DRIVEN: Toyota Hilux GR Sport III is a lot more than a few new decals

Published May 30, 2024


It’s been a long time coming but Toyota has finally released and let us drive the new Hilux GR Sport III.

As a reminder the GR Sport III is more than a few decals slapped on with black rims and red interior stitching. It’s not a completely new double cab from the Prospection factory in KZN, for that we’ll have to wait 18 months or so, but it does stand out significantly from its ordinary garden variety sibling.

The lateral distance between the wheels has been expanded by 140mm at the front and 155mm at the rear and the upgraded front coil and rear leaf spring suspension system, with KYB larger diameter monotube shock absorbers, increases the ride height by 20mm. The 265/65 R17 BF Goodrich all terrain tyres, with increased tread, sit on new 17-inch black alloys.

The changes have also increased the approach angle from 29 to 30 degrees.

The wheel arches do look like they could take a slightly bigger tyre and I would look at possibly fitting 265/70 R17 or maybe 275/65 R17 rubber.

They’ve also fitted black overfenders, a black styling bar, tow bar (3,500kg braked towing capacity), tonneau cover and rubberised the loadbay.

There’s a 12V socket but I do feel that in this day and age an inverter, either in the back or inside, would be a welcome modern addition.

The tonneau cover protects the load bin from prying eyes and rain but there was a lot of dust in the back when we stopped at George airport for our flight back.

The sidesteps are steel and are substantially stronger than the standard addition so you don’t have to fear crinkle cut looks the first time you drive a decent axle twister and continuing the off-road theme, there are rated front and rear recovery hooks.

The front bumper has air vents, giving it not only a practical application but also adds to the Hilux’s overall appearance and 15-inch rear disc brakes replacing the standard drum brakes are a welcome addition.

Nothing changes under the bonnet with the four-cylinder turbo diesel pushing out 165kW and 550Nm, coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission continuing to do duty.

Paddle controls add the option of manual shift selection.

The interior gets the obligatory GR treatment with a mix of leather and Alcantara, red seat belts, a red centre marker on the steering wheel, GR branding on the carpets, headrest and start button while the driver display is still a good old fashioned rev counter and speedometer with vital information displayed digitally between the two. Missing though unfortunately is a tyre pressure monitor.

It’s a pleasant enough interior with a JBL sound system but it is starting to show its age compared to its main Ford Ranger rival.

We spent a good few hundred kilometres behind the wheel on various road surfaces including some dune driving in the Eastern Cape at the recent launch drive.

It’s still very much a ladder frame driving experience but the wider track and revised suspension make an enormous difference to how it handles on tar and gravel roads.

This was excellently displayed when we drove the Bloukrans Pass between the Eastern and Western Cape.

You may recall a video that went viral a few months ago showing the difference between the road on either side of the border with a well maintained and repaired road on one side and an absolute wreck of tar and overgrown bushes on the other.

No guesses which side was poked and hasn’t had anything done to it since the floods in 2007!

You deserve who you vote for but for us it was an opportunity to test the brakes and steering as we avoided rocks, roots, trees and holes on the one side and swept up and around the bends smoothly on the other side.

The GR Sport III is comfortable in both applications and at sea level the engine, gearbox and suspension combined pleasingly to provide a rewarding drive.

Playing in the dunes with the tyres dropped down to 1 bar it performed the various challenges in soft sand with ease, albeit with the diesel engine revving close to maximum before cresting the dunes.

The GR-S III has Toyota’s traditional 4x4 system with 4H, 4L and a rear difflock activated by a dial and a button on the dash as well as downhill descent mode.

On the beautiful Prince Alfred’s Pass with the bakkie in 4H you’re reminded why the Hilux is a favourite among travellers and overlanders. It’s sure of foot, comfortable, easy to pilot and in this iteration it’s even better.

It comes with a three-year/100 000km warranty and a nine-service/100 000km service plan.

Pricing: R999 000

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