The Toyota HiLux has been the punchline for many great motoring moments over the years. Top Gear famously – and unsuccessfully – tried to break one many, many times. Then there was the equally brilliant “Bugger” ad from Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand that is just as perfect today as it was twenty years ago.

In recent years the HiLux has become much less a farmer’s friend and more likely to be the mobile office of plumbers and sparkies who, after a few successful years, have invested in a vehicle that can get the job done during the week, take the kids to sport on Saturday morning and tow the jet-ski to the boat-ramp in the afternoon.

The 2021 Toyota HiLux range tops out with the Rugged X at nearly $80K drive-away and drops all the way to the WorkMate at around $47K. This vehicle – the 2021 Toyota HiLux Rogue – is the understudy to the Rugged X and will put a $76K hole in your King Gees.

You will certainly be impressed with the leather interior, the seriously brilliant JBL sound system featuring Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and the motorised roller-cover protecting the carpeted rear tray. The 150kW 2.8L turbo-diesel motor and the 6-speed auto are very smooth, and the 18-inch wheels and Highway/Terrain (H/T) tyres keep the HiLux tracking straight and true – no matter how tough the going gets.

What a Week!

I collected the HiLux Rogue from Toyota on a Friday, and as is customary of late, the weather forecast was for rain, so I took some exterior shots of the Rogue while it still looked showroom-fresh. The height and width of the current HiLux are pretty imposing. The entire ute/truck/4×4 category has exploded in recent years with Ford, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, and of course, Toyota upping their game.

At close to 5.4m long and almost 2m wide, the Rogue is not what you would call svelte. This is a serious work machine with what I thought maybe dulled off-road capabilities, given the aforementioned leather and entertainment trinkets.

The rear tray – capable of handling an 800kg+ load – is marine-grade carpet-lined with a 12V socket and with sadly only two anchor points for tying down any loads. Measuring 1.55m long by 1.52m wide and 70cm+ deep, the tray is commodious. My mate, Paul, won’t be too happy to hear that with only 1.11m between the wheel-arches, the HiLux can’t swallow a standard-sized pallet.

Transporting a rowing machine for my daughter, on the other hand, was super easy, but another couple of anchor points would be welcomed. A motorised tray cover sets off the distinctly urban vibe of the Rogue, and, just like a garage door, the cover takes its sweet time to open and close, with the added joy of blindingly bright LED lights illuminating the tray and surrounding suburbs when opened at night. The cover is only able to be opened via buttons above the tail-lights.

The cabin will seat 5 adults comfortably for a short trip – or I would cap it at 4 for a longer trip. There just isn’t the shoulder room in the rear that you need for three adults. The front seats are very comfortable and over the course of two 5 hour drives in the space of 24 hours, I didn’t notice any out of the ordinary backache. The geometry of the seats also means they are not very great to sleep in – something I experienced first-hand as I grabbed half an hour’s rest by the side of the road at 1am one morning. More on this later.

The driver’s seat has power controls for the base and the back as well as height adjustment. There are no seat memory settings. The front passenger seat is only adjustable by the base and the back, and the height is fixed quite high. A 6’8″ passenger did find headroom a bit of an issue on a bumpy part of the week. He was much happier in the back on the return leg of a journey.

Like all trucks, getting in and out is very easy with three grab-handles on each side of the HiLux. Side rails give you quite the leg-up, and they also turned out to be highly efficient mud and dirt traps.

In the city, the HiLux Rogue is far easier to manage than you might expect. Great steering and excellent visibility in almost all directions. Parking sensors front and rear are mounted well to spot any obstacles. The rear-facing camera is mounted high in the tail-gate giving a great view when parking, although at night, the rear lights are not strong enough to improve the vision, so the sensors do more than their fair share. The camera is also susceptible to dust, so be prepared to give it a wipe before tackling tighter parking spots.

Of course, the Rogue is thirsty around town – it’s a 2.2 tonne 4×4 ute with high and low range and locking differentials. We saw the wrong side of 10L/100km in the suburbs and not much better when cruising the Motorway at 110km/h.

And it’s on the Motorway where this review really starts.

Apart from reviewing cars and technology, a great mate and I are helping farmers improve their access to the internet with bespoke point to multi-point air-fibre systems using a combination of solar, wind and batteries to power retransmission of 4G data connections to farm-houses, sheds, and anywhere else low-latency, high-speed internet connections are needed.

A very isolated site in the New England region had gone offline earlier in the week and our attempts to get it back online remotely were unsuccessful. We had to make the trip up and back in a single day (5 hours each way) as we had commitments scheduled for the following day.

Cue the Toyota HiLux Rogue. Sometimes things just work out, don’t they?

3:30am Wednesday

We hit the M1 out of Sydney heading north. The HiLux brimmed with diesel and the tray full of all our tools and spare parts. Just before we reach the Mooney Mooney Creek bridge, the first band of torrential rain crosses our path. The 265/60 R18 – 7.5×18 wheels and Bridgestone Dueller H/T tyres keep us in rock-solid contact with the road. So good I compare it most genuinely to some of the German SUVs that I’ve driven on the same stretch of road in similar conditions. And just like most German SUVs, the HiLux Rogue has radar-guided cruise control that serves no purpose other than to make you travel at the same speed as the slowest car or truck on the Motorway. Very frustrating.

A quick stop in Heatherbrae for breakfast and to check on our payload (everything is bone-dry and secure) and we’re back on the road. The next leg to Gloucester takes in a road called Bucketts Way – one of the most unloved stretches of road I’ve ever travelled and what was a century ago, the Pacific Highway connecting Brisbane and Sydney. The HiLux takes in the potholes and newly gravelled sections with aplomb, and we arrive in Gloucester just after dawn. A top-up of diesel and the HiLux prompts us to enter the price per litre we’ve paid for diesel. A neat little trip computer feature.

