A little time with Hilux Legend drives home why motorsport improves the breed

You don’t need to be eagle-eyed or beagle-nosed to know that the Dakar has kept Auto busy over the past couple of weeks. It’s how we’ve started our yer for the past few now — with a bang. Covering all that happens in that epic race. Which of course, writing for our audience, covers those made in SA Gazoo Toyota Racing Hiluxes all day, every day.

We lived every moment, tracking them at every waypoint, reporting progress to an appreciative audience that multiplied our viewership many times through that fortnight and reported on progress every day. It’s all there in the Sport pages should you want to recap. Makes interesting reading.

Hiluxes won Ten of Dakar’s 13 Stages

It wasn’t Toyota’s year overall, but that’s besides the point. The Hiluxes still won ten of the thirteen stages; Nasser Al Attiyah kept Mr. Dakar Stephane Peterhansel honest all the way home to a close second and there were three Hiluxes in the top ten. Pretty good going.

Our efforts also spread to the social media, where there was considerable discussion among fans on our and other Dakar and race-oriented pages. One question that kept on popping up, was how much Hilux really is in those Dakar cars?

Well, how much F1 is in your Mercedes GLE? Or DTM in your BMW 3 or Audi A4? NASCAR in your Camry? And so on. I think the make-up of a race car is irrelevant to its marketing pretence. Most motorsports see cars racing that have bugger all to do with your car. Never mind, that Mini that won the Dakar. It’s a rear-wheel drive dune Buggy.

It’s double the size of even the most bloated street car that dares call itself the same Mini, has a turbo BMW straight six turbodiesel engine sitting behind the driver and as much wheel travel as your Mini is long. And you would not get one of those tyred wheels into your Cooper’s boot, never mind near the wheel well. It doesn’ even look like a Mini. Nowhere near.

The Dakar Hilux is True to its Theme

OK, the Hilux has a Lexus-based V8 under the bonnet and it’s also basically a pipe car wrapped in Hilux-esque panels. But it is true to the standard car in so many ways. Look at it and you know you are looking at a Hilux. It has a race 4×4 system far more sophisticated, but not all that different to the road version’s.

Similar sized wheels sit in the same corners and when you park a road car like this next to it, there are more similarities than differences between the racer and the road Hilux. Those two things it split in the overall Dakar ’21 standings are however more akin to a lunar landing module than a Mini Minor!

There are so many other ways for motorsport to improve the breed than to thrash a standard vehicle through the bush and for a comp[any like Toyota or any other to continually test itself against the best in the most arduous conditions, is a win-win after all. And to have won one and twice ended second in the past three Dakars is a pretty proud record in our book…

This LEGEND is the Hilux You Can Buy

Anyway, enough of that — what about this Hilux that you can buy and drive every day? It’s called the Legend. And for many very good reasons than just its Dakar prowess.

Packing 150kW and 500Nm and enough spec and luxury to make it a worthy Lexus alternative, the Toyota Hilux has been South Africa’s biggest selling new vehicle since the cows came home. That’s not going to change any time soon, either. The latest Hilux been restyled too — with contemporary LED head and fog lamps, that big, bold mouth it shares with its Dakar step-sister and a deeper front bumper too.

This one is the RS — but not quite for the reason you may think. RS means Rolloer Shutter, not Dakar Rally Success! That power roller shutter on top of the loadbay makes for a dust sealed (yes, at last!) and rubberised load bay. The tailgate is now both power assisted and has a central-locking function too.

Big News Under THE HILUX LEGEND Bonnet

The big news is under the bonnet — this uprated 2.8 GD-6 engine has a much improved 150 kW and 500 Nm on tap. That courtesy of a larger turbocharger and improved common rail injection. That’s a full 30 kW and 80 Nm stronger than the older lump. Hilux’s six-speed automatic gearbox also gets improved ratios, while the chassis benefits new spring rates, shock absorbers and suspension bushes. It keeps its 3.5-ton towing ability.

Our previous Hilux Legend RS test unit only had 280 km on the clock when we ran it. So we ran this one down our strip too and it delivered the couple of tenths we thought running one in would muster. Now it’s right on the diesel double cab performance button.

Driving the Legend, the first thing you notice when you fire it up, is how much quieter it is. No more diesel clatter. It’s just as good on the road. It has a supple and silent ride, decent road holding and fine handling qualities too. The chassis is surprisingly well sorted, steering feel is positive, quick and responsive and the brakes are sharp and effective.

Many Minor Changes. ONE Major Improvement

But this new flagship Hilux Legend boasts a most impressive step in drivability. It’s far easier to drive. That added power and twist, tweaked gearbox ratios and subtle and supple chassis tweaks may be minuscule in isolation. But together, they combine to make a huge difference in how this Legend drives. You no longer feel that you’re lugging a big bakkie around.

Its off-road credentials are, well, Legend. The little cross country driving we did, brought home the advantages of its extra grunt. Hilux Legend thrives on a good dirt road too, making fun of evil corrugations enough even to induce a little Dakar hallucination.

The premium Hilux Legend has a perforated leather upholstered cabin with bespoke interior accents and panels complimented by a black roof lining in the day and cool blue mood lighting by night. All the executive tricks of the trade add a certain touch of class — it even reads road signs to tell you the speed limit in the little screen between its latest Lexus-like dials. The effective tilt-able multifunction steering however remains short on length adjustment.

Well Thought Out InfotainMent

Hilux Legend has an 8-inch infotainment thats well thought out and properly sorted too. Specific buttons and knobs look after the main functions, leaving the touch screen to take care of less regular interface needs. It packs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mobile mirroring, as well as Wireless telephony supported via Bluetooth with a USB input Google Maps.

Add Waze, Apple Music, Joox, Spotify and SoundCloud, pretty much all controllable via the multifunction wheel to play on Legend’s brilliant JBL 9-speaker sound. Complete with frisbee-like dash-top speakers to add a bit more zing. All most compelling. For a bakkie.

So, rest assured, Toyota does not need the Dakar to prove that Hilux is the undisputed king. It dominates local new car sales month in, month out because Toyota has its recipe spot on. And it’s been like that since day dot. Now we reckon that this Legend is also the best bakkie out there, over and above its peerless and rock solid foundation of that famous Hilux winning recipe of Quality, Durability and Reliability.

Notice we’ve hardly touched on that Dakar principle? Knowing that racing clearly improves the deal just sweetens the deal further.

It’s a winning recipe, after all. — Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 DC 4x4 Legend RS
Engine: 150 kW 500 Nm 2.8-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 6-speed automatic 4x4
Payload:         750kg
Max Towing:      3500kg
0-60 km/h:       3.88 sec
0-100 km/h:      9.58. sec
0-160 km/h:      25.47 sec
400m:            16.8 sec @ 136km/h
80-120 km/h:     6.63 sec
120-160 km/h     11.91 sec
VMax:            175 km/h
Fuel:            7.9 l/100km
CO2:             298 g/km
Warranty/Service 3y100K/9 service 90Kkm
LIST PRICE:      R868K
RATED:           9
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