There is no doubt Toyota does some things very well; it would not, after all, be one of the biggest automotive manufacturers in the world if it did not get one or two things absolutely bang on.
We could troll through a list of the really good things the Japanese giant does, but we would be here all day and only bore the trousers off all concerned. Let’s just say that to have got to where they are and to have sustained themselves in that position over many decades, they must be doing something right.
One of those ‘right’ things is the vehicular phenomenon that is the Toyota HiLux.
Originally launched in 1968, the HiLux has been a massive worldwide success, selling more than 18m units globally and serving as a workhorse the likes of which has not been seen since such as the Willy’s Jeep.
If you were to flick across any of the gazillions of TV news channels we have access to these days — be it a morning show from Chile, a live bulletin from Tanzania, a review programme from the Middle East or even a state-sponsored broadcast from Turkmenistan — you will probably see somewhere in all those images, a Toyota HiLux.
So ubiquitous has the tough-as-teak Toyota become that it is now a sort of all-things-to-all-women (and blokes too) form of transport. And here in Ireland, the HiLux is the go-to gut-buster whether you’re a farmer in need of something that will cross any — and I mean any — terrain, pull any trailer full of any amount of cattle or truck around any piece of equipment, or if you’re in construction, again, it will fulfil a ridiculous amount of tasks which could not be done by many other vehicles.
Here in Ireland, the HiLux has traditionally enjoyed a massive share of its market segment, currently running at around 27%, and while this has not involved it being employed in counter-insurgency work in West Clare or North Kerry, it has nonetheless successfully been sent to work, helping to build and repair electricity supplies, as a workhorse for groups such as coastguards, mountain rescue teams and loads of other essential services.
Over 5,000 of these things have been sold here since the car was originally brought to these shores and I would not hesitate to wager that a majority of those are still work-horsing their way around the highways and by-ways of our green and fertile land.
And now there is a new one. The eighth generation HiLux, as is the way with all revamped or upgraded cars, is touted by its manufacturer as being the best, most capable one they have ever produced.
Toyota says its new go-anywhere gut-buster will proved itself to be even more able, more reliable, better looking and more sturdy than ever before.
Not being one of those people who has to drive it off a cliff to see if these claims stand up to exacting scrutiny, I chose the rather more prosaic territory of Cork and West Cork to put the HiLux through its paces, and while I cannot therefore regale you with tales of mountain-climbing derring-do or river-fording excitement, I can still tell that this is a car that will give everything possible to do what you want it to do — or die trying.
Changes include a much softer exterior look — the ‘Keen Look’ design language also used in the far less utilitarian Corolla range — allowing it the sort of cutesy appearance which utterly belies its naturally hairy-chested demeanour.
The interior — of the double cab version we tried — will also be unrecognisable to any of the people who bought earlier models. You’ve now got stuff like soft touch plastics, an infotainment system incorporating a 7” touchscreen and a raft of other kit which might be more readily seen in a family SUV rather than in something traditionally considered to be a commercial workhorse, even if the back seats are still something Donald Trump would only allow Mexicans travel in — if he allowed Mexicans to travel, that is.
On the road, you will have to cope with what might be termed bouncy castle ride characteristics when the pick-up end of the vehicle is without the concrete blocks, mobile milking parlours or whatever else might normally be thrown in back there.
When loaded, though, it will be comfortably at ease on pretty much any surface.
Workmanlike as it should be it nevertheless demonstrates a sophistication generally lacking in the genre. There is a level of driver and passenger friendliness that would previously only be considered to be fit for a wuss.
And that’s not all that has been upgraded. There is a new 2.4 litre turbodiesel engine with 150bhp on tap; more importantly, given the pulling and dragging it will be required to do, there is a massive 400 Nm of torque (a 16.5% increase) at a lower engine speeds (1,600 to 2,000 rpm) and that figure will set enthusiasts on edge when they contemplate the driving-off-a-cliff shtick.
The actual performance figures — 0-100 kph in 12.5 seconds and a 170km/h top speed — will never reach Bonneville proportions, but that’s not the point with the HiLux.
It is what it is able to do a low speed that stands it out from the pack. Indeed there is so much torque on offer that even in normal conditions, you can spin the wheels in second gear and get a bit of sideways action — in the city! — without trying too hard.
The bottom line in all of this, however, is that the HiLux is something which you will buy now, keep for a hundred years, and treat it to the most horrendous abuse imaginable.
It will serve you well by always starting on the first turn of the key while, by virtue of its reliability, also treating your wallet with the sort of reverence that it never normally gets from a motor car.
A fine and admirable beast then, just like it always was. But a bit more comfortable.
From €29,250 (single cab), €39,890 as tested in double cab SR5 specification.
A new and improved 2.4 turbodiesel with much improved torque figures.
Comfort comes to the pick-up.
The Overall Verdict:
As good as it gets.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved