With its new flagship HiLux models – Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue – Toyota reckons it now has a premium-model dual-cab ute to suit everyone’s requirements.
What are the 2018 Toyota HiLux Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue models? The Australian 4x4 ute market is rapidly evolving with the imminent launch of performance models including the Ford Ranger Raptor and the HSV Colorado Sports Cat, along with a 190kW Mercedes-Benz X-Class and a 200kW version of the Volkswagen Amarok on the horizon.
Toyota’s response? Three new dual-cab hero models – Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue – all featuring significantly revised front-end styling and a raft of locally developed accessories. In fact, all three models have been designed and developed in Australia with support from Toyota in Japan and Toyota in Thailand.
The new models are certainly not high-performance utes; they are, in fact, mechanically identical to the HiLux SR and SR5 vehicles on which they’re based. The base vehicles are shipped from Thailand to Australia and then kitted-out with locally developed accessories, some aimed at improving off-road capability, others at providing protection, and some improving vehicle versatility and refinement.
Based on the HiLux SR5 Double Cab Pick-Up, the range-topping Rugged X is available with six-speed manual gearbox for $61,990 plus on-road costs (the six-speed automatic adds $2000). That represents a $7550 premium over the HiLux SR5, but the Rugged X scores a completely restyled front-end with a winch-compatible steel bar, bash plate, integrated LED driving lights and light bar, snorkel, steel rock rails, steel rear-step tow bar, front and rear recovery points, new load-rated sports bar, tub liner, 17-inch ‘Tough’ alloy wheels, leather-accented seats, front and rear all-weather floor mats, a new instrument cluster with metallic black ornamentation and a black headliner.
The Rugged is aimed at buyers who need the protection of a more traditional steel bull bar, and it costs $54,990 with six-speed manual gearbox (the auto adds $2000), which is a $9930 premium over the $45,060 HiLux SR Double-Cab Pick-Up on which it’s based. In addition to a stock HiLux SR, the Rugged has a redesigned grille, a winch-compatible steel bull bar, steel rock rails, snorkel, heavy-duty steel rear step bar, tow bar, rear recovery points, new load-rated sports bar, tub liner, 17-inch ‘Tough’ alloy wheels satnav, DAB+ radio and front and rear all-weather floor mats.
Toyota says the Rogue is aimed at the “urban adventurer”. This auto-only models costs $61,990, which is a $5550 premium over the $56,440 HiLux SR5 auto on which it’s based. While the Rugged X and Rugged are Australian-market-only models, the Australian-designed Rogue was co-developed with Toyota in Thailand, and it will be sold in various markets around the world. It features a revised front bumper and grille, and additional equipment over HiLux SR5 includes a grey rear bumper with wider step, tow bar, load-rated sports bar, hard tonneau cover with integrated light, tailgate dust-sealing kit, marine-grade carpet tub liner, 18-inch ‘Rogue’ alloy wheels, and the same interior features and trim as the Rugged X.
The Rugged X and Rugged models are fitted with upgraded front springs to handle the additional weight of the steel bars, but other than that these hero models are mechanically identical to the donor SR5 and SR model-grade vehicles. All are powered by Toyota’s 2.8litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that makes a claimed 130kW of power at 3400rpm and 420Nm of torque from 1400-2600rpm when mated to the manual transmission or 450Nm from 1600-2400rpm when mated to the auto box.
Toyota Australia expects to sell around 6000 examples of the Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue models per year, with Rugged X and Rugged accounting for 60-70 percent of that volume and the other 30-40 per cent consisting Rogue.
Enhancements in detail. There’s no denying that in developing these models Toyota Australia is after a slice of the lucrative aftermarket accessory market, but in saying that the company has engaged local accessory manufacturers to supply all components for Rugged X and Rugged, as well as several components for Rogue. The donor SR and SR5 HiLux vehicles are shipped from Thailand and then fitted with the relevant accessories in a facility in Port Melbourne.
“Most of the suppliers for the new components are Australian, and in particular based in Victoria, so it makes sense to finish the vehicles there,” says Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice president sales and marketing.
