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Hilux Legend 45 vs Ranger WildTrak





16 April 2015


The Hilux has been dominating the top sales spot for decades, but the Ranger recently dethroned it for a month. We drove both vehicles back to back to find out which is best.

Some people might take offence when we call the Toyota Hilux the best bakkie in SA but, according to the public, who are the real decision makers at the end of the day, it is the undisputed champion of the pack. It outsells absolutely everything else and has done so for more than four decades.

It’s so ingrained in SA culture we’re surprised it doesn’t feature on our national flag. Just imagine the black outline of the current Hilux ascending up the white line surrounding the blue insert…

Toyota didn’t beat around the bush in naming this very special Hilux. It’s called the Legend 45 and with good reason. It is a legendary car that has found thousands of loving homes in SA, which has resulted in it building up a cult following that will always defend its honour.

But recent events cannot be ignored. For the first time ever, the Ford Ranger outsold the Hilux. In all honesty, we never thought we’d see the day.

This must have hurt a lot, especially as it happened just after Toyota launched the Legend 45 to the SA market, whilst simultaneously bragging about the Hilux being the segment leader for so long. There must have been a massive party back at Ford’s lair.

The Toyota has since moved back into its spot at the top, but for one month the Ranger got to enjoy the view. There has been a lot of comment surrounding this phenomenon (mostly from the Hilux owners’ side) that it was just a fluke and that there were some amazing specials on the Ranger in the month leading up to its victory, but let’s just forget about all that and allow Ford this victory. For one month in 2014, it won the sales war fair and square.

But what about the battle of the special editions? We could have tested Toyota’s new Legend 45 in isolation, but why would we when we could just as easily resurrect this epic battle between sworn enemies by pitting it against Ford’s special edition of its Ranger, the Wildtrak? We tried to make it even more interesting by including Isuzu’s KB Midnight Edition, but the entire consignment has sold out already.

In any case, the two vehicles you see here sit at the top of their respective line-ups. They are by far SA’s favourite bakkies and we attempted to find out once and for all which one of them is the best.

 The vehicles

 Toyota Hilux 3.0D-4D Raider Legend 45

The Legend 45 is the normal Hilux with a few cosmetics upgrades made to the exterior and interior.

Our test unit was powered by the now famous D-4D engine, which produces 120kW and 343Nm of torque. In this particular vehicle the power is fed to the wheels via a five-speed manual, as we couldn’t source an automatic version in time. We did, however, spend more than 3000km behind the wheel of an automatic version recently, so we’re fairly familiar with how it goes about its business, on- and off-road.

To distinguish it from other models in the range, the Legend 45 features blacked-out headlamps, smoked tail lights, stainless steel nudge bar and rear step bumper, towbar, matt black side steps, 17-inch anthracite alloy wheels, colour-coded door handles, chrome finish exterior mirrors and exclusive Legend 45 badging on the nudge bar, tailgate and rear doors.

The interior comes standard with black leather with contrast stitching on the seats, door panels and steering wheel. A reverse camera was also thrown in as standard on high-end models like this double-cab.

 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3,2 Automatic

It’s the exact same story with the Wildtrak, which is a standard Ranger with a selection of exterior and interior upgrades.

The exterior features a body colour/titanium front bumper, steel rear bumper, Wildtrak grille, black door handles, sports hoop (rollover bar), roof rails, bed liner, cargo management system and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The interior upgrades are more extensive than those on the Toyota. In the Ford you get the Wildtrak leather trim with orange stitching, Wildtrak floor mats, rear park assist, rain sensing wipers, rear view camera and an eight-way power driver’s seat.

 The test

We started out at our offices in Randburg and ended up at Rhino Park Adventures, home to the McCarthy 4×4 Club.

Along the way we swapped vehicles so that each member of the team could experience the vehicles in town, on the open road and on gravel.

At Rhino Park Adventures we settled on two tests: desert sand driving and a short but tough 4×4 course.

