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Test Drive: Toyota Hilux GR Sport

Firstly a Happy New Year to you all! Thank you very much for your support over the 13 years this website has existed. I appreciate it immensely.

6 years ago we test drove a standard Toyota Hilux on K’Garri Fraser Island on the East coast of Australia.  At the time it was already the best-selling vehicle in Australia and it has continued to be since, marking 7 consecutive year atop the charts in 2022. It is in the lead again after 11 months in 2023 but its archenemy the Ford Ranger has never been so close and the race is down to the wire. The current model has received a facelift in 2020 but it remains very similar to the current generation which launched in 2015. That means it’s starting to get old and needs some propping up to remain competitive.

Enter the Hilux GR Sport, GR for Gazoo Racing, the new top-spec of the Hilux range, based on the previous flagship, the Rogue. Inspired by the winning Hilux piloted by Nasser Al-Attiyah at the 2019 Dakar Rally. Toyota Western Australia, based in Perth, was kind enough to loan me a GR Sport for 10 days, ready for a true adventure north towards the Pilbara region. I have been to Western Australia before, coming through the Nullarbor plain to Perth and driving to Kalgoorlie, but this trip will be unknown territory for me. That’s exciting!

First on some specs for the Hilux GR Sport. It is priced at AUD73,990 before on-road costs, that’s 45,600€ or US$50,400. Its rivals are the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X and VW Amarok PanAmerica (both at AUD75,990) and the Nissan Navara Warrior (AUD69,990). The GR Sport is powered by the venerable 1GR 2.8-litre diesel engine that has been fitted to the Hilux since 2015 but tweaks have brought its power and torque up 10% to 165KW and 550Nm respectively. The six-speed auto transmission has also been recalibrated.

Now onto the modifications noticeable to the naked eye. The GR Sport is wider (135mm at the front and 155mm at the back) and taller (by 15mm) than a standard Hilux. The space between the wheels and wheel arches seems unusually high though. It however sports an imposing figure, both rugged and sporty. There’s a new matte silver skid plate to protect underbody elements. We also have red callipers behind the wheels and the GR logo appears multiple times on the body. Inside, the seats are leather and suede with the GR logo again on the head rest and there are red seatbelts for all occupants. The steering wheel also gets a GR logo. There are also aluminium driver pedals and an all-weather mat for both the driver and passenger which would end up being a game saver with all the red dust I carried onto the cockpit.

The dashboard shows the Hilux has aged, with a small 8-inch touch screen, a flurry of buttons and analog dials. You could say it is true to its functional self and avoids gimmicks, as is generally the case for Toyota models. There’s a lot of safety equipment, with ABS, Electronic Stability Control, Electronic Throttle Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert (which would prove useful at a busy holiday park) and lane-departure system.

How is the Hilux to drive? The first word that comes to mind is punchy, which is reassuring given its sporty credentials. Taking the GR Sport on long straight roads in the middle of nowhere was a good opportunity to let it stretch its legs and so it did! The acceleration at any gear is strong and makes passing very long road trains a breeze. You reach 140 km/h without even noticing it (shhh, don’t tell the police!). I didn’t get to drive the GR Sport into hardcore off-road tracks but it boasts solid stats with ground clearance and departure angle the same as the Rogue (265mm and 23 degrees) and approach slightly lower at 30 degrees vs. 31.

Our first stop on the trip is Kalbarri, population 4,000, 6h and 570 km north of Perth. Before reaching Kalbarri we stop at Hutt Lagoon Pink Lake which unfortunately isn’t that pink on the day, so no magical pictures for the Hilux! Then it’s a visit to Kalbarri National Park, starting with the Kalbarri Skywalk which offers sweeping views over the Murchison River Gorge’s red cliffs and river (not flowing at the time of visit). Nature’s Window (pictured above) is a unique stack of rocks framing the Murchison River. In the Skywalk’s car park I spotted my first Ineos Grenadier (pictured above) already equipped with bull bar and extra lighting. Driving the GR Sport a bit further, I got to enjoy a comfortable and spacious cockpit thanks party to the sport seats. The back row is also roomy with room for three people.

Our next stop is Denham near François Peron National Park, population 1,600, 4h and 374 km further north. It’s a sleepy village bordering aquamarine sea and boasting a palm-fringed beachfront. I spot a still rare Chery Omoda 5 here (pictured above). 26km north east of Denham is Monkey Mia where you dolphins get fed each morning. We only stay one night here and then are headed 7h and 683 km north to Exmouth, population 2,500. Exmouth was once a World War II submarine base and now thrives on tourism, fishing and gas exploration. It is the entry point to the Ningaloo Marine and Cape Range National Parks. The main attraction here is whale sharks but I visited outside the season which goes from April to July. I couldn’t see any turtles nesting and hatching either. Oh well, a good reason to come back! The western side of the cape towards the Indian Ocean is composed of a multitude of deserted wild beaches, but the most beautiful by far is Turquoise Bay (pictured above), aptly named with its while sand and turquoise waters.

Then it’s 7h30 and 618 km west directly into the Pilbara region and Karijini National Park. This region is almost solely focused on mining, with the company-built mining towns of Tom Price and Newman bookending the National Park. The Park features narrow gorges, hidden pools and spectacular waterfalls. I stayed at the Karijini Eco Retreat with spacious self-contained tents featuring real beds but being the start of the hot, summer season a lot of facilities were closed. As for the GR Sport, I was pleased by the storage space inside the cockpit, including large cup holders and generous door bins.

Next is the 3 day-long drive back south to Perth (1353 km), stopping at Kumarina and Mount Magnet. The entire length of the road has access to numerous mining sites as the main activity of the region. Seemingly endless ore trains cross the road in some parts. On the way back to Perth I saw a constant flow of mining-specced Toyota Hilux, hundreds of them as it is by far the favourite of mining companies. I only saw a few Ford Ranger and other vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 pickup. To conclude on this Test Drive of the Hilux GR Sport let’s mention intuitive controls (including the cruise control) which is a Toyota trademark.

– Satisfying punch and power

– Comfortable and spacious cabin

– Storage space

– Intuitive controls including cruise control

– Rugged and sporty exterior look

– Practicality including all-weather mats

– Lots of safety equipment

– Outdated dash

– GR Sport logos omnipresent

– Some pointless details (red seat belts)

– Noisy engine

This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Incredible, Australia is the best country in the World no doubt about it. Highly developed, very prosperous, great weather, amazing nature, a lot of resources, great economy, beautiful women, unlimited territory, etc, etc..

  2. Hi Matt, Happy New Year and many nice cars to test.
    The price is very good in Australia, here the Hilux GR sport is available for around 53,000 Euros.

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