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OFF-ROAD TEST

Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6 versus Namibia





10 August 2016


Toyota’s new Hilux 2.8GD-6 bakkie is selling up a storm since its introduction here in March. Keenly priced, a powerful and tough drivetrain and new levels of comfort and refinement are just some of the hallmarks of the new Hilux. However, there is another bakkie that possibly trumps this Toyota: the Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6 .We drove the 2.4-litre double cab in Namibia.

On paper, Toyota’s 2.4GD-6 turbodiesel engine sounds pretty useful: 110kW of power. And maximum twist of 400Nm, peaking between 1400r/min and 2 000r/min.

But we’re standing at the base of a dune. Not a Kalahari dune or an Atlantis dune – a Namib Desert dune. And these dunes are notoriously tough to conquer, thanks to the sheer size of the heaps of sand, and their unique molecular composition.
Under a microscope, the Namib sand particles are all round, which means that air gets trapped between them.

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That’s where the famous ‘roaring sand’ phenomenon comes from too… driving down a steep slip face you can hear what really sounds like a roar as the sand is displaced. The sound is the air literally being squeezed out of the sand.

Ask the locals who spend a lot of time driving these dunes what you need to conquer the giant sand heaps, and you’ll hear only one answer: “Horsepower, boet!”

That’s why, on any given weekend, when the locals go out to play in the sand, you’ll find an assortment of supercharged Toyota Land Cruisers, modified Jeep Wranglers and a smartie box of high-power, high-revving petrol engined 4x4s tackling massive dunes, sometimes at speeds of more than 120km/h.

Essentially, you need high-revving horsepower to scale the dunes, not low-revving torque.

And we were in a stock 2.4-litre turbodiesel bakkie. With 110kW and 400Nm. In theory then, we had the dune recipe the wrong way round… we had plenty of torque, but not so much power. Blimey.

But before we get to the Namib dunes, some perspective. We were part of the European launch of the Hilux 2.4GD-6. So our bakkies were all left-hand drive, and they use the Euro 6 emission version of the new four-cylinder engine (we have Euro 2).

Interestingly, the Hilux 2.4-litre double cab is the top model in Europe – they don’t get the 130kW/450Nm 2.8GD-6 version at all.

The European specification bakkies are also fitted with advanced gadgets like lane-keep assist and a stop-start system. Most notable in the mechanical department is a six-speed automatic gearbox option that is not available for the local 2.4-litre bakkie.

For the rest, it’s all familiar new Hilux. So you get the more car-like cabin, the familiar yet slightly controversial exterior styling, the part-time 4WD system with the new selector dial in the cabin (instead of the kort stokkie), and a level of refinement you never thought you’d find in a Hilux.

Soft sand ahead!

So there we were, in a line of Hilux 2.4GD-6 4×4 bakkies, in the dunes around the famous Dune 7, near the coastal port town of Walvis Bay.

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Our European colleagues, who have obviously never encountered sand heaps like the Namib ones, initially battled to get up even the smaller dunes.

But with the guidance of the Live the Journey 4×4 guides who, amazingly, remained as calm as sloths that are on a diet of anti-depressants, the Ukrainians and Czechs soon nailed the ‘momentum is your best friend’ concept, and started sailing up the dunes.

And despite having ‘only’ 110kW of power, we did too. With low-range selected, and the rear differential lock in the game, our Hilux blasted up all the dunes we threw at it during the three-hour sand driving experience.

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It was clear the 2.4-litre engine has no apparent turbo lag, as is sometimes the case with smaller capacity turbo engines. It also handles higher revs in its stride, but it puts its best foot forward when you tap into the 400Nm of torque. After we got used to the gear lever living on the right side of the driver, the six-speed manual gearbox proved to be typical Toyota – precise and with easy, short throws.

Gravel travel
The dune driving was just the start of this Hilux adventure drive. After the Namib sand dunes were waxed (as they say in Namibia), we headed east towards Solitaire on the main B2 gravel road.

This is a main route between the coast and capital Windhoek and driving at 100km/h on this good gravel road, surrounded by mostly nothing at all, is a ‘no sweat’ affair. That is if you drive a double cab bakkie or SUV – several tourist VW Polos passed us on this route too, no doubt driven by white-knuckled tourists.

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In the Hilux we started off in 2H, with only the rear wheels providing propulsion under the empty loadbay. We did this because, in the same mode and with an empty load bay, the previous generation Hilux had a tail-happy streak. So the light tail wandered a bit on a badly corrugated dirt road.