The last activity for the day was lunch at a nearby restaurant where we could discuss the merits of each vehicle and decide on a winner.

 Exterior

Style is a subjective topic, so we won’t spend too much time on it. However, it’s quite clear that these two vehicles take a very different approach to style.

The Hilux is traditional, restrained and familiar. It’s inoffensive, which is exactly what it should be. It’s a recipe Toyota has followed for years and one it will seemingly continue when the new Hilux arrives in a few months. We have seen “leaked” pictures of the new car and it’s nowhere near radical.

The Ranger is the polar opposite of the Hilux. It’s a handsome machine that stands out in Wildtrak guise, mostly due to the fact that it’s bright orange.

As for the rest of the cosmetic upgrades, it’s the same story. Toyota has played it safe by adding just enough to differentiate it from the rest of the Hilux line-up, while Ford has ensured that you don’t mistake the Wildtrak for anything else.

These cosmetic additions certainly do their part in transforming the vehicles into something a bit special but, as it turned out, they were more of a hindrance than anything else. More on that later…

 Interior

In this department the Ranger stands head and shoulders above the Hilux. There’s no denying the fact that the Ford is a lot more modern in this regard.

The Ford’s interior layout is handsome and logical. The materials are of a high quality and the model specific leather seats give the cabin an upmarket feel. Ford’s Sync infotainment system is a doddle to use, but it has to be said that the colour screen that displays the necessary information is annoyingly small.

You also get more equipment as standard, which goes a long way towards justifying the price difference between the seemingly expensive Ford and the R30 000 cheaper Hilux.

That being said, the Hilux had some positive points that deserve to be mentioned. Its touch-screen infotainment system is just as intuitive as Ford’s Sync system and it has a larger, more user-friendly screen.

The Legend 45 also has a blacked-out interior, complete with black leather seats, which makes this specific Hilux look and feel more luxurious than any other derivative we’ve driven before.

There’s no obvious difference between the two with regard to interior space. There’s more than enough room up front for fully-grown adults, while the rear seats can house three kids, or two adults with ease.

On the road – tar

The Hilux surprised us in this department, because we were under the impression that the Ranger was going to walk all over it in terms of performance.

The Ranger has a five-cylinder turbocharged diesel powertrain, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It produces 147kW and 470Nm of torque, so you’d forgive us for thinking it would outshine the Hilux’s older engine.

This particular topic is one of the main arguments between fans of these two vehicles. The Ford camp refers to the Toyota’s engine as “old” and “underpowered,” while the Toyota camp calls it “dependable” and “durable.”

It might surprise you to learn that the difference in performance between them isn’t that big. The Ranger has some serious legs, but the Toyota’s 120kW/343Nm engine isn’t really that far behind.

Under hard acceleration, the Hilux didn’t struggle to keep up with the Ranger. The Ranger only started inching away once the vehicles strayed far over the legal speed limit, which makes it a moot point anyway.

Having tested both models thoroughly in automatic guise, we have to admit that the Hilux’s old-school four-speed automatic gearbox is better.

The Ranger’s gearbox struggled to shift smoothly from first to second and it seemed confused by certain driving situations. It might just be a software issue, but it was rather irritating, waiting for the gearbox to decide which gear it wanted to use.

The four-speed ‘box in the Hilux may be old but it does a good job. It shifts smoothly in and around town and is even better when the going gets tough. A fifth gear would have been nice to improve long distance fuel consumption, but we’re sure this is something Toyota will be rectifying with the introduction of the all-new Hilux.

As for handling, there’s little difference between them. Both feel comfortable and solid on tarmac, but both likewise struggle to hide their agricultural roots. The Ranger gets the closest to feeling like a luxury SUV, but if comfort is your main consideration, you’d be way better off heading to the nearest VW dealership.

