Tim O'Brien | Dec 7, 2008 | 20 Comments

Funny thing about blood in water. Turns sharks into a frenzy. Get a sniff of blood and sharks start thrashing around and chomping on each other's arses. Remarkably, they lose track of the difference between 'food' and 'an arse'. You'd reckon taste would be a bit of a give-away.

Whatever, the whole business is not a pretty sight.

Now it's well-established that the human equivalent of 'the shark' is 'the journalist'… they share the same sensitivities and moral rectitude. Each would happily eat their young if they didn't run, or swim, away from home at a very early age.


And they each react to the smell of blood in the water.

Take the TRD HiLux. Now one or two reviews out there have missed the point about this rig; there's even been a little blood-letting, nothing serious, but enough to spill a few drops into the pond. Seems that's been an invitation for others less-informed to rush in - hatchets swinging - to bust up the entrails.

Me, I don't read other reviews except to sniff smugly and mutter to myself, "Bloke, you got that one wrong…" (Now c'mon, you do it too - you do it to my 'stuff'.) When it comes to cars, everyone has their own view about what's horn and what's not.

It's because it's impossible to be entirely objective about a car. Anyone who hasn't had a gudgeon-pin by-pass reacts to them on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one. Like, how many of us buy the car our Mums reckon we should buy. ("Buy the sensible one dear.") Come on!

The fact is that beauty and desirability – even in cars – is in the eye of the beholder. It's all part of the plan, otherwise ugly people wouldn't get roots and half the human race would disappear.

So, let's wipe the slate and start again with the TRD HiLux.


And let me put my prejudices up front so you know where I'm coming from. I like what Toyota Racing Development is doing with both the TRD HiLux and TRD Aurion. I think too many kilowatts is about exactly the right amount. I love the notion of screwing a monster roots-type Eaton supercharger (from Harrop Engineering) onto a 'family' donk, and wringing the grommets out of it.

That's very, very appealing stuff.

And, to digress a moment, I reckon if we weren't quite so daft about this whole front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive argument, we'd recognize the TRD Aurion as a genuine scorcher. Sure, it's missing a manual 'box… but torque steer? Who gives a rats - it's a function of torque. (Ask Alain Menu and other European 'Super Tourer' drivers about it if it's all too frightening.)

Now the TRD HiLux, that's more your genuine Aussie fare: it's a ute, and it's rear wheel drive, and you could belt it to Tibooburra and back, hose it out, have it back on the job on Monday, and it wouldn't have missed a beat.


Yup, it's strong. It's also far too powerful and your Mum would hate it. It is, therefore, perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, maybe a little flawed, but you won't hear me complaining about the kilowatts: "Mum, it's too powerful…" Give me a break.

Now some reviews of the TRD HiLux have managed to get the car completely wrong because they have started from the wrong premise. One of the first sharks onto the scene must have mentioned something about Maloo and XR8. As though this TRD high-stepping 'fourby' was actually some sort of direct competitor to these low-slung work-day tarmac scorchers.

The only similarity is the tub tray. So you might as well compare it to a Proton Jumbuck.

The secret to the TRD HiLux – and it's not really a secret – is in the little shift-lever next to the gear selector. You see, the TRD HiLux has a transfer case, with a genuine low range. It's for engaging when you're crawling in and out of building sites with a mixer, half a yard of sand, Lenny, Slim and Knackers in the passenger seats, and a trailer hitched in tow.


Or it's for crawling up fire-trails with a pair of KTM 450s, a cubit of camp clobber and… yup, Lenny et al.

The presence of that shift lever, and the transfer case, is why the TRD HiLux with a 3956cc V6 up front (compared to the 3456cc TRD Aurion) is tuned to produce more torque but less kilowatts than its TRD sibling. It's for lugging. It's for hauling its arse out of things – and it can climb a wall.


The ground clearance is also a bit of a giveaway that the TRD HiLux might be a tad more versatile, and have a broader purpose, than your basic Maloo or XR8. And if you're still unconvinced, have a look at the all-terrain tyres. If you ever want to work out the manufacturer's intent with a car, the tyres will tell the story.

So, we gladly took the keys to the TRD HiLux, packed a pocket-knife, a compass and the peanut butter sandwiches, and headed for the hills.


First a comment about the styling: the TRD HiLux is the Australian version of the US sports-truck, and with matt-grey inserts in the TRD body kit, go-faster stripes, and heavy tradesman's bars, it looks 'tough'. To these eyes though, it's not helped by the very ordinary 19-inch rims. (Some deep-dish aftermarket alloys are called for there.) It also desperately needs some tougher pipes and a 'note' to signal its presence.

While it's comfortable enough behind the wheel, and has reasonable space for back-seat passengers, the interior isn't quite up to snuff for such an expensive work-horse ($64,990 for the SL… freakin' hell). An earlier run down the Great Ocean Road showed it's an effortless tourer on well-finished roads, but more than a tad 'jiggly' and consequently wearing, on secondary surfaces. When cornering, you're always aware of its high-steppin' stance and mid-corner bumps can create some 'moments' if you're pressing on a bit. The feel at the wheel is also a little vague – it really needs a faster rack.

It's quiet though, not saloon car standards, but not coarse and a good bit better than most 4WD work utes.


