The 2022 Toyota Hilux GR Sport takes the spirit of Gazoo to the great outdoors

The Toyota Hilux GR Sport is Toyota’s newest variant of its bestselling pickup truck that, for the first time, bears the Gazoo Racing badge. This combines the spirit of Toyota Gazoo with the brand’s ever-reliable International Multi-Purpose Vehicle (IMV) platform. The intention is to bring the thrill of Gazoo Racing to the daily drivers of motorsport fans by offering sportier versions of their favorite Toyota vehicles. That is exactly what Toyota was able to achieve at the onset with the Hilux GR Sport. Launched side-by-side with the Fortuner GR-S variant, it can easily be described as the yin to the latter’s yang.

Being an average, petite-sized Asian meant that getting behind the wheel of big pickups would be a rare occasion. It was, therefore, a bit of a thrill to be taking one of the most iconic pickup models in the Philippines across nearly 60 kilometers, from provincial roads and back into the city. Beyond the thrill, however, and more than the personal achievement of being able to maneuver a truck, the expectation that the Hilux is a Toyota meant that it should be drivable by nearly every kind of motorist, male or female, petite or otherwise.

Come face-to-face with the all-new Toyota Hilux GR Sport and the most accurate immediate observation will be “refined sportiness.” Refined, because it has a well-balanced roundedness, unlike the previous-generation Hilux; less of the tough corners and more of a sophisticated, sleek appeal. Sporty, because it has lost none of the ruggedness and maintains that sturdy, solid stance that is expected of a pickup with off-roading capabilities. This is depicted in how the design elements are well-proportioned, especially in how the shape of the front grille is consistent with the linear-cut of the LED headlights.

Perhaps it was the way the exclusive black gloss G-MESH front grille gave off such an imposing stance. Or how the 18-inch alloy wheels made it look extra massive. Or, maybe, it was how the show-stopping Emotional Red colorway made the vehicle pop against the green foliage it was parked against. Whatever it was, it gave off a strong personality and it meant business.

Make no mistake at how massive a pickup the Hilux GR-S is. To climb into the cabin meant making full use of the step-up platform and grabbing the door-side handles securely. This makes the Hilux still a challenge for most average to below-average sized individuals who may not be keen to exerting arm and leg strength just to get in and out of a vehicle. Once inside, however, settling in is a no-brainer. Both driver and passenger enjoy 8-way power adjust seats, while the cabin features dual-zone climate control and paddle shifters.

But take a moment and appreciate how the interior of the Toyota Hilux GR Sport really sets it apart from the standard pickups on the street. The beauty of the interior design is not simply in the finishing touches, but how every detail was well thought of, from the layout of the basic controls, all the way to the tasteful placement of the GR branding across the cabin.

At first glance, the entire dashboard looks very much like those that you would expect from a top-tier SUV. The matte leather details, complemented with the signature GR red stitching are impeccable. Add to that is a touch of modernity from the black gloss of the infotainment display at the center of the console.

Secondly, this premium finish is carried over to the leather and suede combination of the seats. Not only does the combo add a luxurious touch that is often not seen in pickups, but it offers actual comfort to the driver and passenger that goes beyond the aesthetic. The same consistent red stitching can be seen along the side leather seams. And lastly, special mention goes out to the race-inspired steering wheel design, a clear nod to Toyota’s GR heritage.

So what was it like taking the Toyota Hilux GR Sport on an actual first drive? Before even getting on the road, the height and visual clearance it offered gave instant confidence that this truck can go through anything and gives the driver the visual clearance that is practically devoid of any blind spots. Once Waze was activated through the built-in Apple CarPlay system and the map actively appeared on the 8-inch display monitor, the Hilux was ready to go. A few seconds in and any nervousness at handling such a big vehicle subsided. The smooth, sturdy handling and responsive 6-speed automatic transmission made it feel like an SUV more than a hauling vehicle.

The Hilux was in its element on the unpaved provincial highway, more than on city streets. Being a pickup meant that it can take all the bumps, hits, and potholes without breaking a sweat. What’s beautiful about it, though, was that the suspension was light and easily rolled across the bitumen without making the ride feel like a rollercoaster. This can also be attributed to the new monotube shock absorbers that are a step up for the GR Sport variant from the non-GR Sport variant, which offered riding comfort even for the passenger.

The powertrain of the Hilux GR Sport is similar to that of the Hilux Conquest 4×4. Running on a 2.8-liter engine with 204hp and 500Nm of torque, it held no apprehensions at accelerating; gradually, but quickly building up speed as needed. On the flipside, the response to braking is as sensitive as the engine is powerful, with the car able to slow down and come to a full stop confidently. 

There is nothing more to be said when we reached the city, considering how well the Hilux GR Sport did on the off-road highway. Perhaps the biggest challenge would be parking, since the length of the bed takes getting used to, especially for people who are used to sedans and hatch-style SUVs.

What is good to note for motorists is that each vehicle has its own specialty and for the Hilux, it’s the great outdoors. More than the usual transit vehicle that it is often used for, the Hilux is designed to support the thrill and spirit of adventure, and that is what it achieves with the GR Sport variant. Now imbued with the heritage of Toyota Gazoo, this variant reaches out to those who are keen on the extraordinary and in enjoying the excitement of exploration without sacrificing comfort, performance, and practicality.

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