Dakar spurns Hilux to bigger things
There is more than one Hilux owner out there who bought the Toyota because of its Dakar pedigree. Motorsport improves the breed, after all – what wins on Saturday, sells on Monday and there has always been that racing bent to Hilux, no?
That said, there has never been a Hilux to really celebrate all Giniel’s podiums and Nasser’s wins – or that Fernando is on the team now too. But this Toyota Gazoo Sport Hilux has just changed all that…
Let’s get the elephant out of the room first – the Toyota Hilux GR Sports looks like a Lions rugby washing line with those gaudy queen-size swathes of ‘signature’ red, black and white. For goodness sake, we hope there’s a delete option for that dreadful afterthought!
Perhaps more fitting, are its new gloss-black honeycomb grille with new and more grotesque Toyota lettering, just in case you never knew — and a subtle GR badge. The red, white and black theme continues far more acceptably across the Hilux – every one of the 600 GRs got a black bonnet, roof and wing mirrors; GR tubular side steps, over-fenders and cool Sport specific 17” alloy wheels shod with slightly bigger and dirt-grippier 265-65-R17 rubber.
Toyota also made a decent effort make GR Sport’s cabin pop, it gets red accents to complement its black leather interior trim, with red contrast stitching and embroidered GR logos, piano black treatment and a vibrant red accent line running across the fascia. Add a racy GR-branded push to start button, while each Hilux GR Sport includes a branded production plate and serial number to confirm its pedigree.
GR Sport also gets the latest Hilux enlarged, flush mounted and integrated Infotainment screen with additional rotary volume and tune knobs, key-function shortcut buttons, stylish white-faced dials with orange needles and a 4.2” TFT Multi-information Display with steering wheel control.
For all that bravado, there’s nothing very special under that black GR Sport bonnet – the Hilux of Hiluxes retains its good old 130kW 450Nm Hilux 2.8 GD-6 turbodiesel with driver-selectable Power and Eco modes mated to the equally venerable 6-speed automatic transmission packing shift logic manual and sport modes and on-the-fly four-by-four.
Which also means that GR Sport lacks any attempt to overcome the performance and economy losses brought about by its albeit not much larger diameter rubber, although Toyota still claims 8.5 l/100km fuel economy and 224 g/km, both of which we’d think would be slightly affected by the bigger rubber too, not that it will ever make a difference.
But the big changes to this Hilux – yes, bigger even than that brash paint job – centre around its suspension. Borrowing from its Dakar winning Gazoo Racing pedigree, this souped-up GR benefits bespoke GR uprated and tuned Fox suspension and special BF Goodrich tyres. Packing revised damping and increased spring rate monotube front shock absorbers and for a sportier ride without sacrificing comfort, as you may expect from practical Toyota, GR Sport retains the regular tried and tested standard Hilux rear leaf spring rates.
Toyota rather concentrated on developing Hilux GR’s front end to extract greater off-road handling and steering, enhanced off-road body control and sharper on-road steering feel.
That also means that Toyota has dodged a practical bullet as GR Sport retains all those hardworking traits Hilux is famous for – it totes the same load and can pull the same trailer as any of its common garden 2.8-litre GD6 siblings, while a less extreme wheel and tyre solution steals less performance too.
Of course, all three bakkies maintain their back-up and deep levels of executive spec and at R803K, Raptor has to be among ultimate performance vehicle bargains, while the Isuzu runs the Ford surprisingly close in price and The Toyota comes in at a considerable hundred grand discount.
Still, the Raptor represents an incredible bargain — especially when you consider that this proudly South African-built bakkie costs over a million rand in most overseas markets, but even considering how much more Raptor costs versus the Hilux, its premium still seems small. One must however wonder what Isuzu is trying to achieve at that price point for the D-Max Arctic.
The upshot of all of this is pretty interesting on the road. We were quite surprised to find that Fox suspension is quite hard – I somehow expected and improvement, a softer plusher ride, but the new set-up brings a certain harshness. But hang on a second – that’s a trade-off.
Thrash it better
Wander off the beaten track and the harder you thrash it, the better this bakkie gets – it soaks up the bumps, jumps and yumps in epic Dakar style to deliver a very different sort of performance. It may be an acquired taste, but to those who like this sort of thing and who would long have a Hilux before anything else (and that seems the majority, no?) Hilux GR Sport is manna from heaven for the manne.
Sure, it’s harsher on the road, may be a tad slower too, but take it off road and man, whether you are pretending to be Fernando, Nasser or Giniel, this bakkie is going to make you king for a day. If you can still find one, that is... — Michele Lupini
Images - Dylan McKay
ROAD TESTED – Toyota Hilux GR Sport
Engine: 130kW 450Nm 2794cc turbodiesel I4
Drive 6-speed automatic 4x4
Towing Capacity: 3500kg
0-60km/h: 4.40 sec
0-100km/h: 10.21 sec
0-160km/h: 29.10 sec
400m: 17.1 sec @ 129km/h
80-120km/h: 7.94 sec
120-160km/h: 14.54 sec
Fuel: 8.5 l/100km
CO2: 224 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/6-service 90Kkm
2y old used value:84.3%
LIST PRICE: R714K