Toyota Hilux first-drive review: Brute beast that's forged for the wild

₹30.4 - 37.9 Lakhs*
*Ex-showroom price
4 out of 5
Pros
  • Massive road presence
  • Extreme off-road capabilities
  • Robust build quality
Cons
  • Rather basic cabin
  • Bumpy ride quality on conventional roads
  • Toyota Hilux has some incredible off-road capabilities but can it double up as a daily drive commute option in congested Indian cities?
Toyota Hilux is positioned as a lifestyle pickup vehicle in an evolving Indian car market space.
Toyota Hilux is positioned as a lifestyle pickup vehicle in an evolving Indian car market space.

Toyota Hilux isn't for all. The Hilux isn't for most either. But for the still small percentage of Indian car buyers that are unafraid to drive into the wild and unknown, here is a pickup vehicle that is claiming to make perfect sense. A model that Toyota has offered for over five decades and in over 180 countries, the Hilux has taken far too long to touchdown in India. But now that it has, does the eight-generation Toyota Hilux live up to the expectations?

The ruggedly robust built of the Hilux is such that many claim it can outlive its owners. In a world fast being taken over by electric vehicles, here is a vehicle that - even when standing still - seems to care two hoots. Give it a road, great. Deprive it of one, still great. The mammoth proportions of the Toyota Hilux are only outmatched by the sheer scale of expectations from it, regardless of the conditions. We reached Rishikesh recently to meet this beast in its natural habitat and here's our first-drive take on it.

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Toyota Hilux: What is it like to drive?

The Hilux is positioned as a lifestyle vehicle with multi-purpose utility. It will surely take a lot to get accustomed to driving it in congested cities in the country - here is a T20 batsman being made to play Test cricket. There is a whole lot of power at the ready from the 2.8-litre diesel engine but the heavy steering and large proportions will require muscle work. The automatic gearbox is a plus but the six-speed manual stick is more affordable. The ride quality too is quite bumpy.

Hilux offers some crucial features like front and rear parking sensors, as well as reverse camera.
Hilux offers some crucial features like front and rear parking sensors, as well as reverse camera.

Give it space on an open highway stretch and the Toyota Hilux truly comes into its element. The 204 hp and 500 Nm of torque (420 Nm on the Hilux MT) lends the otherwise heavy vehicle a forceful purpose that is superbly satisfying. The response to throttle input isn't incredibly instant and yet, the Hilux never feels like it is ever going to stop pushing. There is some engine noise when being pushed but on a vehicle like this, it actually elevates the experience of driving a beast.

The Toyota Hilux has a high ground clearance. While this helps the vehicle on treacherous roads, it also means getting in and out is a tough ask.
The Toyota Hilux has a high ground clearance. While this helps the vehicle on treacherous roads, it also means getting in and out is a tough ask.

But this beast is truly at home when civilisation fades and the unknown beckons. The Toyota Hilux has always excelled in treacherous conditions and the cordoned area within the Rajaji National Park provided an ideal setting for it. A commanding view what's ahead generously helps in planning the moves to precision and with an approach angle of 29 degrees and a departure angle of 26 degrees, the Hilux just gobbles down challenges. The 18-inch wheels under the large wheel arches also help but the biggest advantage comes from the 4x4 with low range being offered as standard across variants, rear axle coming with electronic differential lock, Hill Descent Control and a superb suspension set up - superb for challenging tracks. It also has a water wading capacity of 700 mm which is par for the course.

For all its strengths, the biggest highlight of the Toyota Hilux is the confidence it instils in the driver that the vehicle can indeed power ahead regardless of challenges.
For all its strengths, the biggest highlight of the Toyota Hilux is the confidence it instils in the driver that the vehicle can indeed power ahead regardless of challenges.

Living with the Toyota Hilux

The Toyota Hilux is an ultra capable vehicle off the beaten path but one needs to have priorities set right before considering one. It sure looks daunting and in its eight generation, also has the styling cues going well for it. Whether it is the familiar hexagonal grille and the large LED headlights on the face or the chrome plated ORVMs or the LED rear lights or even the mammoth cargo bed with a payload of 470 kilos, here is a power lifter with panache. Within, there is a five seat set-up with just about adequate space, a rather basic but functional cabin and a sprinkle of features like an eight-inch infotainment screen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto Support, Automatic Climate Control and charging points for smartphones.

A look at the dashboard layout inside the Toyota Hilux.
A look at the dashboard layout inside the Toyota Hilux.

But buying a Hilux solely as a daily commute option would be as much of a travesty as it would be impractical. Here is a vehicle that demands to be pushed to it limits, or at least deployed for frequent highway trips. Toyota is also offering a whole lot of lifestyle accessories at an extra cost and this includes a roof-top camp bed, refrigerator and the likes. Options in the aftermarket would be quite endless too.

Toyota Hilux: Verdict

Bringing the Hilux to Indian shores is a clear sign that Toyota, finally, sees a section of Indian car buyers who want something more from their vehicle. In most cases, Hilux would be an additional vehicle in the garage that is bought and admired as much for its capabilities as it is for its sheer road presence.

While the price of the base variant has been cut since launch and is now at 30.40 lakh (ex-showroom), the top-end variant is pricier now at 37.90 lakh (ex-showroom). At these prices, there are a plethora of SUV options that are more conventional in nature but also more luxurious and feature-packed. But hardly any of these indirect rivals would make that kind of claims that the Toyota Hilux dares to make.

First Published Date: 20 Mar 2023, 15:37 PM IST
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