– Review by Matt Brogan & Paul Maric. Photographs by Matt Brogan.
When we decided to run two of Australia’s favourite sport utes head-to-head this week, it was bound to cause some heated discussion around the CarAdvice office. Despite the pair of pick-ups having a slightly different application, they are still essentially the same high powered, tail happy tradie trucks that offer something just a bit above the boring old workhorse – real horsepower.
Now before we begin, remove purpose from this argument, because we well know these utes are essentially a sports car with a tray and that outright performance rates far more highly on the consideration list than payload or practicality in this instance. It’s this debate that in certain circles can start a bit of a ruckus.
You see most blokes see these utes as toys, or show ponies if you will, and more often than not will give a bit of lip to the well cut metro male for driving a ute that’s all go and show with no room to stow. But as we found out when it comes to at least one of the pair this criticism is well deserved.
The HiLux is a thoroughbred among working circles and has been, undoubtedly for very good reason, the number one seller in its class for sometime now. Consequently it would stand to reason that enhancing this tried and true formula even further should only improve the already accomplished package significantly – enter TRD.
Toyota Racing Development is the modern day moniker given to a collective of motorsport pedigree stretching back, in Australia at least, over fifty years.
In 1957 a Toyopet Crown finished 47th in the grueling Australia Mobilgas Rally and years later, perhaps most notably for us, Corolla won their category two years running at Bathurst (1968-69). Since those humble beginnings Toyota’s motor racing success both at home and abroad has been a varied and triumphant juggernaut.
This heritage has now filtered down in to road going vehicles with HiLux and Aurion both receiving some special treatment, and for but a few simple modifications, TRD have made the current series HiLux not only more powerful, but more desirable and better looking as well.
The underlying theme here is certainly nothing revolutionary.
Take a standard car, tweak it a little, bolt on a supercharger and bingo you’re done. But sadly the execution of such modifications typically results in a beastly, undriveable, and impractical vehicle that’s impossible to live with day to day – not much has changed.
At the heart of this brawny performance is a water-to-air intercooled twin rotor M90 Eaton screw type supercharger developed jointly with TRD and Magnuson Products to suit the 4.0 litre Toyota V6 appliqué.
Instead of using a turbo like many other post-production enhanced vehicles, a supercharger runs directly off the crank and does not need to overcome inertia in relying on the build up of exhaust pressure to spool.
The engine’s already adequate performance (174kW) is now pushed well up the food chain to pump out a meaty 225kW @ 5,500rpm thrusting the 1,800kg monster from standstill to 100km/h in a very tidy 7.2 seconds, provided you’re on the ball and provided the road is absolutely bone dry.
Torque figures are perhaps even more impressive with 453Nm on tap ‘til 3,400rpm offering strong, effortless in-gear pull and loads of low down grunt for tackling either heavy loads or towing.
It’s a noisy power, almost obtrusive though the aural characteristics offered in supercharging an engine, to me at least, are rather sublime. It’s a whining growl, curiously deep and corporally enticing almost as though it begs you to keep prodding the loud pedal, but in some instances you’ll do so at your own peril.
The five-speed auto is electronically controlled and collates data including throttle position, vehicle speed, engine speed, and braking signal to best adapt the transmission to suit the driver’s personality, again the execution of this drive-by-wire technology leaves a lot to be desired.
There’s a very fine line between inducing movement and losing the back end completely. The throttle pressure is just far too sensitive and the lack of ESP feels in some instances like a recipe for disaster.
In the dry, it’s fine, in fact it’s fun and so long as you’re not on a winding road you’ll no doubt enjoy the brutish power on tap, but if you find yourself with an empty tray on a rainy day then the lack of ESP, TCS, EBD and EBA will see maintaining course about as difficult as attempting brain surgery with your right foot.
TRD HiLux is indeed still somewhat useful as a workhorse and maintains its application as a utility vehicle rather well, but when it comes to offering a credibly sporty drive, either on or off road, that healthily tractable and flawless delivery has been left by the wayside.
Fuel economy is said to be a semi-respectable 12.9 litres per 100km which although achievable, is highly unlikely to be maintained given the uncontrollable temptation to stab the right foot over and again. Lest I mention the 15.8 litre average we managed for the best part of last week.
Improving the handling of sport utility vehicles without compromising carrying capacity is an impossibly incongruous task and in this instance swapping the standard shock absorbers for superb Bilstein monotubes and re-tuning the springs to slightly reduce ride height, was supposed to give the TRD HiLux a flatter roll axis, better distributed front to rear balance and crisper handling dynamics, it just hasn’t happened.
The handling is simply too stiff to put weight on the wheels and unless loaded, driving the TRD is one long drift session.
Upgraded front brakes with increased disc diametre and four pot calipers stop TRD HiLux with confidence and provide a progressive feel to the pedal with decent levels of feed back and rapid response on initiation, surprising when you consider there’s drums up back. Fade resistance has been greatly improved and when hauling up the stoppers time and again through twisty alpine roads I was impressed at just how sure the brakes felt, even after being given a considerably hard time.
Rack and pinion type power assisted steering feels a little lightly weighted, though it is purposeful and direct despite the car’s bulk offering a 12.2 metre turning circle. 17” six spoke alloy wheels unique to TRD models with 265/65 Bridgestone all-terrain tyres offer average grip on the black stuff (unless damp) but come at the cost of ever present road noise, which is unwelcomed when you also consider the basic stereo is somewhat lacking.
