Road Review – Toyota Hilux Dakar

As a dedicated car nut during my teenage years at school, one of my favourite activities was the parent lift-club rotation and getting a ride in wide range of different cars – the favourite being the brutal orange and black Holden Monaro driven by Ant’s dad.

So, wondering if the school generation of today did extend past thumb-tapping cell phone ‘conjoinment’, it was a pleasure to take the test Toyota Hilux 2.8 GDI Double Cab Dakar on a road trip to Kokstad to collect my mate’s son from boarding school – and for a stop at the East Griqualand Butchery for some super tasty biltong.

Mission accomplished. Before even the notion of a ‘hello’, the youngster said: “Dad, you gotta get one of these.”

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Not an entirely unreasonable response considering the looks of the Dakar edition – a more prominent trapezoidal grille and ‘squared-off’ design. The central focal point is the large gloss-black-honeycomb grille, which incorporates two horizontal sections.

A metallic grey surround with three-dimensional appearance, which blends into the LED headlamps, borders the inner grille area. A matching gloss-black accent strip on the bonnet and stylised Dakar insignia attached to the grille, complete the design.

The lower bumper also features a large honeycomb mesh pattern, extending to the sides of the vehicle and, additionally includes intersecting horizontal and vertical fog lamp garnishes decked out in matching gloss black.

The fog lamps utilise LED elements for illumination, while a metallic grey ‘skid plate’ provides the finishing touch to the front facia.

The exterior sports a number of distinctive touches such as gloss-black treatment for the door handles and power-retractable side mirrors. The rear bumper is fashioned in grey, to tie in with the front design.

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The interior features all-black treatment, with a black roof headliner, metallic black trim accent panels and black leather upholstery with light grey contrast stitching.

Not only does it have zooty looks but also it travels well – nary a hint of road, tyre or wind noise at whatever speed managed on the run to, and from, Kokstad.

While I appreciate the fact this is mostly a cosmetic package the notice on the rear roll bar advising it was there for aesthetic purposes only and should not be subjected to any load was a touch disconcerting. It is mounted to the load bed and not the chassis – perhaps, in a vehicle costing upwards of R600 000 a proper roll bar should be included.

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The road, from Port Shepstone, is mainly in good condition but is essentially a single lane with occasional double lane overtaking opportunities almost always in control of ‘Murphy’ who dictates the two trucks backing up 10 or 15 cars will go side by side for the entire length of the overtaking zone.

Which, goes some way to explaining why it is not uncommon to find minibus taxis overtaking on solid white lines along with some other kamikaze drivers bereft of any levels of patience (or driving skills).

The Hilux Dakar was that comfortable, these delays were no more irritating than a Justin Bieber song and, when the road did open up, it was not difficult to find the needle on the speedo quickly approaching the 150 mark.

The test unit, a six-speed manual, sported the 2.8 GD-6 powertrain. The 2,8-litre, four cylinder turbo-diesel engine produces 130 kW and 420 Nm in manual transmission guise, while automatic transmission-equipped variants receive a boost to 450 Nm.

Being the Dakar and named in honour of that event, it would be rather tasty to have Toyota Gazoo Racing wizard, Glyn Hall, ‘breathe’ on the engine to produce a, well, seriously Dakar version. (There is, obviously, still the V6 petrol in the line-up).

While waiting for the road to open up, the infotainment system – upgraded to include Satellite Navigation – offers the standard Bluetooth, USB and CD/DVD playback functionality. The touch-screen system also includes an on-board trip computer and customisable home screen.

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Dakar models have a different instrument cluster, using white-faced gauges with orange needle pointers and bespoke graphics, emulating a toothed gear (cog). The LCD multi-information display also features a bespoke start-up graphic showing off the Dakar model’s exterior façade.

All Dakar models are based on Raider models and use both rear-wheel and switch-on-the-fly four-wheel drive.

The manual gearbox includes a selectable iMT function (intelligent Manual Transmission), which provides rev-matching downshift and hesitation-free upshift functionality. The iMT feature also helps prevent accidental stalling of the engine – useful when the traffic slows to near standstill.

Road manners are good and the Hilux can be driven with enthusiasm with little ‘chatter’ from an unladen back end – this both on tar and dirt surfaces.

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While it is a big vehicle, turning and parking in shopping lots is not a difficult operation – a rear camera provides accurate placement and the power steering keeps the manual labour to a minimum, all the time reinforcing the reason why so many South Africans have a bakkie as their daily transport.

Toyota has increased the service plan period on 2.8 GD-6 models from 5-year/90 000 kilometres to 9 services/90 000 kilometres and the warranty period is 3-year/100 000 kilometres and applies across the Hilux range.

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