D and 2.5D4-D motors have been replaced by a powerful (130kW/450Nm) 2.8-litre turbodiesel and a more sedate (110kW/343Nm) 2.4-litre turbodiesel workhorse. New engines are also easier to service, reducing workshop time. Together with smoother engines and gearboxes, the interior is physically more generous and has been greatly improved by following design examples set by the RAV4 and Corolla models.
NVH levels have also been drastically reduced to make longdistance driving less tiring, while the donkey lever has been replaced by an electronically switchable 4WD system − freeing up more interior space. On the outside, which has grown somewhat longer and wider, Toyota has used the ‘Keen Look’ design-language as employed by some of the brand’s latest passenger cars. The edgy design, with slim LED headlamps and slender upper grille, should appeal to first-time bakkie buyers who might otherwise consider a less practical SUV.
Under the skin, new rear leaf-spring suspension linked to the solid axle has been developed to enhance off-road performance, while keeping highway comfort a priority, too. The chassis itself has been strengthened − with larger and thicker cross members as well as with enlarged side sections on the all-new rigid frame − as part of the quest for greater rigidity and a more refined ride.