ANOTHER BRIDGE TO CROSS: The eighth generation of Toyota's Hilux has just been launched in Thailand and is expected in South Africa early in 2016 after larger markets have been sated. Image: Quickpic
BANGKOK, Thailand - Toyota really has teased the public with details and pictures of the highly-anticipated eighth-generation Hilux but it wasn't the real thing.
But today (May 21 2015) the real McCoy was officially unveiled in Bangkok, marking the start of sales of the all-new model in Thailand.
The Hilux first hit dealers in 1968, selling more than 16-million units in more than 180 countries. By 2015, a million units had been sold in total in South Africa alone.
But it hasn’t been plain-sailing for SA’s most loved bakkie; the Ford Ranger stole the headlines in November 2014 when it ended the Hilux’s 34-year reign as the commercial vehicle sales leader.
The Ranger completed the feat again in April 2015 and handed the gauntlet firmly to the Hilux. This rivalry will be renewed when the new Hilux reaches our shores in the first quarter of 2016.
Enough about battles and sales, let’s get to the juicy details of the new Hilux... it's been completely re-designed from the inside out and for the first time (at least for us) has a luxurious interior.
Toyota says the new Hilux is capable of battling up a muddy track or negotiating the rigours of the urban jungle. That’s why the new Hilux, while improving on the model's characteristic ruggedness and performance, is more occupant-focused and, the automaker says, easier to drive.
IMAGE GALLERY: The REAL Toyota Hilux for you
To give customers exactly what Toyota believed they needed from the Hilux, the company’s development teams travelled the globe from Venezuela to right here in Kommetjie, South Africa, getting direct feedback from customers and driving on a wide variety of different roads to get a feel for different conditions.
Driving conditions ranged from rough, muddy forests to deserts with temperatures exceeding 50°C, and flooded roads.
NEW ENGINES AND SUSPENSION
The bakkie has an all-new rigid frame with enlarged side sections and cross-members that are larger and thicker and a mix of off-road performance and comfort sees an upgraded leaf-spring suspension and shock-absorbers.
The new 2.4 and 2.8 litre diesel engines create torque lower down the rev range and aid extended cruising range. They are also quieter and mated to new six-speed automatic transmissions with more steps and optimised gear ratios to maximise engine performance.
Toyota says the Hilux is the first bakkie to have "intelligent manual transmission" (or i-MT) which supports smooth shifting with rev-matching technology.
Hilux drivers gave direct feedback: some wished they could make long trips without worrying about running out of fuel. Others described how hard it was to stay alert and drive safely during gruelling long-distance journeys with extended stretches of rough driving.
Yet another, who uses a Hilux for forest maintenance and frequently speaks via radio with the police and fire department, explained how a quiet cabin is essential for communication.
The development team had their work cut out: the new Hilux should not only be tougher but should also reduce stress as much as possible. Ride comfort that makes long, tough drives less gruelling, a quiet cabin that allows communication in any conditions, and enhanced cruising range thanks to improved fuel efficiency.
In summary: Toyota says their quality, durability and reliability (Q,D,R) still forms the backbone of the new Hilux. The newcomer will attempt to suit any application whether it is leisure, workhorse or farming
Hiroki Nakajima, executive chief engineer behind the Hilux said: "Our entire development concept was centered on 'redefining toughness'. We aimed to make the new Hilux 'tougher' based on a much broader interpretation of that word.
"The message we want to deliver to our customers is embodied in our slogan for the vehicle: 'A New Era for Pick-up. Every Inch a Hilux.”
Calvyn Hamman, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Toyota SA, said: "It's instantly recognisable as a Hilux, it feels like a Hilux, it drives like a Hilux- only better.
Successfully melding innovation, sophistication and extrovert design with fanatical reliability, the all-new Hilux will be the benchmark. The Legend is set to continue."
SOPHISTICATED FARMER: The interior of the due-in-SA-in-2016 Toyota Hilux is, the autmaker says, a step up from previous generations. We'll give you our verdict when it arrives at the beginning of 2016. Image: Quickpic