The Toyota Hilux DC SR5 is more truck than car. It’s big, has a grungy diesel sound, bounces around when empty and turns like the Spirit of Tasmania.
It doesn’t have all the creature comforts of, say, the Kluger or Prado, or even some of its four-wheel-drive ute competitors, but the commanding height and spacious cabin make it feel as strong as it is practical.
It’s this practicality that makes the vehicle desirable, though it probably needs a few more bells and whistles to be a true family ride.
The double cabin is base-model plain with few storage options other than the deep locker and a cup holder on the console – passengers get a door pocket with a cup holder.
The seats are comfortable, but the driver’s could do with lumbar adjustment for long journeys.
But, as with camping, you don’t need luxury to enjoy yourself. This is the motoring equivalent of a man’s shed. I enjoyed a great weekend off-roading near Blackwood before a long-overdue tip run and then up to Darley to buy a quarter- ton of firewood.
Back inside, the workmanlike dashboard is centred around a 6.1-inch touchscreen, which has a more instinctive interface than the one found in other Toyotas, such as the 86 and FJ Cruiser.
Syncing to Bluetooth is quick and simple and on subsequent drives it connects to your phone almost instantly. It’s easy enough to operate while driving, but there are steering wheel buttons for audio and phone, which makes things safer.
The air-conditioning features climate control operated via a simple control panel.
Vision is great, as you’d expect from a high vehicle, and I do like looking forward over the air intake on the bonnet.
The 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel isn’t the most powerful in its class, but it does the job well.
Naturally, it’s built with torque in mind, so it won’t leap from the traffic lights but travels nicely once you get going. It has plenty of grunt in reserve for overtaking at upper speed limits.
The five-speed automatic transmission introduced to this model is seamless and works well down the low ranges. It helps the engine run at a respectable 8.7 litres per 100 kilometres combined.
The four-wheel-drive transfer case is still an old-school shift lever. There’s ample clearance height and you don’t need me to tell you that it operates well in the dirt.
Out the back
On the road, it feels better with a load in the back. The 250 kilograms of firewood I had in the tray seemed just about right, but it can take more than 800kgs.
The tray measures 1.52 metres long and 1.515 metres wide to fit a standard pallet.
The big chrome roll-bar provided something to tie a rope around, but it would be good if there were tie-down hooks along the side.
This model was a big improvement from its predecessors but, while it’s still the biggest-selling four-wheel drive ute based on a well-earned reputation for reliability, it is outclassed for power, size and refinement by competitors, such as the VW Amarok, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara.
Toyota is set to catch up with the recently unveiled 2016 Hilux, which will hopefully mean some decent run-out deals of this model, which retails for $54,990.
Some Toyota dealers have specials for under $50,000 and it won’t be long before there’s more examples on the used car market.