Hilux survived a great fall and became a legend

You may recall the famous Top Gear programme some years ago when a youthful Jeremy Clarkson and others dropped a Toyota Hilux from a 23-storey tower block.
Toyota Hilux InvincibleToyota Hilux Invincible
Toyota Hilux Invincible

The pickup truck not only survived largely in tact, but it started at the first attempt.

What you may not recall is that Top Gear put the Hilux through a few other ordeals too. They sank it at sea, tumbled it down a steep set of stone steps, crashed it through a shed and hit it with a wrecking ball. They even set it on fire.

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But even after it was placed atop a tower block in Hackney, London, which a Bradford demolition company blew up with dynamite, the Hilux survived. Battered and bruised it may have been, but it still started.

Toyota Hilux Invincible's cabinToyota Hilux Invincible's cabin
Toyota Hilux Invincible's cabin

That was an elderly E-registered pickup. But I can report that even today’s 2021 Hilux is just as strong, just as dependable. Toyota gained many plaudits from that show some 20 years ago and the Hilux creators continue to dine out on that moment of fame.

The model is 50 years old now. It was conceived as a worker’s wheels long before macho pickups were regarded as lifestyle vehicles. I’m no builder-cum-road mender but I must say after a week at the wheel of the Hilux Invincible, I loved it.

I’ve never cleared as much garden waste – I’m now on first name terms with the guys at the council tip – but the Hilux is more than just a workhorse. It is comfortable on the open road, too. Creature comforts in such vehicles used to be limited to a grab handle or a basic radio, but not any longer.

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This vehicle had a fabulous reversing camera, cooled glovebox, leather trim, headlamp cleaners and 18in alloy wheels. Spartan, it is not.

It is powered by a wonderfully flexible 2.8 litre diesel engine which blows away the criticisms of previous Hiluxes that they were underpowered. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission but you can specify a six-speed automatic if you’d rather.

It is much, much better than the old 2.4 litre unit, which is still available.

Performance is impressive, almost car-like. It will touch 60mph in just over 60mph and the ride and handling is better than you could reasonably expect.

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It looks smart, with a bold chrome ‘mouth’ at the front and well-proportioned styling. All pickups these days seem to be double-cabs, which means the loadbay – or deck, as they call it in the trade - is smaller than you might imagine. It is still 1.5 metres square, so it suits most demands. A single-cab loadbay is 2.3 metres long.

There has been a midlife upgrade, to strengthen the pickup’s appeal with a growing number of customers who need a vehicle that’s right for both their business and leisure needs.

Across the entire range, new Hilux maintains its one-tonne minimum payload capacity and the ability to tow (braked) loads of up to 3.5 tonnes.

Hilux has a Drive Mode switch which lets the driver choose between Eco and Power settings. Eco mode reduces power consumption related to acceleration and heating and cooling to improve fuel economy; Power mode initiates a sharper response to throttle inputs for a more engaging driving experience.

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Hilux reaps the benefits of suspension and steering revisions and the availability of a new, automatic limited-slip differential that improve its on-road ride and handling and its off-road controllability. Its fundamental strength remains its body-on-frame construction, a design now rare in its segment. The ladder frame chassis is both highly durable and gives Hilux the rigidity to deal with the most severe twisting forces when driving over rough terrain. On-road comfort and drivability have been improved through changes to the suspension and power steering systems and retuning of the shock absorbers.

Hilux’s off-road credentials have been improved with the addition of a new automatic electronic control which replicates the effect of a mechanical limited-slip differential to give better traction and acceleration on low-grip surfaces.

The driver can activate the system with a brief press of the stability control off switch when the vehicle is being driven in rear-wheel drive mode. When a loss of grip is detected, it will brake the slipping wheel and direct drive torque to the opposite wheel that has traction.

This new feature is in addition to the Active Traction Control, which operates when the vehicle is in all-wheel drive.

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Hilux also provides Hill Start Assist Control to help negotiate uphill slopes and, on Icon grade models and above, Downhill Assist Control.

Hilux’s design supports its impressive off-road capabilities, with the Double Cab having a class-leading 310mm running ground clearance, approach and departure angles of 29 and 26 degrees respectively and the ability to wade through water to a depth of 700mm.

Functional, smart and very well equipped. The days of the crude pickup are long gone, it seems.

Toyota Hilux Invincible

Price: £29,533. The metallic paint (in this case Scorched Orange) costs an extra £583

Engine: A 2,755cc four-cylinder diesel engine

Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission

Power: 201bhp

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Performance: Top speed 109mph and 0 to 60mph in 10.1 seconds

Costs: 33.2mpg combined

Insurance: Group 45D

Emissions: 224g/km

Warranty: It is eligible to be covered by up to 10 years’ manufacturer warranty through Toyota Relax. This is provided through an initial three years’ manufacturer warranty from the vehicle’s registration date that can be extended with regular servicing