Toyota HiLux SR5 Dual Cab 4x4 3.0DT

words - Steve Kealy
Toyota obviously subscribes to the philosophy of ‘it ain't broke, don't fix it'… Happily, for HiLux, ute buyers agree

Toyota HiLux SR5 Dual Cab 4x4 3.0DT

Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $51,980
Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): nil
Crash rating: four-star (ANCAP)
Fuel: Diesel
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 8.3 (man), 9.3 (auto)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 219/245
Also consider: Nissan Navara; Mitsubishi Triton review; Mazda BT50 review; Ford Ranger review; Holden Colorado; Isuzu D-Max

Overall rating: 3.0/5.0
Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 4.0/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.0/5.0
Safety: 2.5/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0
X-factor: 3.5/5.0

About our ratings

The HiLux ute isn't broke, so Toyota hasn't changed it -- well, not much, anyway. The rugged four-door 4x4 ute, fitted with a lusty 3.0-litre turbodiesel is found the length and breadth of Australia, selling to everyone from the emergency services to tradies and horsey types.

Its broad appeal isn't hard to understand -- Toyotas have a hard-earned reputation for toughness and reliability. Coupled with solid resale value and a widespread and generally well-informed dealer network (with industry-leading spare-parts availability), the high initial purchase price becomes more bearable.

That said, the 4x4 double or crew-cab ute market is a competitive one, with all the major manufacturers staking a claim. No-one can afford to stand still for long and established players like Toyota do need to keep an eye on the opposition. When it comes to price, Toyota is head and shoulders above, and the cheaper rivals are improving all the time.

Like its rivals, the HiLux Dual Cab's body is a balance between cargo and passenger space and Toyota would seem to have hit the sweet spot. The tray isn't huge but can tote two full-sized dirtbikes with the tailgate down and the cabin can accommodate four adults (it should be five, but more of that later). Loadable mass totals 900kg, including humans.

This balance of payload and human cargo is achieved in a useable length (5.25m) chassis that doesn't rattle. The big Toyota's 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine is a great foil for the well-weighted five-speed manual gearbox.

The four-pot, twin-cam 16-valve direct-injection diesel engine delivers 126kW at a relatively high 3600rpm, while max torque of 343Nm is available at a much lower 1400rpm. There's little or no discernable turbo lag and while first gear might seem short, taking off in second with the tray unladen is quite acceptable.

Load on anything up to the Toyota's max permissible payload of 900kg, and that short first gear comes into its own. The ratios are well-spaced and although the shift is smooth, it's not especially quick.

Slipping into neutral, it's possible to engage (and disengage) four-wheel drive on the move, but it's wiser to stop before selecting low-range.

The cabin offers good accommodation for four adults. It would be five, but the centre rear seat only offers a lap belt only. Of more concern is that child-seat attachment can only be done in the outboard seats, so the safest place for any occupant -- the middle of the back seat -- isn't available for small kids.

Adults are accommodated in reasonable comfort in the back, while up front the two seats are broad, deep, supportive and well-proportioned.

There are twin front airbags, head-adjustable front seat-belt anchors and a tilt-only adjustable steering column, albeit with an extremely restricted range of movement. Side airbags are likely to arrive at the impending MY2010 HiLux update.

The rack and pinion steering is power-assisted and Toyota claims a turning circle of an unremarkable 12.2m. But that's in two-wheel drive; in 4x4, it's quite a bit more. In two-wheel drive on loose surfaces, just a prod of the throttle can swing the tail out, tightening the turn considerably.

None of this is new (Toyota's SR5 has been around seemingly since Adam was a lad) and while there are a few new features, there are still omissions – some becoming all the more glaring.

Welcome additions to the successful SR5 crew-cab formula include cruise-control (on a short stalk on the steering wheel) along with audio system, phone and trip-computer control buttons on the wheel's hub. The fairly rudimentary computer is a good addition to the SR5 and includes a compass, along with the usual range and consumption calculations.

However, it's what's not included that detracts from the overall package. Most obvious is the complete lack of any form of stability control -- this in a powerful vehicle with almost no weight over the driven wheels in two-wheel-drive mode. The SR5 does have an ABS system on its disc/drum brake combination, so the sensors and software are available, but so far, Toyota hasn't seen fit to fit anti-skid or stability electronics.

If left in two-wheel drive and provoked, the SR5, with its limited-slip differential, will light up its rear tyres even on dry corners and becomes diabolical in the wet and on roundabouts. In an era where compulsory fitment of stability control to sedans is just a year or so away, its omission from a vehicle that needs it as badly as this one, is a grave oversight.

As a class leader in most other respects, we'd expect Toyota to lift is game and point the way to the future for the opposition. As it is Mitsubishi will be first to market with optional stability control on selected Triton models.

Putting some weight in the tray (such as about 200kg of dirtbikes) lends the ute some manners and it's possible to negotiate more treacherous conditions safely. Of course, there's always the option of selecting four-wheel drive, but that compromises the Toyota's turning circle and negatively affects fuel consumption if you don't really need drive to all four wheels.

While the front suspension uses double wishbones, coil springs over gas struts and an anti-roll-bar, the rear end is suspended by cart-like leaf-springs, albeit with gas struts on a rigid live axle.

On good surfaces and driven with decorum, the Toyota's comfort levels are good –perhaps best in class. Thanks in no small part to the really good front seats, driver and passengers are treated to a ride which is taut and firm but never harsh, with really good compliance.

Similarly, its steering is accurate and predictable on the asphalt, with only the wide turning circle as a negative. Onto dirt roads and the good news continues - light, accurate and positive steering, no jarring shocks, supple suspension and no squeaks or rattles.

In poor conditions, be they wet, dry or steep, the extra traction from the front wheels makes a huge difference -- and if the going is especially steep or rough, slipping into low-range makes the SR5 into a real rock-hopping crawler. Toyota claim 297mm of ground clearance on the standard 15-inch alloy wheels and 255/70 tyres.

In-cabin storage is good, with a useful array of thoughtful and good-sized options, including cup and bottle-holders. The ergonomics are very good, with controls pretty-much where you'd expect them. However, the SR5's working class roots show in the fitment of a very average audio unit with six disc capacity but only four speakers

The SR5 is rated to tow 2250kg on a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked.

The fuel tank holds a useful 76 litres and at the claimed consumption should give a range of about 900km; that claimed rate is pretty much lineball with real-world consumption figures.

A three-year or 100,000km warranty is no longer class-leading, but is still pretty impressive, given the capability of the machine.

Those that drive Toyotas are usually very satisfied with their vehicles, but it's up to Toyota to retain its customers loyalty as the rivals get ever closer. A good start would be a stability control system along the lines of the brilliant load-sensing system on offer from Mercedes-Benz in its commercial vehicles.

On paper, the recently introduced common-rail Isuzu D-Max matches or betters the Toyota in everything except ground-clearance, carries 5 people and more cargo -- and is about $12,000 cheaper. In these tougher economic times, arguably that's the most telling difference.

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