Suppliers include Frontline Australasia (front and rear bars, bull bar and sports bar), Brown & Watson International (Narva lighting products), ARB (rock rails and recovery points) and ERG Group (hard tonneau).
Toyota Australia describes the development of the Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue models as the most ambitious model expansion program it has undertaken, and the vehicles were developed over a three-year period. The product design team, based in Port Melbourne, consists 35 designers, technicians and fabricators.
“With the extensive facilities we have here, we were able to take the project all the way from initial concept sketches to full-size clay and digital models, and then the fabrication of prototype components,” explains design manager Peter Elliott. “We are really proud of the end result, both in terms of the extreme off-road focus for the Rugged X and the bold premium Rogue we created for global markets,” he said.
The design brief for Rugged X was to create a “top-end HiLux model that was fully equipped for serious off-roading with high levels of ruggedness, authenticity and functionality”. The front bar offers improved approach angle, particularly at the sides, and as well as winch compatibility it incorporates a neat LED light bar and a pair of LED driving lights.
The Rugged X’s frontal protection is complemented by the fitment of a 5mm-thick alloy bash plate, while the sills of the vehicle are protected by extremely tough rock rails (capable of supporting the full weight of the vehicle) with an integrated step. The steel rear bar incorporates 20mm-thick recovery points and a built-in tow bar, and finishing off the protection package are black body-side and wheel-arch mouldings.
A new load-rated sports bar is fitted across the range and it mounts to the floor of the HiLux tub, providing a 75kg downward weight capacity and a 200kg lashing capacity to secure weighty loads such as dirtbikes or other heavy equipment.
The design brief for the Rogue was to create a “premium recreational ute” that would suit the global market. A new trapezoidal grille and revised bumper design (with built-in fog lights) completely changes the look of the HiLux.
“Compared with the SR5, we made big changes to the front-end as we wanted this to have an alignment with the global Toyota truck DNA,” explains Peter Elliott. “The essential elements of that are the large trapezoidal grille which, together with the outboard fog lamps, gives the front-end a really strong presence.
“By subtly adjusting the architecture, we also gave the front a much more vertical proportion to further accentuate that strength.”
What’s the interior like? Both the Rugged X and Rogue off an air of luxury thanks to their leather accented trims, power adjustable driver’s seat, splashes of piano-black trim, black roof lining and bright multi-information display on the instrument binnacle. The rest of the interior package is standard HiLux SR5, with a dash dominated by the big colour touchscreen and the use of quality soft-touch materials.
The steering is adjustable for both reach and rake and there’s a good range of seat adjustment. There’s plenty of storage around the cabin thanks to a sizeable centre console bin, two glove boxes (the top one has an a/c vent for cooling) and generous door pockets, and rear-seat passengers are provided a centre armrest when the middle seat is not occupied. The Rugged X and Rogue have air conditioning vents for rear-seat passengers but the SR-based Rugged misses out on this.
The interior of the Rugged is not dissimilar to its higher-priced siblings, albeit without the leather and multi-information display. The HiLux cabin offers good width and rear-seat passengers have plenty of leg room. You can fit three adults across the back seat, but centre seat is compromised by the shape of the seat base and the backrest, resulting in a ‘too-upright’ seating position.
In addition to the load-rated sports bar, there’s a tub liner in the back of the Rugged and Rugged X models. It covers the floor and the tailgate, but not the sides of the tub. There are four luggage tie-down hooks, but they’re halfway up the walls of the tub, which is not ideal; floor-mounted tie-downs would be better. Fortunately there are several cargo lashing points on the sports bar.
The marine-grade carpet tub liner in the back of the Rogue model will be attractive to many buyers. It’s secured to the floor with Velcro so can be easily removed for cleaning or drying, and it provides a good surface on which to place items that might otherwise slide around on a bare tub floor. The dust-sealing kit around the tailgate and on the underside of the tonneau lid will minimise dust ingress but not eliminate it entirely, so if you’re going to be driving on gravel roads for extended periods, then it’d probably be a good idea to replace the carpet with a rubber mat.
