2024 Toyota HiLux GR Sport Review
Few cars have the track record of the Toyota HiLux. It has a long-standing history of ‘won’t die’ reliability that combines with a can-do attitude for work and adventure – it’s folklore at this point. As such, it’s become the obvious choice for Aussies, claiming the title as the number one selling vehicle with 47,329 new registrations in its 4×4 configuration and 17,062 in 4×2 last year. However, no HiLux has ever pushed the limits as far as the new GR Sport. This is a high-performance version of the ever-popular ute that delivers a Dakar-inspired experience similar to the Ford Ranger Raptor but for a fraction of the price (AUD$73,990 plus on-roads).
Toyota threw me the keys to the new GR Sport and a tiny home just outside of Sydney to see what the best offering from the top-selling car in the country has to offer. For this review, I road-tripped the car on the highway, across the Blue Mountains, and down the self-proclaimed ‘steepest road in NSW’ nick-named the ‘Donkey Steps’ to the now-closed Wolgan Valley. Here’s everything that I found out along the way.
What’s Changed on the Toyota HiLux GR Sport?
Let’s start with the boilerplate items for the HiLux GR Sport. Toyota has increased outputs of the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-charged diesel engine with more boost and fuel that results in a 10 per cent increase in power and torque to 165kW and 550Nm. You won’t win any traffic light drag races with a next-gen Ford Ranger Raptor (292kW and 583Nm), but the pick-up from 40km/h to the speed limit is plenty for overtakes on highways and country roads. Maybe the only place you’ll notice any lack of grunt is sand.
In terms of ride and handling, the wide track is shared with the Rogue model – extended by 140mm at the front, 155mm at the rear, and 15mm in ride height. This combines with a retuned automatic gearbox (with paddle-shifters) that feels more responsive and engaged with the actual act of driving.
Finally, the suspension has been tweaked with dedicated monotube shock absorbers offering a higher damping force and heat-dissipation capacity, stiffer coil springs and an optimised front-rear suspension balance to reduce roll angle and increase steering response. This includes the total removal of the rear sway bar for greater wheel articulation off-road, you’ll see how that affects the driving capabilities below.
How Does the Toyota HiLux GR Sport Drive?
The changes are significant and this was most obvious on-road as we traversed Bell’s Line of Road across the top of the Blue Mountains. I was surprised by how sporty the ute felt on these smooth undulating roads, especially when you compare it to competitors like the Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max which offer nothing short of an agricultural ride by comparison. Steering is particularly great because it’s still hydraulic.
Where the GR Sport was less impressive was uneven surfaces and dirt roads like fire trails. Here lies the biggest difference to dedicated ground-up re-designed vehicles like the Ford Ranger Raptor, because the HiLux is let down by stiffly-sprung leaf-spring suspension in the rear. As such, you’re going to feel every single bump in the road whether you like it or not. And when you push the ute down a fire trail at a higher pace it’s easily unsettled by lumps and bumps, washouts, and rocks. You’re quickly reminded this is mostly a basic HiLux underneath the skin and it prefers the daily grind more than a race through the desert.
That being said, you could argue that this ‘feedback’ is better for low-speed offroading and I’d tend to agree. There’s a proper low-range transfer case, locking rear differential, and Toyota has removed the rear sway bar altogether for more articulation. The standard-fit 265/65R17 Bridgestone Dueler AT tyres are worlds better than the Rogue’s Dunlop GRANDTREK tires too.
There’s also the advantage of towing with a stiffer leaf-spring rear suspension and the HiLux still maintains its 3.5-tonne towing capacity vs. the Ranger Raptor which reduces to 2.5 tonnes.
What’s the Toyota HiLux GR Sport Like Inside?
It doesn’t have a massive centre touch-screen, but I rather liked the function over form styling inside the new GR Sport HiLux. You still have to move the gear selector in different directions to choose a gear which is oddly satisfying and all the touchpoints are soft to touch and quality. Seats are particularly comfortable, sporty by design, and offer a combination of leather and suede to keep you in place at speed on and off-road.
There’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and you even get a 9-speaker JBL sound system that sounds above-average compared to most dual cab utes on the market. Add a powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, red seat belts, aluminium pedals, and functional paddle shifters you get the complete GR experience on the inside.
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Standard Equipment List
This is a list of everything you get as standard on the new Toyota HiLux GR Sport:
- 17-inch alloy wheels in 265/65 R17 Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tyres
- Rock rail side steps
- Underbody protection
- LED headlights, daytime running lights and front fog lights
- Tow bar, wiring harness, tow ball
- Rear recovery hooks
- Leather and suede-upholstered sports seats
- Power driver’s seat
- Heated front seats
- Red seat belts
- Aluminium pedals
- Paddle shifters
- Nine-speaker JBL sound system
- 8.0-inch touchscreen media system
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Satellite navigation
- DAB+ digital radio
- Privacy glass
- Dual-zone climate control air-conditioning
- Rear air vents
- Keyless entry and start
Omissions from this list include a tonneau cover, roller cover or hard top for the tray. I don’t miss the lack of a sports bar because that’s usually the first thing people remove on a ute, but I would’ve liked to see a few GR-specific aftermarket accessories like spare wheel holders, tie-down points in the rear tray, or a racking system.
Man of Many’s Verdict on the GR Sport HiLux
I really enjoyed my weekend with the new GR Sport HiLux and it was oddly refreshing to get back into a vehicle that feels pragmatic and properly functional. I’d like a few more creature comforts on the inside and a higher-resolution touchscreen for long journeys, however, the fact is this car feels like it could take you anywhere in Australia anytime over the next 30 years (maybe more) and never stop working is a huge consideration if you were going to buy this ute.
The ride comfort on-road was a big surprise, but I would’ve liked to see that translate off-road where the vehicle simply should’ve performed better with a more poised and comfortable ride. At the end of the day, this is a 4×4 HiLux with all the frills, and that’s probably why I like it most.
If we stop comparing it to halo products from the blue oval and start looking around the AUD$73,990 plus on-roads price-point it starts to look like a relative bargain. Outperforming the Mazda BT-50 Thunder ($73,945) and Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior ($70,765) by a considerable margin. The Ford Ranger Wildtrak V6 ($71,190) would be its nearest competitor and it all comes down to your styling preferences and towing needs.
I’m looking forward to the next-gen HiLux and if Toyota were to steal some performance from the Lexus LX600 petrol I drove earlier this year and add coil-spring suspension to the rear-end they’d be onto a true Raptor competitor.
Note: To bring you this review and these epic photos, the author of this article, Ben McKimm, stayed at Piccolino Tiny House in Wolgan Valley for two nights as a guest of Toyota Australia. He was also provided with fuel for the vehicle, however, he brought his own pizza oven and borrowed some flour because he forgot it.
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