The Toyota Hilux is the undisputed best-selling vehicle in South Africa, and its certainly the most-loved without a doubt, the proof is in the Naamsa numbers every single month.
September saw the automaker sell 3410 units, and exported another 3648.
The Hilux spans a legacy, of over five decades in SA, and there's something about it that makes every single bakkie lover weak in the knees. So imagine the desire that pumps in the hearts of thousands of men, and women, when they come face to face with the new Legend 50, or the Hilux GR Sport.
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I had recently driven an onslaught of the latest bakkie offerings in the market and I was convinced the Ford Ranger Raptor was the best I have ever driven. Then, I drove the Hilux Legend 50 and the GR Sport respectively. I was no longer so sure of my adamant decision. Each of these has its strengths and even right now I can't rank these models in a particular order without fighting with myself.
Earlier in 2019 Toyota launched a bespoke limited-edition model Hilux boasting the ‘GR’ logo. The Hilux GR Sport is the second tier in the GR-product pyramid with superb suspension upgrades and cosmetic enhancements. Alongside it, the automaker also launched the Hilux Legend 50 to celebrate five decades of the bakkie in SA.
The GR Sport features Gazoo Racing branding and signature red/white/black decals. It comes in three body colours; Glacier White, Arizona Red or Attitude Black.
The GR Sport has an enlarged, honeycomb front grille with distinctive Toyota lettering (akin to the Dakar race vehicle) and a gloss-black finish, and a GR badge. The vertical fog-light garnish features a red or white outline (dependent on exterior colour), all models have a black bonnet and roof. Black accents are extended to the side mirrors, GR-branded tubular side steps, over-fenders and GR-Sport specific 17” alloy wheels wrapped in 265-65-R17 tyres.
Inside there's a unique interior, with red accents and a black leather interior which features red contrast stitching and GR logos embroidered on the headrests and carpets. A GR-branded start button just stands out and is thrilling to push every single time you start the bakkie. Each Hilux GR Sport includes a branded production plate and serial number.
But it's the Hilux GR’s bespoke Gazoo Racing uprated and tuned suspension that makes me fall helplessly in love and makes this bakkie's driving dynamics top class. The shock absorbers here feature a monotube design with revised damping, working in conjunction with increased front spring rates to offer a sportier ride without even upsetting ride comfort for driver or passengers. It's handling and driving dynamics are incredible and it just absorbs any bumps or potholes like a sponge. The rear leaf spring rates have been left unaltered. The GR Sport almost drives like a sporty SUV, yet it's tougher than anything else. It can work hard and is incredibly comfortable at the same time.
Toyota first debuted the Legend 35 in 2004 as a tribute to the success and heritage of the Hilux. This was followed by the Legend 40, built on the global IMV platform, and Legend 45 in 2009 and 2014 respectively, according to the automaker.
The Legend 50's highlights are purely aesthetic with an upgraded infotainment system, steering wheel functionality, and a reverse camera.
The front upper and lower grille has full black-out treatment (in gloss), with matching fog-light surrounds, along with silver accents and a silver lower bumper guard. The Legend 50 badging is offset to the left complementing the LED headlights with daytime running lights (DRL).
There are black side protective mouldings, chrome mirrors and door handles and black side steps. There's also a customised rear styling bar with matching Legend 50 badging and a heavy-duty tonneau cover, along with satin-silver roof rails.
The rear sports a black rear bumper, smoked taillights and tailgate badging, and a low-profile towbar is fitted as standard. There are also Legend 50-specific two-tone 18” rims wrapped in 265-60-R18 all-terrain tyres.
The interior is inviting and surprisingly comfortable. It features black leather trim (on X/C and D/C) with blue perforation and stitching, a chrome accent strip, branded silver door scuff plates, and carpet set.
Probably the most surprising highlight for me was the fuel efficiency of this bakkie. I was expecting more than 10-litres/100km but we averaged 8.6-litres/100km on a good day. Performance and driving dynamics are what you would expect from a Hilux - bladdy good of course. And since there are no engine enhancements on this model, its where the GR Sport could trump the Legend 50 because of its magnificent suspension system.
The instrument cluster has white-faced dials with orange needles and a cog-shaped motif, a 4.2” TFT Multi-information Display with steering wheel control.
Toyota says the Legend 50 package has been applied to 100% of Raider models across all three body shapes (Single-, Xtra- and Double Cab). All S/C and X/C Legend 50 models are powered by the 2.8 GD-6 engine delivering 130kW/420Nm (450Nm on Auto models). These can be paired with both 4x2 (Raised Body) or 4x4 drivetrains.
Double Cab Legend 50 models are available with either the 2.8 GD-6 or 4.0 V6 (exclusively 4x4 auto) powertrain, whilst the diesels can be had in either 4x2 or 4x4 configuration.