Text and photography: GG van Rooyen
Toyota’s 2,7-litre VVT-i petrol engine isn’t afraid of a little hard work. It’s been around for quite a while now, and it has proved itself to be tough and reliable. For this reason it does duty in vehicles such as the Hilux, Quantum and Innova – vehicles that do not lead easy lives since they are generally employed as daily runners and workhorses.
The problem with this engine, however, is that it lacks a little oomph. For example, if you use a Hilux with a 2,7-litre VVT-i engine to do the sort of things bakkies are often used to do – carry a heavy load or tow a caravan, say – it tends to feel under-powered. Overtaking becomes a problem and staying above 120 km/h when scaling a hill requires constant downshifting. Sure, these aren’t insurmountable problems, but they make it clear that a little more power would certainly be useful.
Enter local company ALB. By bolting a Garrett turbocharger to the powerplant, the company promises to up its performance to that of Toyota’s four-litre V6 engine.
“Our tests have shown that the turbo increases performance by about 60%. Where the standard engine generates 118 kW at around 4700 r/min, a version fitted with our bolt-on turbo produces peak power of 168 kW at 5000 r/min,” says ALB’s Apie van den Berg.
Crucially, though, torque is also increased considerably. Where the standard mill produces 241 Nm, ALB’s version offers 360 Nm. “I owned a Hilux with the 2,7-litre engine, and that’s how I realised that this engine could do with a turbo,” says Apie. “I put about 300 000km on it in three years, and it wasn’t fantastic to drive. I found myself wishing for more power and constantly having to change gears.”
So how does ALB’s turbo conversion improve the 2,7-litre Hilux’s performance? Quite a bit!
ALB recently gave us one of their turbocharged bakkies to test and we were very impressed. Driving it around town, it wasn’t difficult to notice that it had appreciably more power than the average 2,7-litre Hilux. Applying gentle pressure to the accelerator pedal brought a nice pick-up in speed. It was certainly never necessary to bury the pedal in the floor to achieve adequate acceleration.
The same was true of highway driving. Accelerating to overtake was effortless. Moreover, constant shifting wasn’t necessary. We found ourselves able to accelerate quite rapidly in fifth gear, so swapping cogs wasn’t needed every time we wanted to pass a slow-moving truck.
What impressed us most about the turbocharged engine, however, was the way it delivered its power. Needless to say, it offered more power than a standard 2.7 VVT-i, but it delivered the power in much the same way as the naturally aspirated powerplant does. Delivery was smooth and linear. Many turbos don’t deliver power linearly. There’s often very little power until the turbo kicks in, and then there’s a huge boost when the blower starts doing its thing. Thankfully there was no sign of this sort of on/off situation with ALB’s turbo conversion. Sure, there was some turbo lag, but it was minimal. The engine felt smooth and refined, which made driving the Hilux easy and relaxing.
Of course, a lot of people will be drawn to this sort of conversion because of its benefits when towing, so how does it perform in this situation? According to ALB, very well.
“We’ve done quite a bit of towing with the HIlux, and it has performed excellently,” says Apie. “It makes towing much easier.”
And how does the turbo behave when it is forced to work this hard?
“There are often concerns about overheating when it comes to towing with a turbo vehicle. This can be an issue with any turbo if it is pushed hard for prolonged periods, but under normal towing conditions there’s no need for concern. Thanks to the power offered by the turbo, we found that one could tow at between 20% and 25% of maximum throttle, which means the engine isn’t working too hard, so there’s no overheating.”
Would we recommend this conversion? Yes, we would. If you install the turbo, though, you will lose your factory warranty, so keep that in mind. However, ALB can offer a replacement warranty.
The conversion is expensive — in the region of R46 000. The price will depend on the vehicle warranty you choose, but whatever your choice you’ll have to spend a fair bit for those extra horses.
That said, the conversion is certainly effective, especially if you want to tow a caravan or big trailer.
ALB offers a high-quality conversion that features a Garrett turbo, one of the best-known turbos on the market. The conversion includes a custom-built exhaust manifold and downpipe, a recirculating dump valve, ECU chip, K&N high-flow performance air filter and a boost pipe with silicon fittings. A six-month/20 000km guarantee on parts and workmanship is provided.
For more information, contact ALB on 011 472-1963 or 079 227-8516, or e-mail [email protected]