Bettering the bakkie

Bettering the bakkie

Car-like convenience features tend to characterise the upgrades Toyota has implemented in face-lifting its Hilux and Fortuner ranges. Wynter Murdoch reports

In revamping its Hilux and bakkie-based Fortuner ranges, Toyota has tried hard to make each of the models more car-like in terms of comfort and convenience features – in the case of the former introducing six new derivatives that feature automatic transmission and, in the case of the latter, unveiling a new 2,4-litre GD-6 4x4 auto model.

Cabin upgrades, too, have been aimed at emulating the look and feel of swish passenger vehicles rather than those of utilities and, in the main, Toyota has succeeded in markedly closing what used to be regarded as an unbridgeable gap between agriculturally styled pick-ups and lofty limousines.

Let’s focus first on the Hilux. The single-cab range has been expanded with a new 2,4-litre 4x4 SRX 6AT model which joins a pair of newly added 2,8 GD-6 Raider 6AT derivatives in either Raised Body (4x2) or 4x4 configuration.

The variants have been designed to persuade customers in the utility market that, despite retaining their abilities as workhorses, the vehicles offer similar benefits to those of lifestyle-focused derivatives, their auto transmissions making them easier to drive than traditional, manual-shift equivalents and, in heavy duty applications, eliminating the risk of clutch damage.


Equally, the Xtra cab line-up has been supplemented by the addition of two new self-shifters each powered by a 130kW, 2,8-litre GD-6 engine and available in Raider configuration in either 4x2 or 4x4 guise, while the double-cab line-up has been complimented by a new, SRX specification, 2,4-litre variant that features a six-speed auto ’box and a four-wheel drive drivetrain.

Improvements to interiors across the range – which are said to have been inspired by in-depth customer research and feedback – sees previously employed fabric door arm rests in lower-specification models replaced by durable, hard-wearing padded urethane, with Piano Black door trim providing a finishing touch. Raider models receive an upgrade from a fabric-adorned centre console lid to a soft-touch, leather-clad equivalent.

On the safety front, single-cab SRX, Xtra-Cab SRX and single-cab Raider models now feature vehicle stability control (VSC), the system incorporating hill assist control (HAC) and trailer sway control (TSC). Fog lamps have been added at the front of SRX variants to enhance night-time visibility.

The flagship Raider line-up has received an injection of both style and convenience with derivatives fitted with dual tri-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels and all-terrain tyres; LED headlights and fog lights – the former auto-levelling – as well as bands of distinctive daytime running lights. A 220-volt power outlet has also been added.

While no automatic transmission Hilux derivatives were available for test drives at the announcement of the upgrades, six-speed manual models – all 4x4 double-cabs – proved comfortable and capable over a route that included wet and slippery gravel roads, highways, and an excursion around a beach-like off-road course.

Equally, the Fortuner – which is based on a Hilux platform and which uses a similar range of powertrains across its line-up – proved adept at conquering all aspects of the route, the model provided for test drives being the new 2,4-litre GD-6 4x4 6AT.

Like the double-cab, it offers comfortable seating in a spacious cabin, good insulation against noise, vibration and harshness, a smooth ride and commendable fuel consumption, Toyota claiming 8,2 litres per 100km in the combined cycle for a tank range of about 900km.

According to company spokesmen, the Fortuner remains South Africa’s best-selling SUV, the combination of space, versatility, modern design and go-anywhere ability rated among its most popular characteristics.

As before buyers have the choice of two specification levels and three engine variants. The 2,4 GD-6 turbodiesel and 2,7 VVTi petrol engines are offered in mid-grade trim while the 2,8 GD-6 and 4,0-litre V6 units are paired with high specification derivatives.

Safety has been bolstered across the range with the addition of side and curtain airbags over and above dual front airbags and a driver’s knee airbag, while 4x4 models feature Active Traction Control, which continuously monitors wheel slip and proportions torque accordingly.

The 2,8 GD-6 and V6 models’ comfort and convenience features include an electrically-operated tailgate and 220V accessory connector. Halogen fog lamps have been replaced by LED equivalents to compliment Bi-LED headlamps.

“The latest additions round out the already comprehensive feature list, which includes smart entry, leather interiors, multi-information displays, Bluetooth, USB, cruise control and third row seating,” says a statement.

Other standard features include climate control air-conditioning, a rear camera, touchscreen audio, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, soft-touch finishes, power adjustment for the driver’s seat adjustment and a full-colour TFT multi-information display.