On the road – gravel

Driving these vehicles in isolation would have delivered a completely different verdict. The Ford felt planted and secure on smooth gravel, but on washboard and rocky surfaces it felt slightly skittish at speed.

We suspected the Hilux might be better at this sort of thing, but an immediate swap between vehicles proved the opposite. If anything, the Hilux felt less confident on the same road, especially under hard braking.

We suspect that it’s just in a bakkie’s nature to feel unsettled when pushing hard on a gravel road. Our test units’ loadbins had nothing in them, which meant there was very little weight over the back wheels. We also kept the tyre pressure the same as we did on the road, which could also explain why both cars felt a little bumpy.

We have to emphasise that neither vehicle felt as though it was on the verge of rolling over, or sliding out of control. Both these cars have very good four-wheel drive systems that keep them in check, not to mention the active safety systems that kick in when you start getting close to the limit.

The average owner will probably never drive at a pace he/she feels comfortable with and it’s with this in mind that we give both cars a pass.

It has to be said that the Ford’s cabin is better insulated against noise and vibration, but the Hilux felt as though it could do it all day long without breaking a sweat. Perhaps we’ve been conditioned to believe that the Hilux is extraordinarily tough, but from behind the wheel it really does feel as though it was carved out of solid block of granite.

Off the road

We started off with some sandpit driving, which merely demonstrated that we’d have to find something tougher to challenge these vehicles to a point where we could choose which was better.

Neither side is going to enjoy the verdict, because in our opinion, the one is as good as the other. A glance at either one’s specification sheet reveals that they are indeed fairly close. So close, in fact, that we reckon it all boils down to driver experience.

These bakkies are extremely capable off-road and it would take a very brave person to test them to the point that one would excel above the other.

During the off-road testing it became apparent that the cosmetic additions on both models were a problem. We couldn’t attempt one rocky decline in the Ranger for fear of damaging its fancy side steps. We completed the obstacle in the Hilux, but only because we dug a hole so that the expensive stainless steel bullbar wouldn’t dig into the ground.

As it turned out, these decorative features actually detract from the off-road prowess of both models. The cosmetics are good for show but are a real pain when you are on the go.

While the vehicles are equal off-road, it has to be said that the Ranger does make it easier for the driver to use its full potential. In the Hilux, you still use a gear lever to engage low-range but in the Ranger it’s as easy as turning a dial. The Ranger also comes as standard with hill descent control, which makes it easier going down a tricky obstacle.

Both vehicles come as standard with a locking rear differential, which made light work of the mostly rocky obstacles we completed during our test.

Value for money

The Hilux is the cheaper option, but the Ranger represents better value for money. The Wildtrak is R30 000 more, but in return you get a bigger engine, more equipment and a five-star Euro NCAP rating. The Ranger was the first LCV ever to receive this prestigious rating and this is definitely something a prospective buyer should consider if he/she regularly drives with the family on board.

One should also consider the fact that both these vehicles will be replaced within a few short months, and the new models might be worth waiting for.

The Ranger will receive a significant facelift, which will address some, if not all of the concerns we have raised, while an all-new Hilux will be launched early in 2016.

It gets even better, however, because in the coming months Mitsubishi was also be launching the new Triton and GWM will be including a 4×4 variant in its Steed 6 line-up. The new Navara might be launched in 2015, but Nissan has yet to confirm this.

Verdict

In one corner is the grey-bearded king of bakkie who’s reputation is legion, its trust and legendary status hard-earned and well-deserved over 45 years. In the other corner is the main pretender to the old king’s crown, a young and handsome upstart with fancy new tricks and modern ways. In many ways the choice between the two protagonists is an emotional one: some customers will decide in a more pragmatic manner with their heads, while others will give in to the whims of their hearts.

For us, there can be only one winner. Batting at the sharpest end of modern double cab design, the Ford Ranger boasts a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, a luxurious and comfortable SUV-like cabin, all the latest technological gadgets in the cabin, and a powerful and capable drivetrain. It is impossible to dismiss or ignore in this segment. It also looks the modern, dashing part.

