Tuning specialists and performance gurus Steves Auto Clinic seems to have found the solution for those Toyota drivers desperately searching for V6 levels of performance from the 2700i four-cylinder Hilux.
Developed in conjunction with its Nelspruit franchisee, SAC Dart Mechanics, the conversion centres around a big valve cylinder head, with the inlet valves increased in size to allow better breathing.
SAC has had a lot of experience with the popular 2.7-litre petrol power plant, but traditionally the conversions have focused on gas-flowing the standard head. Going the "Big Valve" route has taken the bakkie into a different dimension, providing a genuine 33% more power at the wheels than the standard model.
And to ensure that the Toyota does now perform like a "big six", SAC commissioned independent testing specialist, Roadworks CC, to carry out scientific before and after performance assessments, using a Hilux 4x2 Double Cab Raider.
Tests were conducted at Gerotek, which is approximately 1 400 metres above sea level, with all conditions replicated as much as possible in the "after" tests compared to the baseline.
Using Datron contactless speed measuring equipment to verify the results, top speed went from a modest 172 km/h to 184 km/h, with a full 1.5 seconds lopped off the 0-100 km/h sprint. In percentage terms, this equates to improvements of six and 11% respectively.
Whereas the standard vehicle takes 14.1 seconds to surge from 80 to 120 km/h in fourth gear (a true measure of overtaking ability), the SAC version takes 13.1 seconds. More importantly, is the fact that a full 30 metres less is required "in the line of fire" on the wrong side of the road.
Subjectively, it feels even better than the numbers suggest, and the improvements take the Hilux from being a dependable but plodding performer, to one with a really energetic feel.
Keeping up with traffic is suddenly less of a chore, and you'll spend far less time flipping the gearlever back and forth and exercising your left leg.
In addition to the multi-valve head's bigger valves, a number of other areas of the intake/exhaust cycles have been modified to maximise the benefit of the car's bigger "lungs".
As part of what would normally be defined as a Stage One upgrade, a Wildcat tubular exhaust manifold and stainless steel free-flow exhaust system has been fitted, the airfilter has undergone a small but significant change to improve air flow, and a Unichip piggyback engine management computer with appropriately calibrated engine parameters installed.
As the name suggests, it works in tandem with the standard ECU.
Stage Two adds the big valve head with appropriate camshafts, and a flowed intake manifold and flowed throttle body, resulting in at least 100 kW at the wheels. In the case of the SAC development mule, power increased from 78 to 105 kW, with torque climbing from 177 to 201 Nm.
Camshafts are profiled to SAC Engineering's specifications in terms of lift and duration, while the valves used are of premium quality. As part of the conversion SAC includes a six months/20 000 km "Why Worry Warranty".
In both conversions the focus is on reliability and driveability, as well as retaining the high levels of refinement inherent in the standard vehicles.
Recommended retail price of the Stage One conversion is R4 995, and the Stage Two upgrade R7 995, available from the eight SAC outlets in South Africa, with a ninth (Durban) to open shortly, as is a branch in Windhoek, Namibia.
It's the kind of transformation that will be like manna from heaven for Hilux 2700i owners, and once you've experienced the significant improvements in driveability the upgrade offers, there will be no going back.
In fact, you'll be left wondering how you ever got by without that extra urge underfoot.