Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Grrreat expectations

A past employer once told her that there is nothing scarier than a woman driving a double cab bakkie. Hold onto your hat buddy, because Liana Reiners attended the recent launch of the Toyota Hilux GR-S and if she had her way, things would be getting a whole lot scarier right about now.

While everyone else was getting excited about the imminent launch of the next generation of that other popular bakkie, I was counting the days to the introduction of Toyota’s new halo Hilux model, the GR-Sport (or GR-S for short). You see, I grew up with the Toyota brand. I learned to drive in a Toyota. I got my driver’s license in a Toyota. The first car my husband and I had after we got married was a Toyota. I own a Toyota now.

In true Toyota form, the newcomer didn’t disappoint and if I had my way, a brand-new Hilux GR-S would be parked in my garage right now. The first Hilux GR Sport debuted here in 2019 and boasted a whole bunch of unique design and dynamic elements to differentiate it from lesser models. This approach continues in the 2022 iteration but has been taken to a whole new level.

Looking the part

As I first laid eyes on the Hilux GR-S, I couldn’t help but notice that it had a few very conspicuous features that convey its tough and sporty character. This includes a large and prominent black front grille, a horizontal cross bar finished in a carbon-fibre pattern, and chrome Toyota lettering. Special treatment for the LED headlights, alongside vertically stacked air ducts with integrated LED fog lamps solidify the look, as do wide black overfenders with contrasting inserts.

Add black mirror caps, black door handles, graphitecoloured side steps and a rear styling bar with GR branding for good measure. And if you really want to announce your bakkie’s uniqueness, GR side decals on the doors are available as an option. Only four exterior colours are offered, but they have impressive names like Arizona Red, Graphite Grey, Attitude Black and Glacier White. These in turn are offset by the contrasting inlays in the overfender in red, black or silver, depending on paintwork choice.

Inside matters too

Special GR-S touches are also scattered throughout the interior. For starters, there’s a new instrument cluster with a cog-like metallic bezel, red needles and unique gauge face. A perforated leather-trim steering wheel with red contrast stitching and GR badging, and sporty aluminium pedals with rubber inserts complete the look. And just in case you forget what you’re about to drive, GR branding has also been applied to the push-start button and centre console.

Apart from striking carbon-fibre trim, the racing inspired front seats deserve a special mention. Adorned with Alcantara inserts, GR badging on the headrests, red accent panels and power adjustment for the driver’s seat, they really are very comfortable.

The stuff that really matters

Now I’m getting to the important part. The launch of the GR-S took place in and around Hoedspruit in the Limpopo province, which meant plenty of scenic roads to drive. And drive we did… to our heart’s content. In a rare treat my husband was with me and I’m ashamed to say that he saw my dark side as I hogged the driving duties. I just couldn’t get enough!

While the GR-S moniker normally represents cosmetic and handling enhancements, the Hilux variant has a trick up its sleeve in the performance department too. Power output has been increased to 165kW and torque ramped up by 50Nm to a peak of 550Nm. This is thanks to a special ECU calibration which interfaces with revised 6-speed automatic transmission mapping and lock-up control to ensure optimised power delivery. That’s a mouthful, but what it boils down to is a top speed of 175km/h. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t test that claim.

Only one drivetrain configuration is offered in the form of a 4×4 transaxle mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with auto LSD function. Drive Mode Select offers Power and Eco modes to tailor the GR Sport’s power delivery and engine response, with Power mode making maximum use of the increased power and torque outputs.

Spec and features

Standard specification is comprehensive, as it should be in a vehicle of this stature. Keyless entry, retractable and power-adjustable side mirrors, automatic headlights, auto door locks, park distance control, reverse camera, dual-zone climate control, an air-conditioned upper glove box (which came in rather handy in the searing Hoedspruit heat), multi-information display, onetouch power windows and integrated power outlets are all part of the package.

A new feature on the Hilux GR-S is the panoramic view monitor, which provides surround camera as well as a bird’s eye view of the vehicle surroundings. This is particularly handy when traversing obstacles. The familiar touchscreen infotainment system is retained and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, along with steering wheel switch integration, Bluetooth and a few USB inputs. I was too eager to drive to be impressed by all the bells and whistles, but my husband (relegated to the passenger seat for most of the launch) had plenty of time to fiddle with everything and he assures me that it’s all great.

Staying safe

The Hilux GR-S is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), which offers a full suite of active safety aids including adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert (LDA) and pre-collision system (PCS). Actually, just about every vehicle acronym is there and then some. Think ABS, VSC, EBD, HAC and BAS. Oh, and don’t forget the ISOFIX anchor points and a full complement of airbags.

Last, but not least

Towing capacity is rated as 750kg (unbraked) and 3 500kg (braked), with a payload of 790kg. The Hilux GR-S carries a maximum GCM of 5 850kg. This being said, I must admit that I was rather puzzled by the fact that a towbar isn’t standard…


ou probably already know what I’m going to say… It’s raining new double cab bakkies in South Africa at the moment and the trend is set to continue into the new year as more contenders are added to the mix. The Hilux GR-S continues to do what Toyota does best by representing a well-rounded, capable, reliable and aspirational package. The only reason I don’t already have one is because I can’t afford it, not because it’s overly expensive (at R865 400 it is rather competitively priced, in fact), but because I’m cheap. There, I said it.

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The Nissan Navara. Bold Exterior coupled with interior comfort and intelligent 4x4