On a longer drive, the 'groan' from the M90 supercharger can become a pain in the head, especially on winding roads where it's coming on and off ‘song’ as the five-speed auto kicks up and down. It certainly adds some potency to the beast though - those 225 kW and 453 Nm are quickly on tap should you want to call on them.

Toyota reckons a 7.2 second 0-100km/h dash; from the wheel it certainly feels capable of that sort of time.

So, back to where we were: three-up, Mike providing ballast and sage observations from the back, and heading for the fire trails and old logging tracks behind the Upper Thomson Dam and Aberfeldy River. First Moe, then up through Rawson and Walhalla into Pheasant Creek Track, back onto McGuire's Track, then all the way through to A1 Mine and Alexandra. A nice run to give the rig a chance to let its strengths shine.


Three weeks of 'no rain' on top of nearly ten years of 'bugger-all' rain, meant that the tracks were dry and firm. In these conditions – over loose gravel and corrugations - the personality (and capability) of the TRD HiLux changes. Here, the Bilsteins are brilliant. Can't think of any heavy-duty off-roader that handles corrugations so well.

On these roads (on any road really - as I discovered on a wet roundabout) power on over-steer is there if you want it. But careful, it can bite.

Some of the trails we were on up here are described with the warning 'steep' on contour maps. The tracks run across the saddles and spurs then drop down in long steep descents into the rivers and streams below. In the dry conditions of this trek, with generous ground clearance, and good approach and departure angles, the TRD was in its element. (The dual-purpose tyres would have struggled in the wet though – it can quickly get slippery in temperate rain-forest country.)


Mountains of torque, limited slip diff and a crawling low range, posed no problems for the TRD on the steeper pinches; it becomes just a matter of picking the line and scrabbling over. And with little water in the headwaters of the Aberfeldy River, there were no challenges to be had with the planned water crossing – you could have crossed it in a pedal car.

In this terrain, out where you can “lose yourself”, far from the work-day building sites, this is what the TRD HiLux is all about. It can scramble up nearly any fire-trail, get to places other cars can’t get and deal with ruts that would swallow a lesser rig. And lay serious kilowatts on the tarmac in getting there.

Fact is of course, off road, it’s no better than its SR5 diesel bro’. But the stripes, the supercharger, the TRD badge, and the ball-tearing grunt are to signal something: it’s the same signal, ironically, that the Maloo and XR8 give. It’s a signal that the person behind this wheel wants, and can afford, the premium product. Wants a mountain of grunt, because ‘grunt is good’; and wants versatility – wants to put the bikes in the back and hit the hills - because the car is both part of work and part of the lifestyle.


That’s why it’s got a low range. That’s why it goes like shyte off a shovel. And that’s why it’s not for everyone.

There are very good reasons why the HiLux range is king of the heap in its sector and one of Australia’s best-selling cars, full-stop. But would I buy the TRD HiLux? Not yet. I’d lean to the SR5 4X4 dual-cab diesel. It’s just as good, perhaps better, up a fire trail, it’s not significantly shaded for its ‘on road’ dynamics, and – it’s a personal thing - I don’t feel it’s necessary to win the traffic-light derby at the wheel of a ‘sport truck’.

Mostly though, at $51,080 (plus on-roads) for the SR5 diesel, I’d be swayed because it’s around ten grand cheaper than the TRD.

One last thing: the TRD doesn’t mind a drink when it’s under a bit of load. We managed a reasonable 14.0 l/100km with some enthusiastic mixed driving on the first tank, close enough to Toyota’s claims of 12.9 l/100km. That figure however dropped to a measured 18.2 l/100km on our trip ‘over the top’, but a good part of the way was spent in ‘4-low’.


But stick to the mission Toyota. If the TRD HiLux could be had with a slick-shifting manual box, then… now yes, that might change things.

Toyota Racing Development, with a string of off-road racing successes behind them, have given us ‘one tough truck’ in the TRD HiLux. It’s not for everyone but is a worthy contender and an original ‘take’ on the iconic Aussie ute. It’s ideal for the keen driver who wants or needs 4X4 capability, off-road ground clearance and low-range versatility, but also demands stonkin’ supercharged V6 power under the toe.

Tim Likes:

  • The ‘grunt-laden’ supercharged V6 donk
  • On-road and off-road versatility
  • Bilstein suspension (brilliant on rough gravel roads)
  • It’s like a better-handling SR5 only meaner and faster

Tim Dislikes:

  • The limp-sounding exhaust
  • Patchy interior, it’s robust and practical, but lacking for the price
  • Vague steering and jiggly highway road-feel
  • The price, and no manual available



Engine: V6 DOHC (chain driven) 24-valve VVTi
Capacity: 3956cc
Power: 225kW @ 5,400rpm
Torque: 453Nm @ 2,800rpm
Induction: Eaton M90 Supercharger
Transmission: Five-speed auto (with selectable low range transfer case)
Performance: 0-100kmh 7.2 seconds (claimed)
Differential: 3.58:1 (LSD)
Brakes: Front: Ventilated discs, 338mm

Rear: Drum, ABS

Wheels: 17 x 7.5 inch alloys
Tyres: 265/65 R17 Bridgestone all terrain
Towing capacity: 2,250kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked)
Kerb weight: 1,850kg
Fuel Consumption: 12.9 l/100km (claimed combined cycle)
Price: $59,990 S

$64,990 SL


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