Other additional features exclusive to the TRD HiLux include an aggressive front bar and grille, leather covered gear shift knob and steering wheel, alloy side steps, black sports bar, TRD body decals, leather seats (4000SL only), silver Optitron instrument cluster, Datadot™ protection and individually numbered ID plates on the dash and in the engine bay.
The 4000SL also gains Bluetooth, Front Fog Lamps, Chrome Door Handles and Mirrors, Auto Disconnect Differential (LSD), Six CD Player and a (very basic) trip computer over the listed 4000S features. Astonishingly for the price you do not get heated seats, climate control, remote audio controls, or electronic and memorised seating.
How does it drive: 2/5
How does it look: 3.5/5
How does it go: 4/5
This test almost wasn’t meant to be. We were meant to be test driving HSV’s new LS3 GTS, but another publication broke something. We won’t name names. The Wheels were fine, but the gearbox wasn’t, so we were thrown the keys to the LS3 Maloo instead.
It’s the same story inside and out the LS3 Maloo. The only exterior difference lies on the badge, now reading ‘317’ instead of ‘307’. Our test vehicle was fitted with HSV’s optional ‘Performance Pack’ (priced at $3,750 – includes 20” wheels and performance seats), along with a spiffy new colour added to the HSV range – Karma.
Turning over the new LS3 powered HSV feels and sounds no different to the LS2 it replaces. The only difference which can be felt at idle is slightly less shaking from the engine. The LS2 notoriously shook the car about when idling – a trait which became old very quickly.
Unless you’re really trying for it, you won’t notice much of a change with the way the LS3 delivers power. Open up the taps and the story changes swiftly. North of 2500RPM the 6.2-litre V8 unit starts making plenty of noise and begins piling on torque until it reaches its maxima at 4600RPM. The mid-range note has altered slightly, achieving a deeper growl at flat stick.
Driving the HSV Maloo is unlike any other ute I’ve driven – and certainly unlike the TRD Hilux it faces in this comparo. Not only is the chassis extremely rigid, the Maloo changes directions without even a whimper of complaint. Steering feel is good, but could be considerable better when you consider the car’s sporting credentials. On top of that, the steering wheel is far too large. It feels like you’re steering a truck, not a sports ute.
Although the clutch on our test vehicle was abnormally light, the sticking point and length was great to work with both in stop-start traffic and when handing a serving to the Maloo.
The 6-speed manual gearbox takes some time to get used to. It’s an extremely tight unit and requires a fair bit of muscle to lob between first and second gear. Third is also a bit tricky to grab at times and isn’t as seamless as it should be.
Slicing through a set of corners doesn’t fuss the Maloo either. It holds its own through corners and feels firmly planted at all times. It does get a bit twitch if you get on the throttle too early though, so you need to remain on your best behaviour until the exit of the corner.
Although, the ESP does a tremendous job of keeping the Maloo in check at all times.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Holden have co-developed the best ESP system in the business and the way it catches the Maloo when the unexpected arises leaves little to be desired.
It’s also unobtrusive, allowing you to really exercise the Maloo’s full potential.
The stellar cross-drilled rotors (measuring 365mm up front and 350mm at the rear), coupled with AP Racing 4-piston callipers endlessly pull the Maloo up with ferocious demeanour. HSV claims the Maloo pulls up from 100km/h in just 36-metres when it’s dry.
Inside the cabin it’s HSV territory. Dash mounted gauges and white-faced dials impress onlookers. The seats are certainly built for larger folks and as such you move around about during hard cornering – a perfect excuse to eat some more junk food!
Build quality sits in line with the rest of Holden’s range – nothing spesh. Plastics are relatively cheap and the sound system is utterly abysmal. It offers no bass at all and reception is rarely good.
There is storage room behind the seats but it’s very hard to reach. The release for the driver’s seat is wedged in between the seat and the B-pillar. The passenger’s side is even worse, with the release located on the driver’s side of the passenger seat.
The rear vision mirror is quite ironic when you consider the only places you can see out of the Maloo are forward, left or right. The rear vision mirror points directly into the hard-top, while the rear side windows offer no assistance when it comes to lane changing.
This is the point at which the ‘Maloo shuffle’ is employed. It’s a move where the driver lurches forward and shuffles their head and body to look toward the side mirror, then out the side window, while trying to catch and glimpse of any activity via the rear vision mirror! A highly complex process!
Powering HSV’s LS3 Maloo is a 6.2-litre V8 producing 317kW and 550Nm of torque. HSV claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 15.8-litres/100km for the manual Maloo. We recorded a higher fuel consumption, this was due to the vehicle still being run in.
At $61,550, the Maloo is the cheapest way to get into a V8 powered HSV. It is an unbelievable amount of fun to drive and gets endless amounts of attention wherever it goes. As performance utes go, they really don’t get much better than this.
How does it drive: 3.5/5
How does it look: 4/5
How does it go: 4/5
At the end of the day, Toyota’s asking price for the TRD Hilux is almost laughable. The lack of features and lack of driving aids place the TRD Hilux in an awkward position. It’s practically undriveable in the wet with an unloaded tray, while the lack of steering feel and fuel consumption rule it out as a justifiable purchase.
Although the Maloo doesn’t fare much better in the fuel consumption department and carries only half of the TRD’s payload, it defines a sports ute. A sports ute isn’t bought for practicality or to be used as a workhorse, it’s bought to look good and meet a certain individual’s styling requirements.
In this comparo, the win goes to the Maloo – hands down. The TRD Hilux is simply too much of a handful at the best of times and is overpriced when compared to the Maloo.