Toyota Hilux to Choose?
find it hard to decide which 4x4 to buy. But once you realised that
the option for you will be a Toyota Hilux, which Hilux must you
If you read
the comments on our Hilux
Forum you will see that there are many different views on this
The right Hilux
for you is... the one that will suit your needs. It all depends
on what you need the vehicle for. There are different Hiluxes for
different people. It will depend on your budget, whether you want
to do serious adrenalin off-roading or just drive through the country
side and climbing one or two mountains every now and then with your
In the article
below I express my own personal views on the various Hilux models
available. I gathered the information below from personal experience,
things I heard my friends and fellow Hilux owners say about their
vehicles and by reading the comments on the Hilux
Forum. Eric Skeen and Thys de Jager was also very helpful in
adding some valuable content to this article.
I will not go
into the details of specific models to discuss the difference between
the one with the pop-up cap holder vs the one with the sliding cup
holder, the aim of this article is rather to compare the various
age models and you can decide about the cup holder for yourself.
- The OLD legendary, reliable SFA (Solid Front Axle) Toyota Hilux
I am sure that
these Hiluxes are the ones which earned Toyota the reputation for
building the best 4x4 LDV in the world. It is reliable, robust and
The SFA Hilux is particularly
suited to more serious off road work, and is pretty uncomfortable
on-road for day to day use. Tweaks to the suspension and bigger
tyres can alleviate a lot of the "bumpyness" and makes
it reasonably comfortable on road. As a Trail and Obstacle rider
there are very few vehicles that will out-do an standard SFA Hilux,
and therefore they are very popular with those who like more serious
In standard form it was
also quite slow on the open road and heavy on fuel in town. Therefore
many Hilux owners are continually looking for better performance
with better fuel efficiency. As a part of this quest many engine
conversions were done in the past, with the Ford 3.0 V6 and Toyota
7MGE early favourites in the 90's because of their availability
and the amount of "cheap" horses they delivered. Some
turbo conversions were also attempted, but with minimal success.
As Engine Management
Systems and software improved and became more freely available and
easier to install, program and maintain, new improvements for more
power became possible. Many owners now do EFI conversions on their
4Y and 22R motors and report fantastic gains in torque, power and
fuel efficiency. This makes the "standard" SAF Hilux more
usable on the open road, in town and also in the bush where it enhances
its already legendary reputation.
Due to the sheer
numbers of these Hiluxes that were produced and modified, aftermarket
"look-mean" accessories are plentiful, relatively cheap
and mostly they just bolt on.
have a solid front axle in front with leaf springs. The SFA contributes
to its good off-road performance. They were available in a 2.2 Petrol
(4y engine), 2.4 Petrol (22R engine), 2.4 Diesel (2L engine) and
the 2.8 Diesel (3L engine).
It seems like
the 2.2 petrol is the most popular amongst SFA owners. Although
the 2.4 petrol might be a little bit more powerful you pay for it
by means of higher fuel consumption. Some SFA owners say that the
little bit more power does not justify the extra fuel you use, other
are of the opinion that they love their 2.4 and will not trade it
for a 2.2. So I think it depend on your driving style and whether
you can afford the fuel or not. With the 2.2 if you drive like a
gentleman you can expect 7 to 8 km/l and with the 2.4 5 to 6.5km/l.
The 2.2 petrol
4y engine is one of those legendary indestructible engines used
in many delivery vehicles, taxi's etc. It is easy to work on and
the spares are available all over Africa and in South Africa. Spares
are not over-expensive.
The 2.4 Diesel
was the first attempt of a diesel 4x4. It is the absolute donkey
of them all. If you need it on the farm it is a good reliable vehicle
but on the open road it is not a good idea. The 2.8 Diesel was a
bit more powerful but some owners say that you must not expect much
more than 120km/h on the open road from it. Unfortunately we hear
every now and then about 2.8 Diesels that overheated and blew the
head gasket or cracked the head.
popular conversions to obtain more power are:
- The fitment
of a 3.0 litre Toyota Cressida or Toyota Supra engine. This engine
is a straight six engine and fits neatly in the engine bay.
The engine Code is 7M-GE and you can click
here for more information on it. Apparently it is better
to use the Supra's engine because it has the right sump on it.
