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The new Toyota Hilux double-cab SR5 Cruiser looks great and works hard, yet is super comfy for the occupants

The workhorse with
creature comforts – By Lynne Richardson

Sometimes, the worst part of test-driving a new vehicle is having to give it back.

There’s a degree of expectation from the manufacturer when you’re offered a new vehicle to test-drive. In my case, they’re hoping that I’ll talk about how rugged the vehicle is, how much towing power it has, whether you can load it up with concrete mixers and compactors and toolboxes and still have room for the work crew.

With the new Toyota Hilux – and specifically the SR5 Cruiser model, which was introduced to the New Zealand market earlier this year – the answer is yes you can, and still have room for more, and enjoy a comfortable ride.

There’s not much terrain the Hilux can’t handle

The press release says the SR5 Cruiser “makes a bold statement with a tougher exterior design, first-class safety, enhanced interior styling and the built-in strength that makes Hilux the first choice for customers who want a ute that looks good, but can perform in demanding environments.”

I can attest to the ‘demanding environments’ statement, having driven it during the day and at night along the Whitford-Maraetai Road – an unlit road renowned for accidents – at which the Hilux didn’t even bat an eyelid. The night lights were so bright that when I selected high beam, several possums fell out of the trees. I drove in thick fog one morning, which ramped up the anxiety level, but the Hilux’s new LED fog lights made light work of that too.

Driver comfort

The Hilux SR5 Cruiser comes as a double cab in 2WD and 4WD formats, with a six-speed automatic transmission. The whole interior is really well thought out, but it’s the comfort factor that wows – for a rugged truck, it’s as comfortable inside as my SUV, and because that’s a Toyota too, all the controls are exactly where I expect them to be. No scrabbling around for the lights, or turning on the indicator when you really want the wipers.

There’s bags of room, even for long-legged people, plenty of headroom too, and the driver’s seat is fully adjustable. Both the driver’s and the front passenger’s seats have heaters, with rear air vents for those in the cab. The window glass has a smoky tint which reduces glare, and easy-clean PVC floor covering has been used throughout, instead of carpet – the bane of my husband’s life with his ute.

It’s very quiet too – for a large ute, there’s very little road noise. The spec sheet says it’s a 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, with 130 kW and 450 Nm of torque from 1600–2400 rpm (whatever that means) and apparently it can tow up to 3.5 tonnes (which I didn’t test).

And it’s high off the ground! I had a clear line of sight over just about every other SUV we passed – which comes in handy when you’re driving across a building site and you’re trying to avoid obstacles and pedestrians.

Some more official specs: the SR5 Cruiser variant is available in all seven Hilux colours and standard features include cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering column adjustment, seven airbags, satellite navigation, LED headlights, daytime running lights and fog lights, climate control air-conditioning, rear differential lock, six-speaker audio, and reversing camera (which was crystal clear). There was even a key lock on the tailgate for extra security.

A great ride

All in all, it was a great ride, and the ute owners in my family were not keen to see it go. It looked good, it drove like a car, and no doubt it could handle just about anything you could fit in the tray and still provide a comfortable ride. “It doesn’t feel like a ute,” my passenger said, on one of my runs into town.

The SR5 Cruiser’s high cab means drivers have clear visibility – a great safety feature on a busy building site

For a large vehicle, it handled easily – it even coped with manoeuvring in the crammed car park at Botany Town Centre (and it was easy to find!) which some other utes don’t cope with quite so well.

The Hilux SR5 Cruiser is available nationwide from your Toyota dealer, with the 2WD model starting from $42,990 and the 4WD model from $51,990 (including GST and on-road costs).


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