We finally get behind the wheel of the mighty pick-up truck, and a special one at that!
The Toyota Hilux is like a blockbuster flick that never ceases to amaze, no matter how many times you watch it. From being the ‘Dream Truck’ in Back to the Future or becoming the first car to reach the Magnetic North Pole and even tame and win the toughest rally-raid in the world, the Dakar, Toyota’s Hiluxes have bene there, done that. The Hilux is one of the best selling pick-up trucks ever and over the past five decades, Toyota has sold over 20 million units in more than 180 countries! India for some reason was never on the list, despite the Fortuner and Innova sharing the same IMV platform. But good things come to those who wait as they say and the pick-up finally made its India debut this year. All units brought in via the CKD route got sold out and every Hilux went to customers, so none made it to the media fleet! That means we’re driving the India-spec Hilux only now, thanks to Thomas Maratt of 6th Mile Customs in Bangalore, a good friend, who picked up one of the first Hiluxes that came in. We just had to snatch the keys from him and head out to get a little taste even as we wait for Toyota India to provide us with a test vehicle.
The Hilux you see here looks different, because it isn’t stock. I’ve driven a factory-spec Hilux too belonging to another friend, but at TURBOCHARGED we love our mods and just had to feature this special Hilux. Toyota’s trademark trapezoidal grille has been blacked out and looks the part as it contrasts well with this shade of silver.
The regular Hilux stands tall and can be intimidating but this Hilux takes it to a higher level, quite literally. Thomas decided to swap the stock suspension with Ironman’s flagship offering, the Foam Cell Pro shock absorbers and forged upper control arms. This Hilux also runs the Evo Corse Dakar Zero 18-inch wheels from Italy that are not just lightweight and drool worthy but also designed for off-road driving and competitions in extreme terrain. These wheels also wear one of the most capable AT tyres in the world, the BFGoodrich KO2. This transforms the Hilux into an even more capable pick-up that can be driven over anything in its way. The increased height gives it a more commanding stance, one look at it from any angle and you know this truck means serious business. All the chrome on the vehicle has been deleted and replaced with blacked-out details add to the aggressive character. It also uses rock sliders from Ironman that offer better frame protection and come in handy to get in and out of this behemoth.
The Hilux feels very familiar inside. The interiors look similar but are not the same as the Fortuner, as the dash layout is different, though a lot of parts are shared. This also means that this pick-up offers the best of both worlds with its rugged go-anywhere exterior and a rather comfortable and luxurious cabin. It takes time to get used to this combo but we are not complaining! The driving position is commanding and seats offer enough support for even the longest road trips. The dual-cab layout means the truck can accommodate four in comfort and the rear seats offers impressive kneeroom too. After all, this generation of the Hilux was developed to offer carlike comfort and better on-road dynamics to make it an all-rounder.
Additional mods like the upgraded suspension and larger tyres add more mass but make no difference to the 2.8-litre diesel motor (1GDFTV). This is the AT variant so there’s additional torque too and in fact all 500Nm offered from just 1,600rpm! Peak power produced is an impressive 204PS, delivered at 3,000rpm. Thomas has also installed a BMC air filter that aids with performance. I was pleasantly surprised by the engine refinement and you can barely hear the engine running from inside the cabin. Out on the road the Hilux cruises at triple-digit speeds with ease and is a true milemuncher. In fact, it feels a generation ahead of its only rival in the country, the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross. The stock Hilux can be bumpy over undulations and broken surfaces especially when not loaded at the back. However, the upgraded suspension and control arms significantly improve the ride and handling on any demanding surface as the Ironman suspension features a twin-tube construction, wider pistons and longer travel. The Hilux is a true workhorse and can probably circumnavigate the globe multiple times and still have the go for more. With the reliability of a Toyota and some purpose-built 4x4 mods, this Hilux feels indestructible and heading to regions like Ladakh or the Mustang Valley in Nepal should be a piece of cake in this one!
Owning a pick-up truck means access to unlimited aftermarket parts, especially in today’s day and age. I drive an Isuzu V-Cross myself and am always thinking of adding more bolt-on mods, thanks to a long list of 4x4 accessories available from leading manufacturers in Australia and Thailand. It’s no different with Thomas, in fact, he is awaiting his next shipment of 4x4 goodies from Ironman (his brother, Zac Maratt is the official distributor for the brand in India) and other brands to turn this very Hilux into a full-blown overlander. There are plans to add an aluminium canopy, metal bumpers and much more. We can’t thank Thomas enough for having us experience his prized possession and cannot wait to drive it again, once Thomas has transformed it into one of the most capable Hiluxes in the country.