The Cressida Engine's sump has to be modified not to collide with
the front diff.
The 7M-GE gives oodles of power in the middle to upper reaches
of the rev range and in the right hands and in the right gear
is virtually unstoppable. Things to look out for is the head gasket,
which needs to be torqued 20% more than manufacturer's spec. This
is as a result of a change in the composition of the head gaskets
(elimination of asbestos) but the oversight of Toyota to not increase
the torque spec. Also make sure that cooling is done effectively,
especially when crawling up mountains in low range at slow speed.
Due to the length of the straight 6 engine the viscous fan couplings
have to be discarded if a standard radiator setup is preferred.
Most of these conversions run with electric fans to maintain air
flow thru the radiator.
On the open road, the 7M-GE performs really well and gives better
fuel consumption than the standard 4Y/22R. It also makes the vehicle
more nippy in traffic and makes overtaking on the open road a
- A fuel injection
conversion. Fuel injection on both the 2.2 and 2.4 petrol engines
result in more power, smoother running engine and no stalling
on steep inclines. One huge disadvantage of a carburetor fed 4x4
is that it runs out of fuel when you go up a long steep incline
like a dune. Just before you reach the top the engine looses power
or even stalls. The fuel injection conversion eliminates this
here to read about a fuel injection conversion done on a 2.4 Hilux
- The Ford
3.0 V6 Conversions were done by many conversion specialists in
the 80's/90's to boost the power output of the Hilux. It was a
relatively cheap solution at the time and brought with it more
power and also some (if not that much) gains in fuel efficiency.
Some of these conversions still run today and some are even being
converted to EFI to increase power and to eliminate the problem
with fuel starvation to the carb on long steep inclines. As far
as kW's are concerned it slots in about half way between the 4Y/22R
and the 7M-GE. Being a V motor and therefore "shorter"
than the 7M-GE, the original viscous fan couplings can be retained
which makes for fail safe engine cooling. Fuel lines must be routed
with care to prevent petrol "percolating" in in extreme
hot crawling conditions. Many owners add bonnet vents to allow
hot air from the 2 exhaust manifolds to escape from the engine
- Lately the
3RZ-FE 2.7i motor was also installed in a few SFA Hiluxes with
varying degrees of success. Once again, with the advances in technology
and engines and EMS's becoming cheaper and more readily available,
this conversion will become more popular. Being a tried and trusted
motor that already became a legend in its own right, this is one
of the better conversions available at the moment.
- The Lexus
V8 conversion is also becoming more popular. Initially there were
lots of problems especially with the engine management system,
but it seems like most guys now sorted that problem as well. Although
this is the ultimate conversion for more power, it is not the
route I would suggest for your every day vehicle. The Lexus V8
is very powerful and if you do not drive carefully you might end
up doing damage to the axles and diffs. With all that power, who
can drive "normally"?
vehicles have leaf springs all round they do offer a bit more bumpy
ride than the newer models.
are very popular. Do not be surprised if you have to pay R120,000
for an old model of which the useless "book value" is
Always bear in mind that
engine conversions always reduces the resale value of a vehicle.
The inherent overall reliability is also somewhat compromised, although
with regular maintenance and a pro-active approach a conversion
can be as reliable as a standard vehicle.
1998 - 1999 IFS models
were available in a 2.7i Petrol (3RZ engine), a normal 3.0 litre
Diesel ( 5L engine). The 3.0 Turbo Diesel (KZ-TE) was added later
on in 2001 or 2002. Initialy they tried a Alpine Turbo conversion
on the normal 3.0 Diesel but it was a disaster and it is one of
the models you should not concider buying.
offered much more features than the older models. After 1998 we
saw a "bakkie" being transformed into a luxurious thing
that looks and acted as "bakkie" but reminded you of a
car on the inside. The "bakkie" feeling was gone. Now
we had airbags, central locking, power steering, aircon and a lot
of electronic gadgets. Most of these models also featured a factory
fitted rear diff -lock. And YES, all models actually
had a slide out CUP HOLDER.