In comparison, the trusty Hilux design is, despite some nifty Legend45 branding, fancy leather and other bling, 10 years old. When the next-generation Hilux finally arrives here in the first quarter of 2016 (and long overdue, we reckon), it should again be fighting fit to knock the modern bakkies off their pedestals. Until then though, measured bakkie-against-bakkie, the Ranger has got the Hilux’s number.

The king is old. Long live the new king.

Toyota Hilux Legend 45

 STANDARD FEATURES

Foglamps: Yes

Height/reach adj steering: Yes/No

Tuner/MP3 player: Yes/Yes

USB Terminal: Yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Aux input: Yes

Automatic air-con: Yes

Satellite navigation: No

Electric windows: Yes

Adj exterior mirrors: Yes

Remote central locking: Yes

Alarm/immobiliser: Yes

Leather upholstery: Yes

Driver/passenger airbags: Yes

Sidebags/curtain bags: Yes

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine

Type: four-cylinder turbocharged diesel

Displacement: 2982 cc

Max power: 120 [email protected] r/min

Max torque: 343 [email protected] r/min

Chassis and body

Layout: Front engine, 4×4 with low range

Frame: Steel uniframe

Brakes front: disc brakes

Brakes rear: drums

ABS/EBD: Yes/Yes

Alloy size: 17-inch

Tyres: 265/65 r17

Spare tyre: Full size

Steering: Power assisted

Turning circle: 6,3m

Suspension

Front: independent double wishbone, stabiliser

Rear: rigid axle, leaf springs

Drivetrain

Transmission type: four-speed automatic

Traction/stability control: Yes/Yes

Differential lock: Yes

Full-time 4WD: No

Dimensions

Vehicle weight:  2 650kg

Length:  5 260mm

Width:  1 835mm

Height: 1 860mm

Wheelbase: 3 085mm

Track front: 1 540mm

Track rear:  1 540mm

Load capacity: 845kg

Towing capacity (unbraked): 750kg

Towing capacity (braked): 2500kg

Ground clearance: 222mm

Claimed performance

Top speed: 170km/h

Overall fuel consumption: 9,7/100km (claimed)

Fuel tank size: 80 litres

Estimated tank range: 825km

Need to know

Price: R519 500

Price as tested: R519 500

Service plan: five-year/90 000km

Service intervals: 10 000km

Warranty: three-year/100 000km

 FORD RANGER WILDTRAK

 STANDARD FEATURES

Foglamps: Yes

Height/reach adj steering: Yes/Yes

Tuner/MP3 player: Yes/Yes

USB Terminal: Yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Aux input: Yes

Automatic air-con: Yes

Satellite navigation: No

Electric windows: Yes

Adj exterior mirrors: Yes

Remote central locking: Yes

Alarm/immobiliser: Yes

Leather upholstery: Yes

Driver/passenger airbags: Yes

Sidebags/curtain bags: Yes

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine

Type: Five-cylinder, turbocharged diesel

Displacement: 3198 cc

Max power: 147 [email protected] r/min

Max torque: 470 [email protected] r/min

Chassis and body

Layout: Front engine, 4×4 with low range

Frame: Steel uniframe

Brakes front: disc brakes

Brakes rear: drum brakes

ABS/EBD: Yes/Yes

Alloy size: 18-inch

Tyres: 265/60 r18

Spare tyre: Full size

Steering: Power assisted

Turning circle: 12.7m

Suspension

Front: double wishbone

Rear: leaf springs

Drivetrain

Transmission type: six-speed automatic

Traction/stability control: Yes/Yes

Differential lock: Yes

Full-time 4WD: No

Dimensions

Vehicle weight:  3 200kg

Length:  5 274mm

Width:  2 163mm

Height: 1 821mm

Wheelbase: 3 220mm

Track front: 1 560mm

Track rear:  1 560mm

Load capacity: 965kg

Towing capacity (unbraked): 750kg

Towing capacity (braked): 3 350kg

Ground clearance: 237mm

Claimed performance

Top speed: N/A

Overall fuel consumption: 9,3/100km (claimed)

