Toyota Hilux 2.5G Gets Variable Turbo Punch

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Toyota Hilux is a top-seller in the local pick-up market but it doesn’t mean that it can’t flow with the winds of change. When the efficient variable nozzle turbo (VNT) technology became the preferred choice for many carmakers, it was definitely time to adopt the system too.

The variable nozzle feature was first introduced to the Hilux 3.0G (3.0-litre) when the latest model was launched in 2011. Now, a year later, it is included in the 2.5-litre models too. The variable nozzle on the turbine varies the vane angles to tap exhaust gas flow, especially at low engine speeds when exhaust gas is just building up and the flow is weak. By having the vanes at the optimum angle, the exhaust gas can turn the turbine quick enough to draw in air and feed it into the combustion chamber.

This good charge of air at low engine speeds leads to strong output being developed earlier and quickly through improved combustion, improving torque and power significantly. Compared to the non-variable nozzle engine, the VNT D-4D engine punches out 106kW (144PS) at 3400rpm and 343Nm from 1600rpm to 2800rpm. The non-VNT unit delivers 75kW (102PS) at 3600rpm and 260Nm. Moreover, the peak torque is similar to that produced by the 3.0-litre diesel except that the bigger unit delivers it over a wide engine speed of 1400rpm to 3200rpm. The 3.0-litre unit also offers more power at 120kW (160PS) at 3400rpm.

UMW Toyota Motor has also introduced the Fortuna 2.5G with the same VNT technology to give it the additional kick for strong SUV motoring. A recent media drive to sample this stronger power was made with the Hilux only. This was a journey between the car company’s headquarters in Shah Alam and the Belum Rainforest Reserve near Gerik, a distance of more than 200km, of which 60 per cent comprised highway driving, 30 per cent secondary roads, and 10 per cent offroad.

We could also make a comparison between old and new models (all four-speed automatics) by driving them on successive legs of the journey. We started with the Hilux VNT, driving mainly on highways, followed by the non-VNT Hilux on secondary roads. The offroad drive involved only the Hilux VNTs and it took us to one of the lower peaks of the main range.

To ensure traction on the offroad trail near Gerik, the Hilux VNTs were fitted with A/T (all terrain) tyres that have wider grooves to provide grip. On tarmac surfaces, such tyres tend to generate more noise and raise the level of road roar. While it was not intrusive in the passenger cabin, we were mindful of a low and constant drone as we drove along the highway to Ipoh.

The ride was also slightly harder. Coupled with the rear single leafspring suspension, ride was definitely bumpy as if we were driving on a serrated washboard once used in the old days. Taking a nap in the front passenger seat was almost impossible (as we were not that sleepy), much less in the rear passenger seat.

When we moved over to the non-VNT Hilux that were running on the standard H/T (highway tyres) rubbers, we welcomed the quieter and more pliant ride. At least, we could catch 40 winks as a passenger.

The more important note here was the power difference. With the Hilux VNT, we got it going quickly without too much prompting of the accelerator, pushing the speedo needle beyond 160km/h soon enough on open stretches. Turbo lag was minimal and the gearing was on the economical side: at 2000 to 2200rpm in fourth gear, we were cruising comfortably at 110 to 120km/h.

The impression was less hearty when we drove the non-VNT Hilux. We immediately felt the lack of engine response and the harder we hit the accelerator pedal, the more turbo lag we experienced. We had to be more progressive with the accelerator pedal to get the ‘older’ Hilux to gain the same cruising speed and momentum.

As our drive with the older Hilux was on secondary roads, this absence of ‘oomph’ led to a lack of confidence for overtaking manoeuvres. We opted not to take chances and chose clear straight stretches for the passing move. We believed we would have taken more ‘calculated’ chances with the Hilux VNT.

Though we felt the Hilux VNT engine ran smoother against that in the non-VNT model, it was more of a case of the difference in mileage. The VNT models had mileage below 500km while the older models had mileages above 8000km, and which had gone through some pretty robust demo drives at the respective sales outlets.

The 12km offroad experience saw mostly dry trails, with some deeply rutted spots, some mild mudholes, and a few steep inclines, as well as a wooden obstacle near the peak. With all the four wheels engaged in High mode, the Hilux VNT took it all in its stride. The high approach and departure angles also allowed the Hilux to take and go down steep inclines without the underbody hitting the earth, one of the reasons why it is popular in Sabah and Sarawak.

The improved power also seemed to be capable of taking on a higher load: the Hilux VNT showed no lack of pace going up a steep incline with more than 10 people on board, some holding firmly to the rear roll bar on the load bay.

Apart from the variable nozzle turbo engine, the Hilux Intercooler VNT is little changed from the ‘older’ model except for the prominent air scoop on the bonnet, first seen on the 3.0G VNT. This bonnet scoop is also featured on the Fortuner 2.5G Intercooler VNT.

It adds a macho look that some will welcome though it also serves a practical role: it provides gushes of fresh and cool air to the intercooler located on top of the engine. Cool air is denser and burns more readily to produce power. At the same time, the intercooler also has a fuel cooler that ‘chills’ the fuel returning to the tank so that its viscosity remains constant.

Stepping inside the Hilux, you could imagine going into a Toyota car: the dashboard layout and interior equipment are similar, and just as ergonomical and user friendly. What is updated in the VNT model is the new Bluetooth feature for music streaming and mobile phone connection. The 2.5G model also comes with GPS and reverse camera that uses the fairly large monitor on the centre dash area.

It appears the Hilux Intercooler VNT 2.5G is introduced at the same price as the older model, which seems like a bargain. The four-speed automatic model goes for RM99,988 on the road with insurance while the five-speed manual model is available at RM94,988. It is available in four metallic colours: Dark Steel Mica, Silver Metallic, Medium Silver Metallic and White.

Photo Gallery