Two To Tango

Akshay Jadhav
The impressive Toyota Hilux meets the mighty Himalayas

Just like it takes two to Tango, enjoying the abilities of a pickup truck as iconic as the Toyota Hilux needs an equally challenging terrain. I have been driving the Hilux in the urban jungle and am impressed by how well it exudes the lifestyle element. The bold looks, authoritative stance and a sizeable list of creature comforts are enough reasons to convince you to make the Hilux your daily driver. However, I am keen to explore more of the pickup’s potential so the logical step is to drive it up to the mighty Himalayas.

My journey commences with navigating the chaotic New Delhi traffic and the Hilux makes it feel easy. Once you get past the large dimensions, the light steering and relatively short turning radius helps navigate through the notorious “shortcuts” of the capital. I admit, at 5325mm it is pretty long to be domesticated as an urban vehicle but the controls are easy and the massive pickup almost shrinks in size around you.

The only anxiety is the diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration in the Hilux. All BSVI diesel vehicles come factory fitted with a DPF unit which keep engine emissions in check. As this technology better operates on highways, getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic is a nightmare for the DPF as it needs optimal temperature and certain variables to meet the needs for regeneration. At slow speeds, the soot keeps on accumulating thus choking up the DPF and the vehicle can go into the limp mode if one doesn’t manually regenerate the DPF using the button provided or floor it at 70kmph plus speeds on the highways. To my surprise, the Hilux’s DPF regeneration is quick even in heavy traffic.

After an hour or so, we are driving down the wide six-lane Grand Trunk road that connects New Delhi to Chandigarh. This is one of the many places where the Hilux shines. The long wheelbase adds to the planted feel even at high speeds. The 2.8-litre diesel motor mated with the 6-speed automatic transmission packs some serious power and torque figures. 204PS and a massive 500Nm are accessible from 3000rpm and 1600rpm respectively, enabling the motor to run relaxed at highway speeds. Cruising at speeds between 80-100kmph, the instrument cluster indicated a fuel economy of 14kmpl, a good number for the large vehicle and despite me not lightfooting the accelerator pedal.
And just like that, 270 kilometres later, I find myself at the foothills of the Himalayas. It is time to experience how well the Hilux can handle itself on the twisties. As I climb higher towards Shimla, the roads get narrower and the switchbacks increase in numbers. The Hilux has some body roll as you’d expect from a ladder-framed pickup but it doesn’t really bother you. In fact, you can take on corners at speeds, thanks to the confidence inspired by the grippy tyres. Shimla is a famous tourist destination throughout the year with a constant traffic flow throughout the highways. Here’s where the automatic gearbox with hill hold-assist kept fatigue at bay.

Soon we left civilisation behind as we climbed further into the Himalayas. The vistas shift from a beautiful, green Pine tree-laden landscape to the rather majestic and equally mesmerising barrenness of the Himalayas. The rustic-brown mountains stand tall in stark contrast to the clear blue skies — always a sight to behold. The cherry on top of the cake is the turquoise blue shade of the Sutlej river running along the black Tarmac making it the perfect home turf for the Hilux. This is it! It’s time for the Hilux to shine and flex its muscles. The moment I see an accessible approach to the river bed, I can’t resist engaging 4-Low and diving in. The rotary 4WD transfer switch is positioned near the centre console instead of a lever and is quite convenient to use. Just a push and twist on the switch and you are set. The rear solid axles come with an electronic differential lock making offroading a cakewalk. When you are crawling on undulating terrain such as a river bed, you will find yourself in a situation where at least one of the wheels is exposed to low or no traction resulting in the vehicle getting stuck. The differential lock is a major help in such situations. It distributes equal power to both the wheels on the axle so that the wheel with traction also spins rather than the wheel with no or least traction getting all the power unnecessarily. I am impressed by how casually it got to the other side of the river bank.

To think of it, these technologies that we now possess were either non-existent or unpopular amongst Indian customers till a few years ago. We have come a long way since then.
A few photo sessions later, the tarmac ended and the typical Himalayan roads started. Hardly levelled, freshly chiselled from the earth, the marks of the excavator are still fresh. it’s a good patch to test the pickup’s ride comfort. It houses a traditional leaf-spring setup at the rear which isnt’t comfortable for second-row passengers unless you run low air tyre pressures or load the bay with heavy luggage. I decide to go down a few PSI and it helped quite a bit. The Hilux ironed out most of the undulations and rough patches with ease. It is fun to tap the throttle and literally glide over everything on our path.

It is now time to conquer the mountain passes. After climbing the mountains for quite a while, we are greeted by the snow-clad mountain passes. The sun is setting behind the mountains leading the temperatures to drop below zero. I can feel the air getting thin as I climb higher but it does not seem to affect the Hilux’ performance. The snow is barely a few inches tall but it’s a perfect change of scenery. The electronic differential lock kicks in automatically in 4×2 mode making the drive pretty smooth and I don’t have to shift to 4H or 4L. It’s impressive how seamlessly the electronics work with their mechanical counterparts and help me reach my stop for the night. This trip to the Himalayas proves that the Toyota Hilux stands true to its legacy as an indestructible lifestyle pickup.

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