by Huw Thomas, chairman, Welsh Motoring Writers
TOyOTA introduced a new top-of-the-range ‘Invincible X’ variant on the Hilux last year. Changes are mainly cosmetic – a new ‘bolder’ chrome-framed front grille with black inserts with a new look front bumper, fog lamps and silver-effect front under- shield.
Cabin ‘décor’ is all-black with chrome trim and more ‘piano-black’ inserts on the dashboard, centre console area, etc. Instrument binnacle display has been tweaked together with the multi-function centre touch-screen which houses the Sat-Nav.
Otherwise it’s the current Invincible level of equipment which includes ‘Safety Sense’ a pre-collision alert and braking system, pedestrian detection, lane departure and road sign/speed limit alerts. Bluetooth connectivity, rear view camera (audio park assist), automatic Air-Con and black 18” alloy wheels are the other ‘headline’ items.
Although Mitsubishi were first to extend the pick-up’s appeal to a broader market it was VW’s 2011 Amarok which raised the bar for comfort and refinement. Ford’s Ranger was first to respond becoming the UK’s top-selling pick-up.
Last year saw Mercedes-Benz enter the fray with the Nissan Navara-based X-Class. It has the Navara’s coil-sprung rear beam axle but adds a 3.0-litre V6 Diesel option to the Nissan 4-cylinder engine together with the permanent 4×4 ‘4MATIC’ system. The Amarok has been an all-V6 Diesel range for some time.
Conventional layout notwithstanding (rear semi-elliptic leaf springs retained as for Hilux) the Ranger has built a commanding lead here outselling almost the combined share of the Navara (2nd) and L200 (3rd) in 2018. Hilux was 4th and Isuzu D-Max 5th.
Toyota’s 2016 Hilux ‘Mk 8’ stuck to the traditional formula (High & Low ratio 4×4 via transfer box) but it has a stronger and wider chassis, re-worked suspension and 6- speed gearbox. A 2.4-litre 150ps ‘torque enhanced’ Diesel replaced the 2.5/3.0 units.
As for the ‘workaday’ competition, apart from Mitsubishi’s stand out on-road 4×4 ‘Super-Select’ option, normal driving in is 4×2. HR/LR 4×4 is for snow/ice and off-road. Apart from a mechanical rear ‘diff-lock’ braking and stability electronics adapt for on/off-road providing Active Traction, Downhill Assist and Trailer Sway Control.
Retaining durability, off-road credibility, payload/towing capacity while offering enough refinement for those after an SUV alternative has been the aim. It does drive and ride better than before but remains basically a solid, credible pick-up proposition.