Toyota Hilux, just born to run

In Car Reviews, Toyota by Neil Lyndon

The new Toyota Hilux Invincible arrived on loan at the same time as Bruce Springsteen took over my life. This seemed a fitting coincidence.

Neil Lyndon, tougher than the rest in the Toyota Hilux Invincible X D/C 2.4L T + G
I was reading Springsteen’s book every spare minute of the day – first thing before breakfast and last thing before I put out the beside light. Then he was on Desert Island Discs and, later, the subject of an extended tv profile. His songs were on continuous play on Spotify while I worked at my desk. Still are, even now as I am writing this.

The Hilux seemed the perfect automotive complement to this Born in the USA obsession, despite the fact that it was being driven around in Fife.

Even as I was reading in the autobiography how Springsteen fitted out a pickup with a sofa in the back on which to entertain his girlfriends when he was first playing in a band in New Jersey, I was rocking around our country roads listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town through the Hilux’s six-speaker audio system.

Just as I was learning that the working-man clothes in which Springsteen has usually appeared on stage are a homage to his blue-collar father (“when you see me out on that stage, that’s the way I see you,” he told his dad), I was grooving on the heated leather upholstery of the Hilux to Bobbie Jean.

In the opening pages of Born to Run – the autobiography that was published just before last Christmas – Springsteen admits to a degree of fakery in all his presentations of himself. A slice of artistic licence is at work in his musical persona, just as it is in his literary characterisation.

The same is true of the Hilux. It may look Tougher than the Rest and ready to get pitched into a Man’s Job but, in truth, the latest Hilux is so refined and civilised that it might even deserve a heated garage in which to be kept cosy on a cold night. This pick-up is to the hard graft and horny hands of toil what Pet Shop Boys are to rock’n’roll.

Here is a pick-up so luxurious that it could almost be called comfy and so powerful in performance that, despite its length of almost 5.5m and height of 1.85m, it could almost be called sprightly. Beside the sumptuous leather upholstery and bum heaters, it had carpets, a cooled glovebox and a 4.2-inch information screen with touch controls for satnav, DAB, Bluetooth and audio. Ours had been nancied-up to look like a big girl’s blouse with scuff plates, colour matched bumpers and chrome sidebars and steps.

Sophisticated driving aids abound. When did the makers of a pick-up ever previously care so much about their customer’s finer feelings as to fit a pre-collision system to stop you running into a pedestrian or a lane departure warning, or hill start assistance or active traction control? Some of this electronic wizardry takes the new Hilux into new territory for pick-ups, such as trailer sway control and an automatically disconnecting differential for the all-wheel drive.

I am not at all convinced that I’d back a Range Rover to better this Hilux in a competition for off-road capability.

Despite double wishbone suspension at the front, however, on-the-road performance could hardly be called urbane and not many women will be pleased to be picked up for a date in a pick up on which they are likely to grime the backs of their legs when they get out. The new 2.4-litre D-4D diesel engine is more powerful than the three-litre unit it replaces, with torque up from 343 to 440NM. This contributes to a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes, with acceleration from 0-60 mph in 12.8 seconds and fuel consumption around 30 mpg. Rack and pinion steering allows corners to be taken in one swoop on a continuous line rather than with a dozen corrections and second guesses.

The price for all this namby-pamby sophistication added up to a hair-raising £35265 on our Hilux (that’s including the VAT that you can knock off if you run it only for business). Whatever happened to the idea that a pick-up was for poor people who couldn’t afford a real car? It seems like only yesterday that you could get a top-of-the-line pick-up for £15000.

But, then, those primitive jalopies are as far removed from today’s Hilux as that raggedy-arsed band known as Dr Zoom and the Sonic Boom that was kicking around New Jersey setting on girls on fire with desire before Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band grew up to play to stadium audiences of 100,000+.

Mutatis mutandis, as they say in Asbury Park.

Car reviewed: Toyota HiLux Hilux Invincible X D/C 2.4L T + G – Commercial Price £29,435, price as tested £35,810 0-62mph 12.8 secs Top speed 106mph Fuel Economy combined 36.2mpg CO2 emissions 204g/km Engine 4-cylinder in-line Diesel Max Power 148bhp@3400rpm Torque 400Nm@1600-200rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic VED band £235

  • Refined and Civilised

  • Massive Torque

  • Immense offroad ability

  • Can be pricey

About the author

Neil Lyndon


Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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