DRIVEN: Toyota Hilux Legend 50 and GR Sport bakkies
Over a million sold and over 50 years in South Africa, the Toyota Hilux has enjoyed illustrious success.
And so, how does the best-performing manufacturer celebrate this milestone? The same way it has done every five years, it's called legend.
Slapping 'Legend' stickers on a Hilux usually means it's heading to the end of its life. It started in 2004 with the Legend 35 and 15 years later the locally built bakkie in its eighth-generation model gets the Legend 50 treatment.
Over a million sold in SA over 50 years
The Raider name is now replaced by the Legend 50 nomenclature, including single, xtra and of course double-cab.
The changes are all cosmetic and include a new full-black glossy grille, chromed-finished door mirrors, a bumpguard finished in silver and of course its been festooned with Legend 50 badges.
At the rear there's a new styling bar with Legend 50 badging a low-profile towbar is fitted as standard. Visually the package is finished off nicely with Legend 50-specific two-tone 18" wheels sporting 265-60-R18 all-terrain tyres.
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On the highways and gravel roads between Botswana and Zimbabwe, the Legend 50 2.8 GD-6 4X4 manual was comfortable and went about its business without a fuss.
The 2.8-litre diesel engine has a quoted output of 130kW and 420Nm (450Nm on automatic models) and admittedly I enjoyed changing my own gears as the Legend I drove sported a six-speed manual transmission, its I-MT (intelligent mode) blips the throttle on downshifts.
While there wasn't any serious off-roading required, the gravel sections lent themselves to changing from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive on the fly.
Inside, the Legend 50 has satellite navigation as standard and a rotary volume knob replaces the flush 'buttons' on the 20cm satnav system.
Key-less entry is now standard on the xtra and double cab models with prices starting at R472 000 and topping out at R712 100 for the 4.0-litre V6 double cab flagship.
Let's get this out of the way: the Hilux GR Sport is not a Ford Ranger Raptor rival. The GR-Sport nomenclature encompasses suspension tweaks and exterior changes.
The aim is to capitalise on Gazoo Racing's success in the Dakar (it won in 2019) and three wins in the world rally championship circuit at the hands of Estonian Ott Tänak.
Back to the bakkie, it uses the same 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine found in the Hilux range sans power upgrades, which means 130kW and 450Nm. It's only available with the six-speed automatic gearbox with manual and sport modes.
Underneath its skin, the limited edition (only 600 were built) has revised damping, shock absorbers with a monotube design and the front spring rates have been taken up a few notches.
It'll still carry 870kg in the back though as the rear leaf spring rates haven't been touched. Before I get to what it's like to drive, you'll notice the GR Sport thanks to its motorsport livery, GR badges, bespoke 17" wheels and black bonnet and roof.
There's a production plate and serial number in the car noting which number model you're in. Pretty cool.
And finally, the GR does feel better to drive off-road than its Legend 50 sibling, in fact it comfortably did 100km/h + on sections of the gravel route, it has a lovely planted feel that inspires confidence.
Admittedly it's let down by vague and light steering feel, something Toyota hoped would be improved. Does that matter? Not a chance, because these 600 GR Sport models, at R707 400, will be snapped up before you can say Gazoo.
It speaks to how much clout the Hilux has in South Africa, they'll never wane in popularity.