Mark Jones
Road Test Editor
4 minute read
22 Oct 2015
6:00 am

Toyota Hilux celebrates a milestone

Mark Jones

Toyota says a number can carry significant meaning, none more so than a million.

The Toyota Hilux. Picture: Supplied

The Toyota Hilux – which has been a stalwart in the local light commercial vehicle (LCV) market – can now proudly attach its name to the word ‘million’ as SA’s sales of the Hilux eclipsed the one million mark in July this year.

The one millionth unit – a single cab 3.0 D-4D Legend 45 model, was sold to Pretoria resident and business owner Shabier Aboobaker on July 31. Mr Aboobaker is a Toyota loyalist, having owned a wide variety of Toyota products in the past, including a 1982 Corolla Sprinter, a 1986 Cressida 2.8i and various Camry models, some of which are still in the family.

Also in the South African Cross-Country Championship – formerly known as the SA Off-Road Championship – Toyota has won the past seven manufacturer’s title on the trot, with the Hilux doing duty in the hands of former champion Duncan Vos, defending champion Anthony Taylor and current championship leader Leeroy Poulter.

In international competition, the Hilux has fared extremely well too. With former Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers behind the wheel, the South African-developed and built race Hilux attained a third place on its Dakar debut in 2012. In 2013 it went one better with a second place, attaining a fourth place in 2014 and another second place in the 2015 edition of the world’s most gruelling motorsport event.

In recognition of not only the sheer number of Hilux vehicles produced, but also of its unparalleled success as a competition vehicle, Toyota SA Motorsport has built a one-of-a-kind Toyota Hilux known as the Toyota Hilux Racing Experience, or Rex – and I got to test it at Gerotek. At the heart of the pukka race version of the Toyota Hilux is the powerful and flexible Lexus IS-F V8 engine and in celebration of its racing success, this is the same 335kW/600Nm engine that does duty in the Toyota Hilux Racing Experience vehicle I drove.

And as you might begin to tell, this is no ordinary Hilux: in fact, this is an absolute monster that was great fun to drive. It made all the right noises, although my grumpy old neighbours were not impressed by the sweet uninhibited sound of the free flow exhaust, and it would leave black lines on the road at will.

To give you some idea of what is under the bonnet, the engine management system has been replaced with a Pectel Cosworth system, the sump has been modified to make room for the production Hilux front differential, which has been equipped with a new gear ratio. The rear diff received similar treatment, and the inlet manifold has been modified to Dakar spec, effectively boosting the torque characteristics of the engine.

A new alternator and power steering pump has been fitted, together with a new air-conditioning compressor. The entire wiring harness has been upgraded to Dakar spec and modifications were made to the transmission’s bell housing in order to mate the gearbox to the IS-F engine.

“So the modifications are pretty comprehensive,” says Toyota SA Motorsport’s Glyn Hall. “But you can’t just add all that power and toys without ensuring the vehicle can handle it.”

As such, the suspension system has also been upgraded, with fully adjustable front and rear dampers, and the entire vehicle has been lowered by 50mm over the production version. The steering ratio has been increased for faster movement and large 18×9-inch wheels have been fitted. The brakes are power brake 350mm discs with billet aluminium four-piston callipers, along with a twin plate AP racing clutch to get the power to the wheels.

And that it did rather well, even though I kept the Hilux in 4×2 mode and lived with wheelspin at the expense of not breaking a diff or something else expensive. You can see from the data box the Hilux Rex is rather rapid for a two tonne bakkie with very short off-road racing type gear ratios. In fact, the Rex is faster in 1km of tar than the standard 4.0 litre V6 is flat out over many kilometres.

I wished all bakkies could be made this way and I’m sure if, by some insane wave of a magic wand, we could get a 5.0 litre V8 Hilux off the dealer showroom floor, many crazy South Africans would queue up to buy one.