offer a much more comfortable ride than the older models because
of the Independent Front Suspension (IFS). You will always find
a huge debate on all 4x4 forums about the offroad ability of a SFA
vs IFS. I own a IFS model and I can clear the air for you on this
one. If you are into serious off-roading and 4x4 competitions, then
the SFA is without doubt the best option. It will outperform the
IFS system by far on extreme offroad conditions. There are two conditions
in particular where I can experience the difference. The one is
if you have a axle twister on a steep incline. An IFS cannot handle
this as well as a SFA. The other one is when going up dunes. This
article by Benhur explains it very well, click
But if you are
more into overlanding and just normal rough terrain the IFS will
perform just as well. With all the 4x4 trails we did so far the
IFS Hiluxes can go up 99% of the places the SFA can go. Something
that makes a bigger difference in offroad ability is a diff-lock.
An IFS Hilux with a diff-lock will outperform a SFA Hilux without
a diff-lock. So if you are just a normal family man looking for
some adventure and good moments with the family, then you will most
probably not need a SFA and you can rather enjoy the comfort and
luxury of an IFS Hilux.
The 2.7i engine
is another indestructible engine. I have heard of 3 of these so
far with more than 700,000Km on the clock with the engine being
still original and it seems like reaching 500,000km without working
on the engine is not uncommon for these vehicles. The 2.7 is much
more powerful than its predecessors. They are also rather economical
(if any 4x4 can be called "economical"). If you drive
like a normal person you can expect 7 to -8.5km/l on the open road.
You will have enough power to comfortably cruise at 130km/h and
still get 7.5km/l. If you go over 140km/h you will see the consumption
drop down to as low as 6km/l
In 2003 this
model had a facelift and unfortunately Toyota's engineers tampered
with the configuration of the fuel system. Above mentioned consumption
figures are for the pre-facelift models. After the facelift the
consumption dropped to about 6.5 km/l but at least you were rewarded
with a more powerful engine. The basic engine remained the same,
it was just the fuel system that was changed. You can click
here for an interesting article on this subject.
The 3.0 KZ-TE
turbo diesel is powerful engine which makes the drivability a pleasure.
You have enough power for long uphills and a fuel consumption of
about 8km/l or better (under normal driving conditions). The KZ-TE
also features all of the gadgets.
The normal 3.0
Diesel is the reliable workhorse of the family. Although not as
fast and powerful as the KZ-TE it is much better than the old SFA
2.4 and 2.8 Diesels.
In my biased
opinion these models offers the best balance between comfort, reliability,
offroad ability and good looks. They will take you to 99% of places
the SFA will but in much more comfort. They are still hard and robust,
not as soft as the new models.
The last ones
of these were offered in a "Legend 35" model which is
a very sexy option featuring chromed Roll and Nudge bars.
new models - 2005 till now
the most comfortable and economical option. Especially the 3.0 D4-D
is a brilliant balance between a powerful and economical engine.
I believe their off-road ability is just as good as that of the
previous IFS models. Apparently they are soft and not as tough as
the older models. "Soft" refers to the body work including
the load bin), not the overall vehicle. Obviously bakkies are not
being built to work with anymore. If you need your 4x4 to work with
rather opt for some of the previous models, they are the real thing.
BUT if you would
like to ride in comfort, you like overlanding and you like going
places where others can't and the only load you need to carry is
your camping gear and luggage, then I cannot see why one cannot
use the new model.
I see on the
forum that the owners of the new Hilux's are a quiet bunch. So I
presume that they have not encountered any serious problems yet
which makes us believe that the traditional Toyota reliability has
been maintained in these models.
There is a Hilux
for everyone. Your budget, needs and personal taste will determine
which one will be your next Hilux.
If you are into
serious offroading, speed is not important to you and you love the
naked robust feeling of a real 4x4, then the old SFA is for you.
There is just something about these bakkies which you do not find
in any other vehicle. If you buy one you will fall in love with
If you like
more comfort and speed but you need your 4x4 every now and then
for the odd overlanding trip or 4x4 trail or if you are a photographer,
birder, etc and you need to get to places where a car or Land Rover
cannot take you but you still need a tough and reliable bakkie at
an affordable price, then the 1998 till 2005 IFS is for you.
If you have
the money and comfort and speed is a must and you need to go places
where a normal car cannot take you, then the latest model is yours.