Driven: Toyota Hilux Legend 45

Driven: Toyota Hilux Legend 45

With the business presentation done-and-dusted for the launch of the Toyota Hilux Legend 45, it was time for a Q&A session between the media and company representatives.

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Yet when product manager Riaan Esterhuysen opened the floor for questions, not a single scribe put one forward. This was a first in many years of writing about cars and I initially deduced it was because everyone wanted to settle down to an early supper.

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But perhaps it wasn’t that. Perhaps it was the fact that here was a vehicle celebrating 45 years since it first came off the assembly lines way back in 1969, and in all honesty, what can you ask that hasn’t been asked many times before? To be referred to as a ‘‘legend’’ or carry the ‘‘Legend’’ badge, an individual or product must have done something exceptional. In the case of the Hilux, it has earned the title with a host of achievements over the decades.

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With just short of one-million sales in SA alone — and a combined 13-million worldwide — the Hilux has been the longest active model range of any vehicle in SA and has been a market leader for an incredible 43 years. Even with strong recent competition from the likes of the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT50, it continues to hold an average 34% share of the local one-ton market.

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Built at the company’s Prospecton plant in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, the Hilux Legend 45 package is for top-end Raider models in 4×2 raised body and 4×4 formats and across all variants — single cab, xtra cab and double cab. Bakkie owners — and in particular 4×4 enthusiasts — are often knowledgeable when it comes to not only their own vehicles, but their competitors’ too.

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They can spot changes in an instant and distinguishing the Legend 45 from the rest of the Hilux range are exterior features like new headlamp and front fog lamp design, stainless steel front nudge bar, stainless steel rear step bumper, towbar, matt black side steps, colour-coded door handles with chrome finish mirrors and multi-spoke 17-inch anthracite alloy wheels.

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If that doesn’t make you stand out in the crowd, then the Legend 45 badging front, back and also side decals are quite distinguishable. When it comes to the interior, you have black leather seats, door panels and steering wheel with silver contrast stitching. The choice of black is not only practical, but looks good too.

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Toyota have a reputation for providing rather long driving routes at their launches, and with the Legend 45, didn’t disappoint. It was a round trip of close to 800km over two days spanning the Western and Eastern Cape and offering diverse driving conditions as we snaked our way through the Karoo to our overnight destination of Graaff-Reinet.

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I spent a fair number of those kilometres behind the wheel of the 3.0 D-4D 4×4 double cab, and as one would expect, it didn’t miss a beat. When it came to off-road conditions, there wasn’t anything particularly challenging and it was simply a case of selecting 4×4 high range and enjoying some play on the loose gravel.

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On the highway stretches of the Karoo, the cruise control came in handy and enabled us to savour the beauty of the landscape. At times, when we hit an undulating surface, the vehicle would feel slightly light – but I would put that down to the fact that we had nothing in large cargo hold.

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Back in 2004, the Hilux Legend 35 was born. Today, we have the Legend 45 and I wouldn’t bet against the Legend 55 come 2024

The Facts: 2014 Toyota Hilux 3.0D- 4D 4x4 Legend 45
Engine: 2982cc, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel
Power: 120kW at 3400rpm
Torque: 343Nm 1400-3200rpm
Top speed: 170km/h
CO2: 226g/km
Fuel consumption: 8.6l/100km
Price: R495 500

Bruce Fraser