The HiLux tailgate is a pretty weighty thing, so if the Rogue is to be treated as the main family car (i.e. enlisted to perform grocery shopping duties and the like), an aftermarket tailgate-assist strut would be a good addition.
What are they like on the road? As you’d expect, all three models drive pretty much like their donor vehicles. The HiLux engine, while not the most potent in class, delivers reasonable performance with decent bottom-end torque and a strong midrange. It’s also a smooth and refined engine, and the HiLux offers good suppression of engine, wind and road noise.
The manual transmission variants have a smooth shift feel and a light and progressive clutch, and there’s a good spread of ratios, with a low first gear and a super-tall top, which sees the tacho needle sitting on a relaxed 1500rpm at 100km/h. The auto is a good thing too, and although it’s not the smoothest self-shifter on the market, it’s by no means abrupt in its shift quality, and it holds on to gears when you want it to and changes down when you need it to.
Our drive program took in a mix of good and not so good sealed roads, as well as plenty of smooth and rough gravel roads. There wasn’t much discernible difference in ride quality between Rugged X/Rugged models and the Rogue, despite the different weights, different front spring weights and different wheel/tyre combinations.
This suggests that the heavier spring rates in the Rugged X/Rugged models to counter the extra weight of their steel bars is just about right. Having said that, the front-end on all vehicles felt a little under-damped and floaty on rough roads, while the rear-end felt too firm, but admittedly there was no load in the back of any of the vehicles we drove. A load of just 200kg or so in the tub would have no doubt improved ride quality significantly.
What’s are they like off the road? The off-road drive loop in the Rugged X was a run up a rocky creek bed with big washouts and sandy sections that showed off the vehicle’s impressive approach angle and ground clearance, as well as the strength of its protection components including the alloy bash plate, the steel rock rails and the steel rear bumper. In fact, on one rocky section, we completely pivoted around a corner with pretty much all of weight of the Rugged X supported by the rock rail as it scraped its way across a large boulder.
The rock rail bolts directly to the chassis and it features a tough, out-of-sight steel box-section that can cop some serious abuse without fear of damaging the underside of the vehicle. The outer tube is also tough enough to cop a pounding and offers complete protection for the sill.
The manual variant offers excellent low-range reduction and the Rugged X crawls along in first gear at less than a walking pace. It will also climb over obstacles without any throttle input, which makes forward progress over very rough terrain a smooth affair. We tested a Rogue in some steep country in South Australia’s spectacular Flinders Ranges and while the auto transmission is no match the manual on steep descents, the hill descent control is effective at limiting speed on long downhill runs.
The electronic traction control works well enough and a rear diff lock is fitted as standard equipment on all three models. While the Rogue runs road-oriented 265/60R18 Bridgstone Dueler H/T tyres, there are plenty of tougher off-road rubber choices in this size for those who want to head into the bush. The Rugged X and Rugged models run slightly more off-road appropriate 265/65R17 Bridgestone Dueler A/Ts.
Those keen on off-road touring in their hero HiLux will be pleased to know there’s plenty of space under the bonnet to fit a second battery, the alternator is located quite high in the engine bay, and the Rugged X and Rugged models come standard with the aforementioned snorkel.
What safety features do they get? The Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue share the same five-star ANCAP rating that the current generation HiLux was awarded in 2015. If tested today, this would not be the case, as the safety package does not include lane keep assist or auto emergency braking.
Standard safety features included across the HiLux Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue models include seven air bags, vehicle stability control, active traction control, hill-start assist control, trailer sway control and reversing camera.
So, what do we think of the 2018 Toyota HiLux Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue models? While the likes of Ford, Holden, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz battle it out for performance supremacy, Toyota Australia has taken a vastly different approach in developing the Rugged X, Rugged and Rogue models. These three tweaked HiLux models offer a tougher look and a range of good looking and well engineered accessories that will appeal to many buyers, and there’s plenty of design features to distinguish them from run-of-the-mill HiLux models.
Has Toyota done enough to sell 6000 of these hero HiLuxes a year? Yes, without a doubt.
Words Dean Mellor via practicalmotoring.com.au Photos by Manufacturer