As we climb out of Gloucester towards Walcha we strike more rain and large sections of poorly tarmac on Thunderbolts Way.

Then our first real WOW-moment in the HiLux Rogue. We’re nearing the eastern edge of the Nowendoc National Park close to the zenith of the Great Dividing Range in this region – rain still falling and visibility limited – when a young black steer decides that it’s the right time to cross the road about 100m in front of us. My foot goes hard on the brake pedal and although I don’t recall any ABS shudder, the HiLux decelerates at an impressive rate. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Pre-Collision Safety systems on the Rogue, but I knew that we were in safe hands thanks to the array of cameras at the top of the windscreen. We are travelling at what feels like walking pace in seconds.

About 30 seconds after this clip ends a young black Angus steer crosses the road in front of us.

We catch our breath and head onward to rendezvous with a colleague about 50km up the road. He reported that when he went through that same stretch of Thunderbolts Way ahead of us he saw several young steers around the same location, thankfully avoiding the close call we had. He was not in a HiLux.

9:11am Wednesday

We arrive at our Client’s homestead, grab a ladder, and head for the tower location. The usual access route is completely impassable as almost constant rain over recent months has left the ground completely sodden. “Follow me, I’ll show you the alternate way“, says the farmer as he leads us away in his V8 LandCruiser 70 Double Cab with far more appropriate tyres. I have no hesitation about his vehicle making it to the summit of the hill our tower is on. Given the smooth and very safe ride, the HiLux Rogue has just given us from Sydney, I’m not so sure how far we might get on the H/T tyres.

As we cross a deep-green and lush paddock littered with newborn lambs, I stop and change the HiLux from H2 into H4 on the 4×4 system. At the first gate a few minutes later, I take the opportunity to go a step further switching into L4 (low range) and lock the rear differential. A couple of reassuring clunks from the bowels of the HiLux Rogue and we’re off into some of the boggiest country I have ever seen.

The new GoPro HERO 10 attached to the side of the Rogue captures the LandCruiser 70 squirming for traction ahead of us. The HiLux doesn’t appear to suffer the same fate. The GoPro HERO 10 takes a battering from the mud being inelegantly scythed by the HiLux.

As we approach the last gate travelling along a fence line, we are squelching through what looks like dark chocolate cake icing with a far less pleasing aroma. The cattle have turned the area surrounding the gate into a 30cm deep wading pool of mud. I fear this might be as far as we get in the Rogue. We bounce through the gate with very little fuss thanks to the 247mm ground clearance and emerge on the other side ready for the most difficult part of the trip. A very steep ascent on icy grass littered with numerous basalt rocks.

We wait and watch the LandCruiser 70 glide up the hill. I cautiously find the right line over the rocks in the footprints left by the LandCruiser, point the nose of the HiLux Rogue at the sky, and depress the accelerator firmly. There will not be a second go at this.

9:50am Wednesday

I’m utterly astounded. This HiLux Rogue has made it from almost sea level to 1360m ASL in a little over 5 hours and through incredibly challenging conditions and over apocalyptic terrain. The second WOW-moment.

1360m above sea level in very damp and windy conditions.

We set to work over the next 12 hours getting systems back online and retracing our very clear footprints back to the homestead. Then it’s on to the next Client.

9:15pm Wednesday

Fully packed and refuelled with a delicious meal, we head for Sydney. It’s going to be a long, slow night. It’s now we discover one of only a few flaws with the new Toyota HiLux Rogue. Something we had not noticed this morning on the Motorway.

The LED headlights on the HiLux are completely hopeless. The light throw on low and high-beam is totally inadequate – especially on dark country roads with the constant threat of kamikaze cattle.

The HiLux Rugged X comes with an integrated LED light bar that in the previous model was very impressive. If I’d put down my own money for the Rogue (which I really would) my first stop would be to have some serious LED lighting fitted.

Another bug was an issue with the Pre-Collision Safety system with Pedestrian detection that threw up a Christmas tree of warning lights as we descended the hill earlier in the day. A check of the manual tells us that it’s likely a sensor covered in mud or dust – which is highly likely! It clears itself after a couple of hours of rest over dinner.

The final little niggle – and for anyone in the bush this might be a big niggle – was the inability to dim the instrument cluster and dashboard lights. We were able to turn the 8″ touch-screen Display off and later we found the settings to dim the instrument cluster, but the HVAC and other console lights were too bright and worse still their reflection bounced off the rear window and directly to the rear-view mirror. We are splitting hairs, but this stuff matters.

We grab half an hour kip by the side of the road just north of Raymond Terrace which helps although the aforementioned seat geometry does make sleep challenging. We glide very comfortably into Sydney around 3am – an eventful and exhausting 24 hours since departing.

Conclusion

My main take-away from my time with the HiLux Rogue is its sophisticated blend of luxury and build quality matched with its totally indestructible persona. What we were able to achieve with comfort and grace on H/T tyres and standard equipment was astonishing. The only damage sustained was a mudflap that was removed by a rock as we departed the tower location. That was it!

I’m sure the offerings from Ford, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen are impressive and I look forward to trying them all. The bar has been set very high with the Toyota HiLux and right now, nothing can’t dampen my impressions of the latest incarnation of Australia’s most rugged, respectable, and reliable 4×4 workhorse.

The 2021 Toyota HiLux Rogue in Oxide Bronze – from $76,668 Drive-away.