Fuel tank size: 80 litres

Estimated tank range: 860km

Need to know

Price: R551 900

Price as tested: R551 900

Service plan: Five-year/90 000km

Service intervals: 15 000km

Warranty: Four-year/120 000km

Testing panel’s notes

 I found it extremely difficult to choose between these two vehicles because, while I recognise that the Ranger is the better car, I also have a deep emotional bond with the current-generation Hilux. It certainly has its faults, but if I had to choose a car to drive from Johannesburg to Kasane, the Hilux would be on the top of my list. In fact, we did just that late last year.

I also recognise that it’s not worth buying a car for its legendary durability purely because you might undertake an overland journey maybe once a year, especially not since there are other competitors out there that are way more comfortable on a day-to-day basis.

You also have to keep in mind that rival bakkies aren’t necessarily unreliable just because the Hilux has a reputation for being dependable. It’s just that the competition hasn’t been around for as long as the Hilux.

On the day of the test, the Ranger was the undisputed winner. It’s just as capable off-road as the Hilux, but it’s more modern and therefore much easier to live with. But if comfort is the most important attribute when you are in the market for a bakkie, you can’t ignore the existence of the VW Amarok. The Ranger is more comfortable than the Hilux, but the Amarok is the most comfortable bakkie in SA. It also comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is miles ahead of what the other manufacturers offer.

– Gerhard Horn

On paper – and, indeed, for most applications – the Ranger is a better bakkie than the Hilux. It is more powerful, more SUV-like and better equipped. Most of this test, though, took place on a 4×4 trail, and here I found the Hilux to be the better vehicle.

The Ford has more off-road bells and whistles, but it is hobbled by its size. It is too long and too wide for a tight off-road trail (and those side steps are a nightmare).

The average size of double cabs has increased steadily over the years, and while this has undoubtedly improved comfort and load-carrying capacity, it has also made these vehicles a bit clumsy and plodding on tight trails. Turning circles and break-over angles are becoming problematic.

The new Hilux is on its way, and I’m sure it will also be larger than the current version. For now, though, I prefer the feel of the Hilux on a trail. It feels more nimble and manoeuvrable than the Ranger. That nudge bar just really needs to go! – Gert van Rooyen

The Toyota Hilux does everything really well, without doing something extraordinarily in any specific area. It’s a WYSIWIG bakkie: what you see is what you get. No nasty surprises and everything where and how you expect it to be.

It’s a rock-solid option then, and one you can’t go wrong with. It even fares well in the resale value department (although that also means it’s in high demand for affirmative shopping types).

The Ford still has some points to prove, such as long-term reliability (there have been some teething issues), resale value, and so on. However, the Ranger is a new design compared to the Hilux, so it’s obviously more modern, safer and more comfortable.

Climbing out of the Hilux straight into the Ranger, the difference in age, space, comfort, packaging and luxury is obvious. The same applies in the driving department. Although there is surprisingly little difference in on-road performance, the Ranger feels more like an SUV than a bakkie.

Off-road, the two bakkies are very similar too, but the plastic and chrome bling on both units limits their off-road application to a large degree.

I personally prefer the kort stokkie Hilux application of the transfer case, though, rather than the electronic dial in the Ranger.

In the end it comes down to what I need from a double cab bakkie. And I need a comfortable, safe and modern double cab that can tow something big, compete some 4×4 duties, and into which I can throw a lounge suite now and again.

I have to believe, especially considering how long it has taken to develop, that the next-generation Hilux will tick all those boxes. But until the first quarter of 2016, when the new Hilux is due, the Ford Ranger fits the bill quite comprehensively. – Danie Botha.