► Revised Hilux range-topper tested
► More tech and cosmetic flair
► Choice of seating, gearbox and kit
Where do you go from Invincible? If that’s what you’ve called the top version of your rugged and revered pick-up, what do you call a version to sit on top of that? Add an X, of course. That’s X as in X Games and their extreme sports ilk, not X as in X Factor and other Simon Cowell-backed talent shows.
There’s been an Invincible X before, but in the latest series of Hilux upgrades (from late 2019) it’s the X that has received the most attention, and the result is that it now stands as a clear, direct rival to similarly smart pick-ups from Ford, VW and – until the X-Class was dropped – Mercedes.
The Hilux has been around for more than 50 years, and we’re now well into the eighth generation. The general idea has evolved gradually, but in recent years the market’s expectations have changed rapidly, and a pick-up is expected to be a kind of open-backed SUV, and school-run-friendly, as well as still being able to breeze across building sites and rearrange forests.
What are your choices?
The Hilux range offers just one engine, a 2.4-litre turbodiesel four, with switchable all-wheel drive and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
There are three body styles: two-seat single cab, four-seat Extra Cab (otherwise known as a crew cab; the two rear seats are small, and accessed by tricky suicide doors) and five-seat Double Cab, which has an interior layout broadly familiar if you’ve been in a Land Cruiser lately.
There are four spec levels (not all available with every body style): basic Active, marginally more sophisticated Icon, and the slightly blingier, more SUV-standard Invincible and Invincible X.
If you’re likely to get your Hilux muddy inside as well as out, you might be best advised sticking to Active, which now has wipe-clean PVC upholstery and flooring.
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Icon gains a stop-start system, a seven-inch multimedia screen and Toyota’s Safety Sense driving aids package, which combines Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Assist and a Pre-Collision system that recognises pedestrians (and, in daylight only, cyclists) and helps you avoid them. Invincible gets bigger wheels and automatic air-con.
Invincible X, in its latest form, gets as standard various features that were previously on the options list. There’s new smoked chrome detailing, black side bars and two-tone 18-inch alloys with more road-orientated tyres. Inside, there are new piano black cosmetic inserts.
Many, many options are available: some cosmetic, some for bringing a bit more comfort or infotainment, but most for increasing its usabilty: loadbay liners and covers, extra bars and hardtops.
What’s special about the Hilux?
It’s a great example of what’s good about the deep-rooted conservatism within Toyota, having evolved at a glacial pace because there’s been no need to do anything different. It’s a highly accomplished off-roader, it’s great for taking atticfuls of crud to the recycling centre, it couldn’t be happier than when lugging cycles to the hills or a boat to the coast. And at the end of the weekend, you hose it down and forget about it.
Being a Toyota, it’s super-reliable, backed up by a no-nonsense dealer network that’s had a bit of practice at handling these things. And these days the Hilux comes with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty, the same as its regular cars.
The current Mk8 has a stronger version of the familiar ladder chassis, a reinforced deck, better all-wheel drive (up to Land Cruiser levels, aided by Active Traction Control, Downhill Assist Control and Hill-start Assist Control), longer-travel suspension and greater towing capacity.
It also got a smaller engine, down from 3.0 litres, but with a more efficient turbo and more torque. It has switchable Eco and Power drive modes, but that’s fooling nobody: it doesn’t really do Eco and it doesn’t really do Power; the 0-62mph time is well into double figures.
What’s it like to drive?
You feel nigh on indestructible.
And although it’s a big car, it isn’t difficult to manoeuvre. You just need to watch for the width (but it’s fine on British roads, unlike some US-orientated trucks) and the length (a stranger to standard car parking spaces).
There’s a lot of Land Cruiser in how it feels, although the details are all different. It’s more commercial/agricultural, while still being broadly civilised. That said, there are no great efforts at soundproofing, and if you’re in two-wheel drive and you don’t have a heavy load, flooring the throttle clumsily on a damp road will get your spinning or sideways
As luck would have it, we had the Hilux on test for a very stormy, chilly, extremely muddy few days. It was warm, comfortable, secure, and untroubled by mud or floods. It made perfect sense. And you really see the benefits of a simple, easily cleaned interior at times like this.
Toyota Hilux Invincible X: verdict
The letter X doesn’t always deliver what its employers hope. Just look at the Mercedes X-Class, a pick-up truck aimed pretty much at the same market as the Hilux. Its short life and modest sales suggest that the P factor – the balancing act of practicality, prestige, performance and price – is extremely tricky. Much as we liked the Merc, it fell between too many stools – not sophisticated enough to fit in with the Mercedes SUV family, but too premium-priced to steal buyers away from established pick-up favourites.
The Invincible X, while itself far from flawless, strikes a happier compromise. Maybe you want it because you go to the dump a lot. Or perhaps your work or leisure interests take you to building sites, beaches, forests or roadworks. Or perhaps you just really, really like the look of it and what you think it says about you.
But don’t mistake it for a modern crossovery SUV. Compared to, say, a RAV4, this is noisy, crude and slow.
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