Launch review: Toyota Hilux GR Sport (aka GR-S)
Hoedspruit – It’s impressive what a difference the clever people in white coats can make to a car when they sprinkle their magic dust in all the right places.
Which is exactly what Toyota has done with the Hilux GR Sport, and it’s more than a couple of decals, black rims and interior tweaks to South Africa’s most popular double cab. A lot more, in fact, making the Hilux GR-S the halo product of the range.
There are four levels in the GR product hierarchy starting with parts (Toyota SA is investigating this option) allowing owners to tweak their normal models with GR flavour, then the GR Sport moniker offering cosmetic and dynamic handling enhancements (Corolla Cross, Hilux, Land Cruiser 300), then the fully fledged GR performance models (GR86, GR Yaris, GR Supra) and on top of the pyramid sits GRMN, representing the top-tier of performance tuning.
Given that the Toyota Hilux GR Sport sits in the middle, those clever people have taken the standard bakkie as we know it with 150kW and 500Nm, and upped the ante. The 2.8-litre turbo diesel motor is now good for 165kW and 550Nm, which has been done via a special ECU calibration that interfaces with revised six-speed automatic transmission mapping and lock-up control.
Being the halo model it’s obviously a 4×4 transaxle mated to the six-speed transmission with Auto LSD function. Aluminium paddle shifters are standard, allowing you to change gears as you wish, either in auto or manual mode with the transmission mapping ensuring it holds onto the gear longer, and assists with downshift braking.
Beneath the body new monotube shock absorbers are paired with stiffer coil springs and the 17-inch titanium-finished alloys have been fitted with taller 265-65-R17 profile tyres for better offroad performance.
Inside the Toyota Hilux GR Sport there’s a new instrument cluster with a cog-like metallic bezel, red needles and unique gauge face, the steering wheel is covered in leather with red stitching and GR badging, and the pedals are aluminium with rubber inserts.
Carbon fibre trim replaces the brushed finish in Legend models, complemented by red accent trim and racing-inspired front seats with Alcantara inserts.
The whole package combines incredibly well as we found out driving it in and around Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The decals are now an option so the only giveaway that it’s a GR-S, is the black front grille, horizontal cross bar finished in carbon-fibre pattern, chrome Toyota lettering, black mirror caps and door handles, graphite coloured side steps and a rear styling bar with GR branding.
As with almost all provinces around the country there were some good stretches of tar and of course those that haven’t seen maintenance or repairs for years, providing a decent combination of surfaces for the drive.
The driving position is fantastic once you’ve fiddled with the electric seat which fits snugly too.
What’s the Toyota Hilux GR Sport like to drive?
Once we were out of the reserve’s gate I couldn’t quite feel the extra power despite giving it a relatively hard right foot.
Like any car it takes a while to get used to the surroundings and as I glanced over the instruments I saw the green Eco mode light and realised that I hadn’t yet pushed the Power button. Once that came into play it was a whole different set-up.
Throttle input is met with enthusiasm but not so that it feels uncontrolled with the ECU and transmission mapping combining perfectly for a well-balanced and very comfortable ride.
It gears down effortlessly when passing slower traffic and it certainly does hold the gear longer before changing again keeping the GR-S in its optimal torque range really well.
In fact, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, every time you put your foot down it pulls like a train and feels completely different to the standard Legend variant.
The upgraded suspension may sound stiffer on paper and while it may be so, it’s been calibrated perfectly so there’s a lot less bump and rebound.
This was proven many times over the course of two days with bumpy passes and especially when oncoming traffic made it impossible to avoid those inevitable potholes aided too by the higher tyres.
The suspension provides less body roll when cornering at speed around sweeping bends. It also works a treat with sudden steering movements, again for those potholes.
Driving back after lunch we had to manoeuvre out of a tight parking spot, thanks to a tourist bus that had parked rather badly which was a good opportunity to use the panoramic view monitor with a bird’s eye view of our surroundings.
When we get to test it for a longer period we’ll definitely make use of it when we engage low range on a 4×4 obstacle course.
The GR-S is fitted with Toyota Safety Sense offering a complete set of active safety aids including Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Pre-Collision Systems. You also get ABS, VSC, EBD, Hill Assist Control and Brake Assist systems, as well as passive safety aids such as ISOFIX and a full airbag array.
The Toyota Hilux GR Sport is a welcome addition to the range and will no doubt find favour with many buyers.
The engine and suspension improvements are more than just a tweak and the exterior and interior aesthetics align themselves perfectly with the GR brand, making a bakkie that not only looks good but also performs accordingly.
It comes with a nine-services/90 000km service plan and three-year/100 000km warranty. Service and warranty plan extensions can also be purchased from any Toyota dealer (220 outlets).
Toyota Hilux GR Sport 4×4 auto: R 865 400