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

Hilux GR-S III – Not the Raptor killer some were hoping for

The third generation of the Toyota Hilux GR-S have been launched in SA and this would probably be the last major change we will see in the current generation of the Hilux. We headed out to Gqeberha to test the Hilux GR-S III.

At first glance, the new GR-S is definitely different from the previous model… and it’s not just a sticker pack or engine power bump.

For starters, it has a wider stance and a set of proper AT tyres in the form of BF Goodrich All terrain AT 265/65 R17. The front bumper is beefier, with a new design to give it a more macho look and a better departure angle. The front is enhanced with a unique black mesh grille contrasted with bold lettering and a GR badge.

The new GR-S also rides on a wider track layout, with an additional 135mm of width at the front axle and 155mm at the rear, and Toyota says the over fender arch flares allow customers to upsize their wheels and tyres if needed. Personally, I would have loved to see a slightly bigger tyre on it, maybe a 265/70 or 275/65.

How does the Toyota Hilux GR Sport drive?

The standard 2.8-litre engine tune is quite good already, but the extra power and torque in combination with the transmission retune makes a world of difference to how the Hilux performs on-road. In fact, despite the more aggressive BF Goodrich KO2 tyres, the Hilux is capable of doing a 0-100km/h sprint in just below 10 seconds.

That’s made more impressive when you consider the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X – with its bi-turbo four-cylinder engine – does the same sprint to 100km/h in 12.71 seconds.

Disc brakes on all four corners greatly improve stopping power, with 338mm x 28mm four-piston fixed callipers at the front and 312mm x 18mm single-piston floating callipers at the rear, finished in red for an extra visual effect.

The Toyota Hilux GR-S is relatively comfortable on the road, soaking up most bumps with ease thanks to the newly fitted KYB monotube dampers that are slightly bigger than the standard dampers on the Legend. The shocks were also moved to the outside of the chassis. However, the ride is still relatively stiff, which does make for some decent handling characteristics.

When you turn the steering wheel, the hydraulic system is borderline heavy to turn, especially at lower speeds. It’s always heavy, but for most it won’t be very noticeable. We also noticed how much the tail-end likes to come out on gravel. This is a pretty common issue for bakkies – most being rear-wheel drive – but the Hilux’s key competitor, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X, comes with a permanent 4WD system. Sure, it makes the Wildtrak X slower in a straight line due to the added weight and drivetrain loss when sending power to the front wheels, but it also means that it feels much more secure on gravel roads.

Still, the wider track of the GR Sport does help to add grip on the road and this puts it up towards the top of the pack in overall ride quality and performance.

As far as autonomous driving features are concerned, the Hilux also loses out. Its hydraulic steering rack means that unlike the Ford Ranger or Isuzu D-Max, it cannot steer itself in lane, not that that is an issue for me as I prefer to do most of my driving myself. But in a world where more and more manufacturers load vehicle with safety features like blindside detect, lane keep assist and loads more to list the current Hilux has fallen slightly behind.

What about the interior?

The interior remains very familiar and although there are some aesthetic changes, its age is showing. The infotainment system is a case in point. Not that I’m a fan of the huge infotainment systems in some of the other bakkies, but it is getting obvious that the Hilux needs an update.

There are some meaningful adjustments to the cabin, however, including a new set of GR Sport seats trimmed in suede and immitation leather, with additional bolstering compared to the seats in other models. There is GR embroidery on the headrests, as well as contrast light stitching for the seats, armrests, and steering wheel.

The steering wheel is a GR unit with a red straight-ahead marker and leather grabby bits, but it is the same styling as a standard Hilux in terms of button placement. Yep, still a cruise control stalk, too.

The rear seat trim matches the front’s, you get a dark headliner, and there are new plastic trim designs on the doors, dashboard, and gear selector surround. Otherwise? It’s a top-spec Hilux inside. The changes do make it feel more special than a standard model, but not nearly as up-scale as some new rivals like the Amarok and Ranger, which have shifted the game significantly.

Final thoughts

The new GR-Sport is definitely the best Hilux we have seen here in South Africa. The wider stance and bold bumper would make most Toyota fans drool. Coupled with the KYB shock upgrade, better tyres and the GR badge, it is one hell of a vehicle.

Off-road you know exactly what you get, and it is capable and trustworthy. The fact that the dampers are situated on the outside of the chassis does improve the articulation somewhat and an off-road orientated front bash plate gives you a bit more piece of mind.

Priced at R999 000 this is the most expensive Hilux ever and although that price point has become par for the course for bakkie prices here in SA, it still feels very steep. The main question remains: would I buy it instead of another brand? For me the answer is yes. Toyota’s dealer footprint in Southern Africa is the largest, which means that if there is a problem help is never far away. The 10 000km service interval is still a bit short for my liking, but that is probably why these vehicles just keep going.

The load capacity of 1000kg you are not really restricted you in terms of what you can load or fit if you are taking it into the bush. As a daily driver it won’t win any awards, but it is still pretty decent. Fuel consumption on our trip was a bit harsh, sitting at above 12.3 litres/100km, but I know that these vehicles can easily achieve fuel consumption of between 9 and 10 litres/100km.

The third-generation Hilux GR-Sport is brilliant, and although it is still not a Raptor hunter, it will definitely be a competitor for the likes of Ford’s Tremor and Wildtrak X, and the Isuzu AT35

Here’s a full list of all upgrades of the Hilux GR Sport versus a standard Hilux:

  • Most powerful diesel engine ever fitted to a factory-produced Hilux (165kW/550Nm).
  • Front and rear tracks that have been extended by 135mm and 155mm respectively.
  • Enhanced suspension set-up: Stands 15mm taller, Features KYB monotube dampers in all corners, Retuned springs (front coil, rear leaf).
  • Standard 265/65R17 BF Goodrich KO2 tyres.
  • Exclusive black Dakar-inspired alloy wheels.
  • Disc brakes in all four corners: 338mm front rotors with four-piston callipers, 312mm rear discs with floating single-pots.
  • Unique front bumper designed to improve approach angle.
  • GR-specific black front grille with block capital lettering.
  • Widened bash plate, 2mm rock sliders, and red recovery points.
  • Black rear bumper with pre-installed tow bar, tow ball, and trailer wiring harness.
  • Leather-clad steering wheel with paddle shifters, red centre stripe, and GR logo.
  • GR-branded sports front seats.
  • Leather and suede upholstery.
  • Red seat belts.
  • Aluminium pedals.
  • GR Sport shift lever.
  • ‘Technical Mesh’ dashboard trim.
  • Nine-speaker JBL sound system.

Toyota Hilux GR-Sport III fast facts

  • Price: R999 000
  • Engine: 2.8-litre GD6, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Power: 165kW @ 3000 rpm
  • Torque: 550Nm @ 1 600 – 2 800 rpm


Ford Ranger Tremor – R978,600

Isuzu D-MAX AT35 –  R 1,170,339.00

Ford Ranger Wildtrak X –  R1,040,600

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