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Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review

Published:22 November 2017

Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
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  • 3 out of 5

By CJ Hubbard

Former associate editor; road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

By CJ Hubbard

Former associate editor; road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

Real-life replica of classic Tamiya r/c car
Off-road conversion by Arctic Trucks
Graphics and accessories by mad genius 

Most show cars are nonsense. They make all sorts of claims about performance figures and capability, but usually they’re little more than a rudimentary spaceframe chassis, a bunch of fibreglass and the minimal amount of motive power necessary to move all that puffery around a show stand.

We mention this because Toyota’s just built a full-size version of a classic Tamiya radio-controlled car – and it’s done so by starting with a 100% functional Hilux pickup. Obviously it would be rude not to drive it.

First question: why?

It’s a sort of celebration of Toyota’s relationship with Tamiya – which in Hilux terms goes all the way back to the 1980s, when the original Tamiya Hilux Bruiser r/c car came into being.

Tamiya at the time had all kinds of fun with this, including a publicity stunt that used a bunch of the toys to tow an example of the real thing into the model making firm’s HQ.

Toyota UK then brought these shenanigans back to our attention earlier in 2017, with a series of short YouTube films comparing Tamiya’s re-issued Bruiser with a modern Hilux.

Now it’s gone one further, and turned an example of said Hilux into a full-on replica of the Tamiya original.

Toyota Hilux Bruiser

If that still leaves you wondering why, consider that the current Hilux is only available with a single, 148bhp engine – making it one of the least powerful pickups available on these shores.

Toyota UK will argue that with 295lb ft of torque, the new 2.4-litre motor is still more muscular than the bigger Hilux engines of yore. But it also clearly isn’t averse to the occasional heritage-enhanced publicity stunt to keep attention ticking over nicely.

It looks good, though?

To be honest, the whole ‘why’ issue rather pales into the background when you’re confronted with the full-size 2017 Toyota Hilux Bruiser in person.

It is hilarious.

To properly capture the r/c car’s caricatured spirit, Toyota turned to Arctic Trucks, an Icelandic off-road specialist that does off-the-shelf conversions for the Hilux. The AT35 kit fitted here is actually at the lower end of the firm’s standard offerings, but still means lifted heavy-duty suspension, sizeable wheelarch extensions and 35-inch tyres. And the Hilux wasn’t exactly a small vehicle to start with.

Toyota Hilux Bruiser

Chrome wheels and a full vinyl wrap – including the authentic Hog Heaven door graphics, big Tamiya logos on the flanks and clever recreation of the toy’s louvered rear window – were the next step. The real coup de grace, however, comes from the bespoke add-ons, created by pro model maker Robert Selway.

These include a giant on/off switch in the load bed, a super-sized aerial mast, a magnetic bonnet clip, and a set of bumpers and side bars made from vinyl-wrapped stainless steel exhaust tubing. It means even the casual observer entirely gets what Toyota was going for here.

What’s it like to drive then?

Just as much fun as it looks – although that fun comes less from the performance than it does from the looks on everyone else’s face.

Obviously, even by modern vehicular standards, the Bruiser is pretty massive. While it’s not so tall that you can high-five lorry drivers, the width means most other drivers are inclined to move obligingly out of the way once they’ve finished staring. Which is good news, since the mods haven’t done the truck’s already slightly limited turning circle any favours at all.

What they have done is improve the ride quality – upgraded suspension components and big tyres taking away some of the standard Hilux’s more uncouth habits. The tyres do drone a bit at motorway speeds, and you can feel the tread blocks moving around beneath you, but generally we’d be happier to do a long journey in this than the regular version.

Toyota Hilux Bruiser

It’s not especially fast – 295lb ft is all very well, but the Hilux is not a truck you’d pick if your routes often include short slip roads into rapid traffic – but with the gearing suitably adjusted to the tyres, you won’t find yourself holding people up. And that’s despite having to wrestle with a manual gearbox that’s not even on nodding terms with precision.

Whether the devil on your shoulder telling you to just drive over the cars in front whenever you get caught in a jam is good or bad for road rage probably depends on your disposition.

Will it off road? Most certainly – but those tyres are apparently quite soft, so you’ll want to pick your surfaces quite carefully. Yes, we are aware of the irony.

Can I buy a Toyota Hilux Bruiser?

The r/c car? Sure – but the recommended retail price is a scarcely believable £779. Retro madness.

As for the Toyota, sadly no. This is a one-off, built as a promo tool. It’s worked in that respect – you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise – but Toyota’s quite rightly realised that the market for real-life radio-controlled car replicas is probably rather limited.

For more detailed info on the Toyota Hilux you can actually see the full review on our sister site Parkers Vans

Specs

Price when new: £0
On sale in the UK: It's a one-off
Engine: 2393cc 16v turbodiesel four-cylinder, 148bhp @ 3400rpm, 295lb ft @1600rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: You’ll get there – no matter what’s in the way – so don’t sweat the details
Weight / material: 2100kg (est) / steel, vinyl, plastic and dreams
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5335 / 1990 / 1960 (approx., based on standard Hilux AT35 specification)

Other Models

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  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review
  • Toyota Hilux Bruiser (2017) review

By CJ Hubbard

Former associate editor; road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

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