For the past three months we’ve been tinkering with a Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6 double cab 4×4 SRX. At R468 800, the Hilux offers pretty good value for money, but it’s, well, as exciting as watching a game of chess on television. So we’ve added some spunk, and asked reigning Class T cross-country champion Jason Venter to take it for a spin. This is the story of SRS… the efficient but boring value-for-money Hilux 2.4GD-6 turned hell raiser.
That’s how muchyou’ll save if you buy a 2.4 GD-6 SRX 4×4 instead of the 2.8GD-6 4×4 Raider. R86k. That’s no small change. Okay, the 2.4GD-6 is obviously not quite as powerful as its 2.8-litre sibling. Nor is it equipped with some of the Raider model’s equipment. For instance, the SRX gets the entry-level version of the stick-on-look tablet business in the cabin. So no colour LCD screen, just a basic analogue style display. But it certainly gets the job done. The latest SRX comes with the Raider’s wide-body design; styling-wise there are not many differences between the two models. The SRX gets 17-inch alloy wheels (instead of the workhorse-style steel rims of the previous version). The wide-body design has made it possible for customers to add aftermarket rims without the wheels being too wide for the body.
The biggest difference can be found under the bonnet. The 2.8GD-6 four-cylinder has 130kW of power and 420Nm of torque (peaking from 1 400r/min) on tap. The 2.4GD-6 has 110kW and 400Nm of twist, the latter available from 1 600r/min. So although the bigger capacity engine certainly has the edge in the power department, the torque numbers are pretty close. In the 4WD drivetrain department, both bakkies have a part-time 4×4 system. The system can switch between 2H, 4H and 4Low via a dashboard-mounted (and rather finicky) twist dial. The 2.4GD-6 gets a rear differential lock as part of the package, but the Raider also gets a raft of electronic traction aids. On to SRS, and a question we pondered: say we buy the ‘entry-level’ SRX, which is as exciting as watching a pair of sloths racing each other up a tree, and we want to make it stand out in the crowd, what would we do? And we don’t only mean styling: what if we wanted an SRX that you really want to drive? Like if you wake up at 2am and tell the better half you urgently need to go to the 24-hour shop because your supply of ear buds is running low – just so you can drive the SRX? Would such a thing be possible?
Getting so me SRS on…
First we needed some extra muscle and talents in the suspension department. 4×4 Mega World came to the SRS party with its high-end, rally-suspension-for-the-road Old Man Emu BP-51 set-up. This coilover, fully adjustable set-up with external reservoirs, allows the driver to tune the suspension as required. You can opt for a harder setting that will endow the Hilux with handling prowess in corners that will leave many a red-faced hot-hatch driver fuming at being beaten by a bakkie. Or, you can adjust the rebound for a softer ride if you plan to travel on rough gravel roads more often. With the softer suspension, the ride on tar is still good, but on a particularly bumpy gravel section you’ll hardly notice any roughness. Like a pukka rally suspension, the faster you go, the better it works. The suspension also added 60mm of ground clearance – more than enough to fit a set of mud terrain tyres without the risk of chunky tyres ripping off pieces of Hilux if you head off the beaten track. We also had to find the right wheels, too. We again teamed up with local wheel manufacturer, importer and distributor Racing Hart Concepts (RHC), and they supplied a set of RHC Dennon 16-inch rims.
General Tire provided a set of Grabber 265/75 R16 Mud Terrain (MT) tyres. These units are bigger in diameter than the SRX’s standard 265/65 R17 tyres, but not majorly so. We were not planning to build a monster truck, rather a sporty off-road one. The MTs are designed for 20% on-road driving, and 80% off-road driving. The higher side-walls of the MTs added another 20mm to the ground clearance deal. Next we needed to spruce up the interior. We headed over to ATS Motorsport supplies. There we secured two OMP recliner seats to replace the comfy but dreary standard units. To add some extra motorsport to the cabin, we acquired a set of Schroth Quick Fit four-point racing harnesses for the OMP seats. And to add that last bit of sport to the cabin, we replaced the standard steering wheel with a proper OMP racing wheel covered in black suede. However, fitting an OMP bucket in a Toyota Hilux is not a simple bolt-in exercise. No sirree. Special brackets had to be manufactured. We asked specialist custom shop 4×4 Muscle Trucks to help us with this. Custom brackets were made, and the seats fitted. Ditto with the racing harnesses.
Replacing the standard steering wheel with its airbag proved a bit trickier. The team at 4×4 Muscle Trucks had to research the process first, and even then the standard wheel proved to have a will of its own, refusing to budge. All’s well that ends well, and in the end the lads removed the standard wheel and fitted the beautiful OMP one. The handling and interior ‘feel’ boxes had been ticked – but we still needed some aural drama. A standard 2.4GD-6 engine is pretty refined and efficient, but the standard sound effects, well, they’re rather quiet and diesel-like. Enter De Graaf in Pretoria, a company that has been building performance exhausts since 1958. When they asked us what kind of sound effect we had in mind, we explained it like this: if the Hilux drives down the road and people remark, “Oh, that sounds nice” the effect is not sufficient. If the Hilux drives down the road and people say, “What the heck is that!” then you have achieved the desired effect.