The new Hilux is markedly more comfortable in the same conditions. Only the very worst corrugations managed to slightly upset the tail, but the new-generation traction control sorted this out very efficiently, keeping the Toyota tracking in a straight line.

The best medicine for such a road though, is to select 4H, which provides an extremely solid and confidence-inspiring ride. Driving like this, in the well-insulated and refined cabin, 100km/h seemed very slow indeed.

We reached the infamous Spreetshoogte Pass in a jiffy. This tarred pass, classified as the steepest pass in Namibia, climbs through 1 000 metres in the space of four kilometres, so the incline is up to 1:6 in places. In second gear the 2.4GD-6 eased up the pass.

Between a rock… and another rock
On the Namibgrens Guest Farm the Hilux faced another tough test: a rocky 4×4 trail over a mountain or three.

The rock driving was all about low-speed traction and that old off-road adage of ‘as slow as possible, as fast as necessary’. We had swapped our manual 2.4GD-6 for the six-speed automatic version, and for the most part, it was the better option for this slow-going section.

On the steep descents we tested the hill descent control system with the transmission left in ‘Drive’ – it certainly worked, but it didn’t keep the speed quite as low as we would have liked. Manually selecting first gear by shifting the gear lever to the manual mode provided much better engine braking going down the steeper sections.

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For most of the tougher obstacles we left the rear differential lock on the reserve bench, handing the responsibility for maintaining traction to the Hilux’s active traction control (ATRC) system. And the ATRC was most impressive too, sorting out a spinning wheel or wheels and easily maintaining momentum.

On a tough 4×4 trail, the latest Hilux is as good as any double cab 4×4 on the market.

The last stretch
Our final leg took us to Windhoek, and some tar road driving. And on the hilly terrain, at speeds around 120km/h, the smaller capacity engine did need a bit more gear swapping and revving than its bigger brother, the 2.8GD-6, would require.

On the flatter sections though, sixth gear proved to be, with little effort, up to the task of maintaining 120km/h. And the pliant ride and the comfortable cabin combined to offer an SUV-like ride. The latest Hilux really is a giant leap forward compared to the model it replaced.

And in summary…

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In South Africa, the Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6 double cab 4×4 SR sells for R441 000. The 2.8GD-6 double cab 4×4 Raider retails for R530 000. So that’s a saving of R89 000 – and the difference in performance is really not much at all.

The only exception may be if you plan on towing a heavy caravan or trailer on a regular basis at higher speeds – otherwise the 2.4GD-6 has more than enough grunt to live with.

Sure, the 2.4 double cab does not have as much kit as the 2.8GD-6, but it has all the basics you’d need. It’s easy enough to swap the steel wheels on the SR model for something a bit more upmarket, add a nudge bar and Bob’s your uncle.

We honestly did not expect the 2.4GD-6 to do as well as it did in the Namib – it really took everything we threw at it in its stride. And we reckon that if Toyota introduce the six-speed automatic 2.4GD-6 in SA it will probably become the top selling Hilux model.

It really is great all-rounder.

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Specifications SA-specification Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6 SR double cab 4×4
Engine 2 393cc, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power 110kW @ 3 400r/min
Torque 400Nm @ 1 600r/min
Gearbox Six-speed manual
4WD Part-time (2H, 4H and 4Low selection)
Electronic aids Active traction control (ATRC), hill assist control, vehicle stability control, trailer sway control
Ground clearance (claimed) 286mm
Service intervals 10 000km
Service plan Five years/90 000km
Price R441 900

New Global Diesel (GD) mill – packing a punch
The 16-valve, DOHC four-cylinder 2.4-litre engine has a variable nozzle turbocharger with an intercooler, producing 110kW and 400Nm. But that’s just part of the story… the new engine also features a range of weight-saving measures, as well as enhanced combustion efficiency.
It is equipped with electronically controlled, common-rail type fuel injection that achieves higher pressure and more advanced injection pressure control. Interestingly, the new turbocharger is 30% smaller than the D4-D’s turbo, yet it is a lot more efficient.
The six-speed manual gearbox has specifically been optimised for this engine too. So first gear is 10% lower (geared), and sixth gear is 23% higher geared, compared to the top gear of the older five-speed manual.

Words: Danie Botha
Photos: Deon van der Walt