Three new accessorised models from Toyota feed increasing demand for premium dual-cab utes. 

Story Peter Pap 

The top-of-the-range Toyota HiLux SR5 accounts for a quarter of the company’s ute sales in Australia. Despite this, the average HiLux buyer spends more than $2000 on accessories. And so Toyota has decided to expand its range and offer three new models – not accessorised special editions, but fully fledged new models – specifically for Australia’s environment. The key objectives are to increase protection, functionality and recovery. This will ripple out globally: Toyota believes if it survives in Australia, it will survive anywhere. 

Developed by Toyota’s Melbourne-based engineering and design team, the items are fully integrated and engineered into the vehicle, certified to Australian design rules standards, and come with a full factory warranty. The utes build on the ‘unbreakable’ reputation of HiLux and have a tougher and more menacing look. The add-ons are high-quality items supplied by local companies ARB, ERG, Frontline Australasia and Narva. 

The top-of-the-line Rugged X (pictured centre) is based on the SR5. It has a winch-compatible heavy-duty steel front bar with integrated bash plate made of high tensile steel, and is completely compatible with all safety systems and airbags. It offers better approach angles, especially in the corners. It gains 207 kilograms and the same stiffer springs offered on Toyota’s bullbar optioned utes. There’s a 120-watt LED light bar integrated into the front bar – reducing the likelihood of damage – plus there’s spread-beam driving lights to the sides. There’s a heavy-duty steel rear bar with large step, and integrated tow bar with 3500kg braked towing capacity for the manual and 3200kg for the auto.

There are front and rear bright red recovery hooks in 20-millimetre steel plate with high tensile bolts, smaller 17-inch alloys with A/T tyres, side rock rails that can support a fully laden vehicle while protecting the sills and underbody, a snorkel, a sports bar with multiple tie-down points able to handle a 75kg vertical load and secure 200kg on the floor, tub liner with tailgate protection, matt black tail lamp surrounds, dark grey HiLux badges and Rugged X decals. The interior has black perforated leather-accented seats, metallic black ornamentation, black roof headliner, front and rear all-weather floor mats, a new design instrument cluster with white illumination and orange needles.

The Rugged (pictured right) is similar to the Rugged X, but is based on the Hilux SR. It has a more traditional steel bullbar better suited to the hazards of country driving. The Rogue (pictured left) is the stylish one of the lot and more suited to the urban environment. It is based on the SR5 and developed in conjunction with Toyota’s Thailand team for the global market. It has 18-inch alloys with H/T tyres, heated seats, the same interior as the Rugged X, new front and rear bumpers with a larger frontal area giving the ute a more planted and meaner look, sports bar, marine-grade carpet, and hard tonneau fully integrated with the central locking system. 

All three models share the same mechanical specifications as the SR5 or SR models on which they are based and are powered by the same 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine. Toyota predicts Rugged X and Rugged will account for 60–70 percent of sales, and Rogue 30–40%. All three have a 5-star ANCAP rating with 6-month/10,000km service intervals.

These utes are in a tough market in which buyers expect them to do a hell of lot – like a Swiss army knife. They may not be the most powerful utes on the market, but when you look at the compromises they have to make and how well they perform as a total package, they are a great choice. They drive well on all surfaces and terrain, and are very capable off-road. The rock rails work well, as does the fantastic LED light bar. The hard tonneau (somewhat surprisingly) kept dust out of the tray throughout an extensive test drive in the Flinders Ranges, SA. 

Finding and fitting after-market items that look good and work well together while not compromising safety, is not easy. Toyota has therefore done a great job in offering these choices to the higher end of the market.

Rugged X is priced at $61,690 for the manual and $63,690 for the auto 6-speed. Rugged is $54,990 for the manual and $56,990 for auto 6-speed. Rogue is $61,690 auto only.

This story excerpt is from Issue #120

Outback Magazine: August/September 2018