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What is the best Toyota HiLux engine?

The Hilux has competed in such motorsport events as the Dakar Rally with a significant measure of success. Not only that but the Hilux proved to be so ruggedly dependable that it even had a war named after it; the Chadian-Libyan war of 1987 became colloquially known as the “Toyota War” because the Hilux became the transport of choice for combatants of both sides. In fact, the Toyota Hilux has even been referred to as the vehicle equivalent of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s AK47 military rifle.

Those things have been helpful in building the Hilux’s public image as a reliable and near-indestructible vehicle: but the real strength of the Hilux, the thing that has made it a best seller for decades, has been its reputation for excellence in quality control and dependability with owners when someone is going to go and buy a truck for work or play they are not likely to put much stock in what the advertising says, nor in what a salesman says.

The thing that decides a potential buyer of a Hilux is what ordinary owners have to say about it: it has been those word of mouth recommendations that have ensured the Toyota Hilux has held its ground as a best selling utility vehicle over five decades of production.

The Toyota Hilux came from humble beginnings as an inconspicuous little utility truck not made by Toyota at all. It began life as a small truck made by Japanese vehicle maker Hino, and it was originally called the Hino Briska.

Back in the 1960’s Hino were making both commercial vehicles and passenger cars based on the French Renault 4CV. The Hino passenger car was the Hino Contessa, and it featured the same rear engine and rear-wheel-drive layout of its Renault 4CV parent, while the Hino Briska pick-up truck used some of the same components but laid out in a conventional front-engine rear-wheel-drive arrangement.

During the 1960s, Toyota and Hino entered into discussions with a view to working together on the Briska light truck. Toyota made some suggestions as to ways the Briska could be improved and by 1967 the two companies had made an agreement for Hino to manufacture the Briska as the Toyota Briska.

This version of the Briska was the Hino FH series that was given the Toyota model code GY10. The newly-minted “Toyota” Briska arrived in Toyota dealerships in early 1968, and it boasted twin headlights and a 1,251 cc in-line four-cylinder engine delivering 62 bhp, which was slightly updated from the original Hino specification. It would not be sold for long, however, as it was to be replaced by the first of the Toyota Hilux models.

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.

1984-1998 – 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 4×4 LDV in the world. It is reliable, robust and unstoppable off-road.

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 “bumpiness” and makes it reasonably comfortable on the road. As a Trail and Obstacle rider, there are very few vehicles that will out-do a standard SFA Hilux, and therefore they are very popular with those who like more serious off-road challenges.

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 are just bolt-on.

These vehicles 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, others are of the opinion that they love their 2.4 and will not trade it for a 2.2. So I think it depends 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, taxis 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 4×4. 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 Diesel that overheated and blew the head gasket or cracked the head.

Some 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 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-six 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 airflow 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 nippier in traffic and makes overtaking on the open road a lot easier.

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 carburettor fed 4×4 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 loses power or even stalls. The fuel injection conversion eliminates this problem completely.

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 carbon long steep inclines. As far as kW’s are concerned it slots in about halfway 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 extreme hot crawling conditions. Many owners add bonnet vents to allow hot air from the two exhaust manifolds to escape from the engine bay.

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 everyday 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”?

Because these vehicles have leaf springs all round, they do offer a bit more bumpy ride than the newer models.

These vehicles 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 only R50,000.

Always bear in mind that engine conversions always reduce the resale value of a vehicle. The inherent overall reliability is also somewhat compromised, although with regular maintenance and a proactive approach a conversion can be as reliable as a standard vehicle.

The 1998 – 1999 IFS models

These 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. Initially, they tried an Alpine Turbo conversion on the normal 3.0 Diesel, but it was a disaster, and it is one of the models you should not consider buying.

These models 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.

These vehicles 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 4×4 forums about the off-road ability of an SFA vs IFS. I own an IFS model, and I can clear the air for you on this one. If you are into serious off-roading and 4×4 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 an axle twister on a steep incline. An IFS cannot handle this as well as an SFA. The other one is when going up dunes. This article by Benhur explains it very well, click here

But if you are more into Overlanding and just normal rough terrain, the IFS will perform just as well. With all the 4×4 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 off-road ability is a diff-lock. An IFS Hilux with a diff-lock will outperform an 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 an 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 4×4 can be called “economical”). If you drive like a normal person, you can expect 7 to -8.5km/l on the open road, and 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, and 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 a powerful engine which makes the drivability a pleasure. You have enough power for long uphills and 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 types of diesel.

In my biased opinion, these models offer the best balance between comfort, reliability, off-road 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.

The new models – 2005 till now

Undoubtedly the most comfortable and economical option. Especially the 3.0 D4-D is a brilliant balance between a powerful and economic 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 bodywork including the load bin), not the overall vehicle. Obviously, bakkies are not being built to work with anymore. If you need your 4×4 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.