And that’s exactly how it turned out. The De Graaf experts first added a short 76mm pipe with a small silencer, but although it sounded okay, it wasn’t quite “what the heck is that!” yet. So they came up with a handy solution: a beautiful 76mm pipe that runs from the turbocharger to the rear of the bakkie… with no silencer whatsoever. Now it sounds the part. We made no other modifications to the engine: no performance chip or filter or whatnot. Besides the exhaust, the engine and drivetrain remain 100% stock. Underbody protection was also a consideration: if we were going to use the Hilux to play rough in off-road environments, we needed to protect it. Front Runner supplied a set of discreet rock sliders which replaced the fashionable sidesteps, and the company also provided a two-piece aluminium set of engine protection plates. With the hardware part completed, we moved on to the cosmetic side. Here we opted to go discreet and understated, yet a little bit sporty, instead of over the top with fake plastic air intakes and wheel arch extensions and so on. We enlisted the help of our long-standing vehicle wrap partners, Wrap Vehicles, and together we came up with a racing stripe design and discreet decals on the flanks of the Hilux.
Our paint partner, Liquid Armour in Roodepoort, set about colour matching the rims, chromed roll bar, the bottom part of the front bumper and the chrome strip above the grille with the colour of the rear bumper and grille (a charcoal hue). The rims and the engine protection plate received a lick of red hue, in conjunction with the red design of the racing stripe. Llumar Professional film installed the company’s Headlight Protection Film on the Hilux’s headlights. Besides protecting the expensive headlights from debris on the road, the film is also said to prevent hazing and provide clear beams. The side and back windows were fitted with Llumar’s 35% visual light transmission film. This film allows 38% of visible light to enter the cabin, blocks out 34% heat and is said to provide 99% UV reduction. And that was that. Hilux SRS was a done deal. We liked the subtle styling approach, and loved the driving part. The 76mm exhaust hissed and barked and made enough noise to scare old ladies, while the OMP racing kit in the cabin further enhanced the driving experience. The trick BP51 suspension caused us to dice a few hot hatches through corners and we came out first on the other side, too. What a driver’s, er, bakkie, we thought. But our opinion is subjective. We needed to find a neutral tester. So we headed to Klerksdorp to meet up with Jason Venter, the reigning Class T cross-country champion. We handed him the keys and asked him to have a right go in the SRS on the tracks he normally uses to test his 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux V8 racing bakkie.
There you have it. Project SRS. The very capable but slightly humdrum SRX that has evolved into a machine that is really fun to drive, and that also stands out in a parking lot of other Hilux bakkies. We went a little bit mad with some of the accessories, of course. As it stands, our SRS has upgrades to the value of about R130 000. But you don’t need to add the OMP gear for the interior. Or the styling details. And in case you don’t want to upset the apple cart in your townhouse complex, you can always opt for a more discreet exhaust system, or stick to the standard exhaust. You can cut even closer to the bone. Instead of the extremely capable but expensive BP51 suspension set-up, you can settle on a standard (non-adjustable) Old Man Emu upgrade, which sells for a much keener price. Which brings us back to the concept of SRS. We’ll soon be divulging more information about how you can get a special SRS package deal on your Hilux.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your (SRS) engines!
“This is the first time I drove the 2.4GD-6, and although I’ve heard other people say how well it goes, I never imagined it would be as strong as it proved to be. The torque really surprised me. It sounds like my first 3.0KZ-TE off-road rally bakkie, too, so I enjoyed that. Working for 4×4 Mega World, I obviously know the BP-51 suspension set-up well. If you plan on travelling at 160km/h over rough terrain, the current settings on the SRS bakkie will be great. If you’re planning to drive a bit slower I’d suggest adjusting the rebound and damping for a more comfortable ride. The looks? I like it. The GT stripes, the red detailing on the rims, it looks a lot better than a standard SRX, that’s for sure. But it’s also not over the top.”
OME BP-51 suspension (shocks and rear blades) R59 475
Racing Hart Concepts Dannon 16-inch rims (x4) R7 500
General Tire MT 265/75 R16 (x4) R14 800
Front Runner rock sliders & engine protection R6 995
OMP Recliner Style bucket seats (x2) R10 349
OMP racing steering wheel plus Momo hub R3 859
Schroth Quickfit four-point ASM Harness (x2) R5 019
De Graaf 76mm custom exhaust system R7 397
Wrap Vehicles custom vinyl detailing R4 950
LLumar window tint and headlight protection R5 000
Liquid Armour custom paint (includes application) R2 950
4×4 Muscle Trucks (fabrication and fitment) R4 500
Total R132 794
Some prices exclude fitment or application
4×4 Mega World 4x4megaworld.co.za; Tel: 011 454 2875
Racing Hart Concepts rhc.co.za; Tel: 011 832 1174
Front Runner frontrunneroutfitters.com; Tel: 011 466 0155
ATS Motorsport Supplies (OMP) Tel: 011 670 8400
Wrap Vehicles wrapvehicles.co.za; Tel: 011 794 4929
De Graaf Exhausts degraaf.co.za; Tel: 012 379 7028
4×4 Muscle Trucks tjmptaeast.co.za; Tel: 012 809 0090
Liquid Armour liquidarmour.co.za; Tel: 011 763 6253
LLumar window tinting llumar.co.za; Tel: 011 321 8040
Text: Danie Botha Photos: GG van Rooyen