Aimed at off-road enthusiasts, Toyota launched three “halo” variants of the HiLux with the top of the line being the Rugged X.
Developed locally through a painstaking test program, the Toyota HiLux Rugged X stands as the toughest, most expensive ute you can buy from the biggest-selling marque on the road.
The comprehensive upgrades that result in the new HiLux X were designed, engineered and validated in Australia with support from the parent company in Japan and Toyota in Thailand.
The HiLux Rugged X lives up to its name by incorporating a high-tensile alloy bash plate, winch-compatible steel front bar, LED driving lights, recovery points, rock rails, load-carrying sports bar and other heavy-duty components.
What Toyota has done is add a heap of accessories that often get added either by the dealer at the customer’s choice and expense or fitter aftermarket and Toyota lose the sale of the extras.
Based on the HiLux SR5, the Rugged X brings smaller 17-inch alloys with tyres that are more ready to handle off-road duties, along with heavy-duty steel front and rear bumpers, exceptional front lighting including an LED light bar, a protective front bash plate and side rock rails, air snorkel, towing kit and functional sports bar behind the cabin. Cosmetic touches include black wheel arch and side mouldings, black mirror caps, tail lamp surrounds, HiLux badges and decorative decals.
The exterior has a really tough look and the approach to fitting the accessories as part of the model really makes this HiLux stand out from the others.
There are more differences on the inside too as the Rugged X gets black perforated leather seats, metallic black cabin trim, a black roofliner and subtly revised instruments. Other items such as sat nav, a reversing camera and smart keys come straight from the SR5 and there is the addition of a cooling glove box.
Although the HiLux is the top selling vehicle in Australia, Toyota really do not help themselves with the basic feeling of the cabin space. The look is cheap and not what you would expect in a car at this price. Yes it is practical but it feels cheap as well.
While there is plenty of room inside, the front seats are super comfortable both on and off road and the rear air vents keep the back seat passengers cool, the feel is basic.
There is a not a great deal to say about the engine as it is the same across the range. A 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. There is 450Nm of torque and 130kW of power which isn’t a big number.
The auto also falls slightly short with its towing capacity of 3200kg. The manual HiLux is still rated for 3.5 tonnes which is a litter bit of a shame for Toyota.
I found that Toyota’s engine in the Rugged X is not all that smooth when comparing it to others on the market and lacks a lot of up and go. It was rather disappointing to be in a HiLux and struggling to pass a motorhome on a flat 100kph road. It is also noisy and for the price it is not what you want to be hearing.
It is always hard to tell on a week if a what the manufacture says about the fuel economy is going to be accurate. We test these cars in many different ways and also reset the litres per 100kph when doing different things.
Toyota claim 8.6L/100km and even with highway driving we could not get near that. It was more like 10 and 11. As an off road usage, we don’t really want to go there but it is not the greatest either.
The HiLux Rugged X drivetrain is a user-friendly, under-stressed arrangement when not pushing it and when not needing to go anywhere at speed.
They always have had good suspension travel, best-in-class off-road traction control and a decent under body design and this is improved with the Rugged X additions. The clearance is better, and you can drive more confidently with steel in the right places and the tyres are a decent as I said earlier.
Somewhere that Toyota really need to look is at their rear locker. When the rear locker is engaged, it turns off traction control completely and means the rear end is mechanically locked together but the front is now completely open. It is a bit of a strange idea.
Car and Bike News Opinion
Is the Rugged X really worth the larger price tag than the $59,000 you would pay for an SR5? It all comes down to your own choice and how well you know the aftermarket accessory market and time you want to invest in getting things sorted.
The proper rated recovery points front and rear is a awesome milestone for a 4WD ute and Toyota get a big pat on the back for that. While that’s not exactly cheap, you do get a reasonable amount of extras for the money, and it’s important to remember that the gear meets Australian Design Rules and is covered by Toyota’s three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty.
Cost: Around $66,300 drive away (check local dealers)