The Hilux has always enjoyed a special place in our market. Whether it’s used for commercial, utility, or adventure purposes, this Toyota pickup sees its fair share of love from us Filipinos, as evidenced by its strong sales figures. Our test unit for this long-term Shakedown is the 2.8-liter G variant with a manual transmission, four-wheel drive, and the full TRD shebang, and we got weeks of seat time to put it through its paces.
The main thing about this variant is the extra muscle that the TRD kit bestows upon what is already a potent truck. Everything on the kit is an external and aesthetic piece, but with a complete installation, the design lines of the truck change as well. The honeycomb grille, the lower front-bumper add-on, and the skidplate transform the front end and turn up the aggression level to 10. The 18in TRD alloys and the muscular flares widen the shoulders and give the truck a more menacing posture.
Most of these ornamentations either have a machined TRD logo or are painted in red to really make them stand out. The parts are a good mix of thermoplastics and aluminum, and they’re as durable as the rest of the truck—although scuffs on the side steps and the sports bar tell of a very rough life for this relatively young test unit.
All things TRD end the moment you enter the truck. There are zero TRD parts to be found inside, and the interior is as standard as that of the regular G variant. There’s the same busy dashboard layout covered in hard plastic and with lines that blend and mingle with one another from top to bottom. The seating position gives you a commanding view of the pickup’s corners and, despite the length of the vehicle, allows you to accurately determine where the rear end is pointing as you back up. I have to say, though, that for the extra coin this variant commands, Toyota could have at least thrown in a rear-facing camera or backup sensors. This thing is pretty long.
The front seats are well-designed units that give proper support and comfort—a boon given that the ride of the Hilux is hardly sedan-like. The rears seats are cozy and ergonomic, but I never really got the chance to be a rear passenger for an extended period of time during this test. I did have minor issues with some of the driver’s contact points: While the steering wheel feels nice to hold and has all the remote buttons within reach, the handbrake’s engagement distance is a bit too long for my taste. This leads to a lot of situations wherein you don’t fully engage or disengage the emergency brakes. And the shifter, as beautifully designed as it may be, doesn’t feel too palm-friendly.
Toyota’s touchscreen AVN infotainment system is a breeze to use, but with the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, it’s slowly showing its age. The six-speaker setup easily fills the cabin with your favorite tunes, while a built-in parametric EQ helps with fine-tuning the sound. The A/C system is of the regular variety: quick to drop temperatures and with a strong fan. Thankfully, these are operated via physical knobs and not through some touchscreen gewgaw.
Toyota’s 2.8-liter 1GD-FTV engine has all the makings of a new-generation turbodiesel mill, with a variable-nozzle turbo and double overhead camshafts that provide increased power and torque output over a wider powerband. Pumping out 175hp at 3,600rpm and 420Nm (450Nm for the automatic variant) at 1,000-3,600rpm, the motor is more than capable of transporting five passengers and their cargo. During our test, it operated smoothly and efficiently. It also sounded much quieter up front, but with a satisfactory growl coming from the exhaust.
There are three engine modes: Normal, Eco, and Power. In Eco mode, the truck manages both throttle and A/C systems for optimum fuel economy. Power mode shifts the throttle mapping to a shorter range, thus providing all the available power much earlier. This brings about a total change to the way the truck pulls. Also of note is the six-speed iMT manual gearbox, which auto-blips the throttle to match transmission and engine speeds, giving a smoother transfer of power and preventing any untoward weight shifts during braking. This leads to smoother upshifts and prevents the engine from stalling, too, should your clutch foot be less than graceful.
Riding a ladder-frame vehicle always takes some getting used to, but a couple of days of getting accustomed to the bouncy ride is all that’s needed for you to appreciate and understand a truck’s purpose. To be totally fair, the Hilux has come a long way in terms of driver and ride comfort. Just remember that it was designed for hauling cargo, so if you’re always driving alone, you really won’t get the full performance from the truck’s suspension. If you’re out driving on the rough stuff, you’ll definitely appreciate the ground clearance and the truck’s uncanny ability to soak up the bumps. Driving in the city will obviously result in a less-than-ideal ride, unless you’ve weighed the bed down with heavy cargo. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the springy motion of this type of vehicle, but then again, I’m not exactly the target market.
After a couple of weeks of driving the Hilux TRD, I came to appreciate its size, power, economy, and practicality. And yes, even the jiggly ride. For sure, the handsome exterior was admired by a lot of folks from the outside, but from where I was seated, there was little for me to enjoy because all the aesthetic add-ons were out of sight. Now, whether one should cough up the extra coin for the TRD kit (or whether it has any value in the first place) is subject to personal preference. All in all, the Hilux G 4x4 is a great proposition, and the TRD upgrade is really just there to add more attitude to a really tough truck. How tough? Just look for the Top Gear episode with the fourth-generation Hilux and you’ll see what I mean.
SPECS: Toyota Hilux 2.8 G 4x4 MT TRD
Engine: 2.8-liter turbodiesel I4
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power: 175hp @ 3,600rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 1,000-3,600rpm
Note: This article first appeared in Top Gear Philippines' May 2018 issue.