If you’re going to name your car Invincible, you need to be pretty sure of its capabilities. It’s not like you’re calling it Pretty Robust or Really Quite Adequate. So Toyota must have complete faith in its top-spec Hilux Invincible.
Naturally the temptation was to put the Hilux to the ultimate test of destruction. A series of challenges designed to put Toyota’s claim to the test. But common sense prevailed – firstly because I didn’t think it would go down too well with the Toyota Press Office – but secondly because the job has, to a certain extent, been done already.
First Top Gear attempted to kill a Hillux by flooding it, flaming it and ultimately blowing it up. Then Jeremy Clarkson and James May drove one to the North Pole, which was followed up two years later with three Hiluxes used as support vehicles for a race to the South Pole. No matter what you throw at it, the Hilux stands firm.
But you know what – forget death by fire, water and polar ice caps – the ultimate challenge has to be spending a week in the company of a young family. Nothing comes closer to this – it’s a wonder family life hasn’t become part of the Euro nCAP safety routine.
A double-cab pick-up has always been on PetrolBlog’s radar as a potential car for life at PBHQ. Enough space in the cab for a growing family and room in the load area for chicken feed, horse grub, shavings, bales of hay and mountain bikes. Not necessarily altogether. And modern pick-ups aren’t the spartan vehicles of yesterday – today they are well equipped, safe and offer the potential to provide active daily service.
So after the GT86 the Hilux was the next vehicle on the list of Toyotas we wanted to test. Step forward the formidable 3.0-litre diesel with 5-speed automatic transmission. Could the Invincible remain untouchable after seven days with the family?
Well put it this way. After week, Mrs MajorGav had decided that she couldn’t possibly live without a Hilux and was immediately searching eBay for good secondhand examples. What is it about Toyotas at PBHQ?
Within 24 hours of arriving the Hilux Invincible was tasked with tackling a 500 mile round trip to Northamptonshire. How it would fare was anyone’s guess. I had visions of a back-breaking ride, a lack of mid to top range torque and motorway manners that would necessitate a slow crawl northwards confined to the slow lane.
Not a bit of it. After the usual early start and 250 miles of non-stop driving, I emerged in a snowy Northamptonshire as refreshed as when I left. Admittedly the three large Costas may have played a small part in this, but the long distance capabilities of a Hilux should not be underestimated.
Mixing it with the Audi A4s in the outside lane of the A34 and M40 is strangely satisfying. A lot of this is down to the to a huge 360Nm of torque available from the diesel when mated with the five-speed automatic ‘box. Maximum torque is available all the way from 1,400 to 3,200rpm so motorway driving is never a chore.
It also ensures fast pull aways can be carried out with almost comical ease. Toyota’s figures suggest a 0-62mph time of 12 seconds. The reality feels a heck of a lot quicker.
Naturally the abundance of power is there to ensure you continue moving forward with a full load in the back. The double-cab offers a maximum payload of 1,060kg and a braked towing capacity of 2,500kg. This is pulling power of a kind not normally seen on PetrolBlog.
There’s a non-conformist charm attached to driving a Hilux – especially as a lifestyle rather than commercial vehicle. And the Invincible seemed to attract a huge amount of attention. The optional Island Blue metallic paintwork coupled with the Invincible’s 17-inch alloys and chrome sidebars and steps ensured the Hilux was the centre of attention wherever it went. Curiously it was the drivers of Volkswagen vans and other pick-ups who seemed the most interested.
Then there were the farmers and ‘country-types’ who were only to pleased to offer their thoughts on the Toyota Hilux. And these thoughts were 100% positive.
I was regaled with stories of Hiluxes covering intergalactic miles needing little more than regular oil changes and the occasional hammer. Told how friends had ventured across Africa in a Hilux held together with string and sticky-tape. And informed by people who should know – i.e. farmers – that the Toyota Hilux is the best vehicle in the world. Turn up at a farm in a Toyota Hilux and expect instant respect. Although some of the Invincible’s bling may be considered surplus to requirement…
Not that this seemed to bother the farmer we buy our hay from. Taking huge care to protect the load area from scratches – much to the amusement of the farmer – we easily loaded seven bales of hay into the back. With the rear tailgate folded down it was easy to load and unload the hay. The Hilux was winning brownie points at PBHQ.
Talking of the tailgate, it’s a shame that Toyota no longer adds the big T.O.Y.O.T.A letters across the back of the Hilux. I always saw that as a defining feature of the pick-up. Why has Toyota stopped doing it? I can only assume it’s got something to do with the fact that whenever there’s civil unrest somewhere in the world, the Hilux is never too far away. How many times have we seen a group of gun-wielding revolutionaries perched in the back of a Toyota Hilux? Maybe not the best brand association for Toyota…
We didn’t partake in any form of government overthrowing, but we did need to collect 32 concrete slabs from the garden centre. Once again the Hilux was excellent. In the great scheme of things, the Hilux would barely break into sweat performing such a trivial task, but even so it did an admirable job. Even if the owner of the garden centre was rather surprised by the multiple blankets we used to protect the back of the Hilux. Thorough test or not, it wouldn’t be cricket to send the Hilux back to Toyota with scratches on the back…
Fortunately it was sent back to Toyota in the same condition it arrived and that was after a week of proper and extensive use. In addition to the hay and concrete slabs, the back was filled with logs and even a week’s grocery shopping. Get a Hilux and everyone in the village will suddenly want to befriend you – it’s a versatile machine.
What’s not to like about it?
Well compared to a normal family car the brakes aren’t the best, so you’ll need to make allowances for that. Also, at 5,260mm in length, the Hilux is 270mm longer than the new Range Rover, which makes it a pig to park. You’ll also end up taking up two spaces in the Waitrose car park, something that doesn’t go down too well with fellow shoppers…
The ride quality isn’t the greatest either, especially around town and on local country roads where potholes send shockwaves into the cabin. On the plus side the steering is much better than you’d expect and the five-speed automatic transmission is smooth and relaxed.
Could you live with the Toyota Hilux everyday? Well yes, I think you could, but for family duties it’s arguably the top-spec Invincible that’s the only version worth considering. I say this because on lesser models you’re only offered driver and passenger airbags, with only the Invincible providing side and curtain airbags. The Invincible is also the only Hilux with stability control – it’s not even an option on the HL2 and HL3.
Naturally some users will take advantage of the company car tax benefits associated with running a commercial vehicle and to be fair there aren’t that many compromises associated with running a Hilux. The Invincible’s level of spec is excellent, with cruise control, touchscreen infotainment system, USB port, automatic air conditioning, Bluetooth, rear view camera, premium seats and steering wheel controls all fitted as standard.
For a big load-lugger it’s also surprisingly economical, with Toyota claiming a combined fuel economy of 36.7mpg with the manual gearbox, falling to 32.8mpg with the five-speed auto. Bear in mind the CO2 emissions of 227g/km puts the Hilux Invincible automatic in tax band L – or £840 for the first year, dropping to £475 each year thereafter.
Would I spend £26,249.80 on a brand new Toyota Hilux Invincible with the automatic transmission? Probably not. But such is the way in which it has been built and the pick-up’s legendary reputation for reliability, I’d have absolutely no hesitation in buying a secondhand model in years to come.
For a revolutionary looking to overthrow the government before collecting some hay for their horses and new concrete slabs for their attempt at erecting a new garden shed, I can think of no better vehicle.