Which is best – Petrol or Diesel?

It’s a tough call. Toyota engines have an absolutely brilliant record for reliability, whether they or petrol or diesel. They haven’t suffered many of the problems that have afflicted diesel engine ranges here in South Africa for various reasons (often due to hard high-altitude running and low fuel quality).

A quick guide is that in the workmanlike single-cab models if you are using a single cab bakkie for light loads, you would probably be advised to go for a petrol variant, as they are cheaper. As an example, the base 2.0 petrol model costs R259 600, while the base 2.4 GD-6 model in the same spec costs R294 500, a price difference of almost R35 000. The extra torque of the diesel, for heavier loads, would be recommended.

The cheaper Double Cab variants come with either 2,7-litre petrol or 2,4-litre diesel. Here the price difference (in similar trim spec) is just over R23 000, with the diesel the more expensive model. That is quite a lot of money to recoup in better fuel consumption figures that the diesel models offer.

In the pricey double cab 4X4 sector we would probably recommend going for the 2.8 GD-6 models, as your fuel consumption is going to be a lot more palatable than if you opt for the 4,0-litre V6. As price examples, the 2.8 GD-6 Double Cab 4X4 Raider costs R637 500, while the 4.0 V6 4X4 Raider costs R680 400.

That V6 makes a wonderful sound, far nicer than the diesel noise, and has great acceleration, but if you use your Double Cab 4X4 as a daily run-about, you are going to be using much more fuel than the claimed 11,8 litres/100 km. The claimed figure for the 2.8 GD-6 is 8,5 litres/100 km, and in our experience, it is far easier to achieve consumption in a diesel that is closer to the claimed figures. So in the top categories, we would probably go the 2.8 GD-6 route.

Petrol Engines

The petrol engines on offer are the:

  • 2,0-litre four-cylinder
  • 2,4-litre four-cylinder
  • 4,0-litre V6

The 2,0-litre petrol produces 102 kW and 183 Nm of torque. 

The 2,4-litre offers 122 kW and 245 Nm of torque. 

The 4,0-litre V6, the prestige engine in the Hilux line-up, delivers 175 kW and 376 kW. It is only available in 4X4 Double Cab Raider format, only with a six-speed automatic gearbox, and is the top-priced model.

Diesel Engines

There are two diesel engines in the Hilux range, both of them four-cylinders. 

  • These start with the 2.4GD-6 (the “6” doesn’t refer to cylinder numbers, but is a series number), which delivers 110 kW and 343 NM. 
  • The top diesel engine is the 2.8GD-6 (again, this is a four-cylinder), which boasts 130 kW and 420 Nm. Both are turbocharged with variable vane-housing characteristics to increase low-speed torque.

Toyota Hilux diesel engine

The 2.4-litre diesel engine fitted to the Hilux has 148bhp. That may not sound like much, but it actually has plenty of pulling power – enough to haul a 3,200kg load using the tow bar or carry up to 1,120kg in the load bed. The Nissan Navara has more power and is a little faster, but the Hilux will be swift enough for most. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 13.2 seconds with the manual gearbox and 12.7 seconds with the automatic. As mentioned earlier, we’d recommend saving £1,500 by choosing the manual – it’s smooth and makes the Hilux more economical, too. The top speed for both is 105mph.

Hilux vs The World

With the Ford Ranger challenging the Hilux’s top spot in 4×4 ute sales and, in fact, taking it in 2017, Toyota isn’t resting on its laurels.

Fresh Hilux variants go on sale this month with the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X editions accessorised to appeal to a broader market than the traditional tradie and man-on-the-land buyer. Top-of-the-range utes such as the Hilux SR5 continue to grow in popularity, showing an appetite for utes that are more refined, safer and, in some ways, more sporty.

New utes such as the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Ford Ranger Raptor will see prices higher than the segment has ever seen before, and you can bet Toyota will deliver a Hilux to compete with them. As such, we can expect more of these top-end models to be launched to market, taking the price of the Hilux and its competitors well into the $70,000 bracket and beyond.

The traditional Aussie ute might be dead, but our appetite for 4×4 light trucks is as aggressive as ever, and as long as that is still the case, light trucks like the Hilux will continue to be an important part of the landscape.

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 off-roading, speed is not important to you, and you love the robust naked feeling of a real 4×4, 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 it.

If you like more comfort and speed, but you need your 4×4 every now and then for the odd Overlanding trip or 4×4 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. However, you still need a tough and reliable bakkie at an affordable price, then 1998 till 2005 IFS is for you.

If you have the money and comfort and speed is a must, and you need to go to places where a normal car cannot take you, then the latest model is yours.

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