/ 1 June 2024

The Hilux GR-S looks the part

2023 Hiluxgrsportmainshots1 Scaled 1
Handsome: On the new Toyota Hilux GR-S III, the bumper and grille have been made over and the air intake and bash plate round off the front end nicely.

My last interaction with a Toyota Hilux was my former boss’s 2.8D SRX double cab, a fun thing with ample torque at relatively low revs. It was supremely comfortable, despite the “standard” low ride height. 

I miss those days of bakkies just being bakkies! Simple, with no frills. So it was exciting to be reunited with one at the launch of the third-generation Gazoo Racing-inspired Hilux, in my home province of Eastern Cape. 

Right off the bat, it is unmissable, thanks to the flared wheel arches. It has a feel that puts you in mind of that WWE Boss Vince McMahon walk of arrogance. 

This is further enhanced by the new-look front end — the bumper and grille have benefited from redesign and an air intake and bash plate round off the front quite well. 

The side profile’s biggest drawcard is the aforementioned big wheel arches which house 17-inch gloss black wheels wrapped in BP Goodrich rubber and huge mud flaps. 

The rear bumper also benefits from gloss black inserts and more hardened plastic, while the LED taillights are decent, especially when viewed under the night sky. 

Did I mention lots of GR Sport badges?

The interior oozes sportiness. The mix of leather and suede on the sports seats; the GR logo on the front headrests; the centre-marked, multifunction steering wheel with pedal shifters; sports pedals and a power button show what this vehicle is about. 

The infotainment screen resolution is crisp, with a user-friendly functionality for both Android Auto and Apple Car, with a booming JBL sound system to boot. 

Space is ample and functional. 

2023 Hiluxgrsportmainshots2 Scaled 1
Tough and rugged: The rear bumper of the Toyota Hilux GR-S III has been given gloss black inserts and the cabin is spacious and functional.

Under the hood is the trusty 2.8-litre turbo diesel powerplant that generates an impressive 165kW and 550Nm via a six-speed automatic transmission that has a manual override option. This is done by flicking the gear lever to the side or via the paddle shifters. 

A huge sense of occasion is felt thanks to the 20mm increase in ride height, a 70mm wider front track and a 77.5mm wider rear track. 

New mono-tube shocks and a reworked suspension add to the markedly improved ride we experienced on the tar, sand and a lot of gravel driving. 

The power is not lacking as the 165kW is ample for a bakkie of this calibre. While there is some bounce on gravel, it is tolerable, and the handling on the road is impressive, even with the thick rubber which was surprisingly not noisy. 

Our launch route took in various surfaces and the Hilux was able to take them on with ease. 

The route on a Jeffreys Bay farm started with steep inclines which saw us test departure and approach angles, along with hill-descent control. The newcomer fared very well, as wide as it is.

We then did some sandy exercises through a course set up on the beach which it also handled well. Mind you, we had deflated our tyres to between 900psi and 850psi.

The experience was fun and reminded me of Namibia, which remains the benchmark for sandy, off-road driving. 

The sand was dry and also tough and that can be detrimental if one does not tread carefully, even with flowing traffic, because we create paths to follow on the trail. 

We had one casualty, though, which was not the car’s fault but rather a lack of sufficient momentum on the driver’s part to clear the obstacle. 

2023 Hilux Gr Sport Full Dashbord Low Scaled 1
The interior of the new Toyota Hilux.

The gravel stretch from Plett to George was intriguing as it was dry with a lot of undulations. The dust was serious and safe following distances had to be maintained. 

This was where we could feel if the improvements which have been made to this vehicle were worth it or a waste of time. The vehicle’s performance wasn’t all that bad but a multilink suspension would go a long way to improve comfort.  

This latest Toyota Hilux GR-S is all it’s cracked up to be, in my view and, contrary to popular belief, it is not a Ford Raptor competitor. 

I get the sense that it is up against the Ford Ranger Tremor, as they have similar qualities, although the Ford has more electronic tech. 

The Toyota is a simpler vehicle, yet it can dance easily on sand and gravel, has great on-road manners and it looks the part. 

Price: R999 000