2024 Toyota Hilux GR Sport Review 

This souped-up pickup truck by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing delivers more than just furniture and construction equipment. We took it to the deserts of Dubai for a closer look.

Buried under Toyota’s expansive catalogue of off-road capable SUVs, crossovers and sedans is the 2024 Toyota Hilux GR Sport. Yes, this newish lifestyle vehicle is based on the Hilux pickup truck, a reliable workman’s road companion used to move furniture and refrigerators. But the Hilux GR Sport is no ordinary pickup, it is something else as we found out during the days spent staring at it, examining its parts, and driving it on the roads of Dubai and beyond the tarmac. If you’re in the market for a lifestyle vehicle, or a pickup truck, then check out my thoughts on the 2024 Toyota Hilux GR Sport. But first…

What does GR stand for?

GR or Gazoo Racing is the motorsport division of the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota. Besides competitive racing, they also develops technologies for the GR sub-brand of Toyota’s performance-oriented production road and now, off road vehicles. The Hilux GR Sport joins the Land Cruiser GR, Supra GR, Yaris GR and GR86.

Exterior: Utilitarian pickup prepped for adventure

For a country that is only getting too used to seeing personal-use pickup trucks, even a mid-sizer like the 2024 Toyota Hilux GR Sport comes across as enormous and intimidating, a feeling akin to seeing a Nissan Patrol, or Cadillac Escalade. After all, it’s a large chunk of metal measuring 5,320 mm in length, 2020 mm in width and 1,865 mm in height. Add to the sizable proportions, a black grille, a beefier front bumper, LED headlamps, oversized flared black wheel arches, and chunky tyres…and you have a rugged pickup truck that gets the nod of appreciation.

In modern vehicle, LED headlamps are necessary and thankfully they’re present here. The ride height is tall but scalable. The Bridgestone Duelers (265/65R17) that wrap around those black 17-inch alloys emphasize the rugged look. But would 37-inch tyres look better? Maybe so. And the cargo box bedliner has an interesting design, with ridges that seems to emerge from the Toyota logo, like rays from the sun. A nod to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, perhaps.

With a little grease, grime and rust, the GR Sport could look like something out of the sets of an apocalyptic movie, in which the antagonist emerges from city rubble, in a pickup truck he “hot wired” in a junkyard, to escape from imminent natural calamities or zombies! Believable? Sure, it’s a Toyota after all!

Interior: Workhorse doubles as an acceptably-appointed family mover

Once inside this high-riding cabin, it all looks and feels like a modern-day pickup truck, not a luxury-oriented one like in a RAM or Ranger, but more like a Fortuner SUV, which it shares the platform with. The black interior is complemented by carbon-fibre-like plastics that perhaps, we could do without and a whole lot of red accents, which is a nice touch. The large number of plastic parts create an environment that is utilitarian and seemingly durable. Even the low pile mats look ready for some abuse. The front seats are accommodating and supple. They are wrapped in a mix of suede and faux leather that I suspect wouldn’t mind a mild hose down after an off-road outing. The red seatbelts and the GR badging on the headrests give it that little extra to justify the extra bucks paid. What I didn’t like is the set of unmarked unusable buttons on the lower centre console. These may be for connecting ancillary units like a light bar or winch, but right out of the showroom it looks like the vehicle lacks something. And if you’re looking for a sunroof, there isn’t one. But there’s a rear window that allows you to throw stuff onto the bed.

From the driver’s seat, it checks out. The chunky 3-spoke steering wheel gets leather wrappings and is good to grip and the controls on them large, legible and easy to navigate menus with. While the 8-inch infotainment touch screen, which is the average size for the day, has a good number of physical buttons to improve tactility. There’s plenty of space in the rear quarters, good for two adults on the outboard seats and a kid in the middle. There’s even a retractable hanger behind the front seats for groceries. You’ll also find that there’s plenty of storage, thanks to the 2 gloveboxes. And the concealed pop-out cupholder on the front passenger side is pretty fancy. As for the cargo box outback, which can be used to haul a variety of things in a variety of shapes or sizes, has movable metal loops on railings that can be used to keep things secure things.

The dual-zone A/C works well, delivering a good draft and cooling, and having rear vents really help. While on the entertainment front, Bluetooth allows for streaming of music off the decent quality 6-speaker sound system…or if you choose to, you can access your phone’s playlists and navigation through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. They’ve even managed to fit it with an easy access wireless charger and a USB port.

Drivetrain & drive: Tried-and-tested V6 without electronic chaperones or gimmicks

On tap is 232 horses of power and 375 Nm of max torque from a tried-and-tested 4.0-litre V6 that we have seen employed on the Land Cruises and FJ Cruiser. It is matched to a regular 6-speed automatic. There is plenty of go for everyday use be it “from the dig” at traffic lights or on the highway, where you can easily merge into a faster lane. Although one must keep in mind the general size of the vehicle, especially while weaving through traffic. Once in the lane, the cruise control feature will let you relax on the highways. You’ll also appreciate the availability of a 360-degree camera especially while parking, although the view is smallish. As for the ride quality, the Hilux GR Sport comes across as comfy without being cushy. There is a fair amount of body roll, so if it’s in your nature to take roundabout or U-turns in haste or make quick directional changes, know that this isn’t some super sport SUV. Here, the body follows the chassis, relatively leisurely.

But where the GR Sport really shines is beyond the tarmac. It coasts through the sandy undulations of makeshift parking lots casually, and this momentum continues over milder dunes without the need for engaging 4L even. The 323 mm ground clearance and the aggressive approach and departure angles make this possible. Of course, for the tricker stuff and areas with softer sand, you aught to make the switch and drop the PSI down to 15 or so. The best part is the switchable 4×4 system is that it’s so easy to operate. Turn the knob and you can go from 2H to 4H to 4L effortless avoiding the hassle of the second shifter. Off road, the suspension does come across as a tad stiff but irons itself out as the speeds climb when you’re doing trail runs. There is a PWR button that fiddles with the transmission’s mapping raising shift points and the A/C operation, but its benefits weren’t obvious. And when it’s all done, there is an in-built compressor under the rear seats to inflate those tyres back to recommended pressures. With plenty of power, ground clearance and wheel travel, the GR Sport is something I’d quite easily take to Camel Rock or Wadi Shawka without thinking twice.

With a good fuel tank capacity of 80 km and an indicated average of 14.5l/100km, you can expect a range of 550 km. The Hilux GR Sport isn’t the most frugal vehicle out there, but it doesn’t promise to be. Perhaps, lighter throttle application and highway runs (as opposed to city crawling) may eke out another 50 kms of so. The ECO button that dampens throttle response and A/C operation, but how significant was the change to fuel economy is hard to tell. It also does come with several airbags, parking sensors, Hill Start Assist, a tyre pressure monitoring system and Trailer Sway Control, which makes everyday drivability more convenient.

Verdict

The 2024 Toyota Hilux GR Sport has got a game. Built on the platform of the highly utilitarian Hilux double cab pickup truck, it is a versatile family and furniture mover. Add to that GR modifications that inject visual character both inside and out, off-roading suspension and tyres, and a reliable 4.0-litre V6 provides the right kind of motivation to keep up with the rest of the off-roading crew, and you have a lifestyle pickup truck that will appeal to your zest for life without letting go of the reigns to adulting. The downside is that it isn’t as luxurious or well-equipped as some other options. But those are far too expensive to take to the dunes anyway.

Side note: This may also be the vehicle you want if see this kind of torrential rain more often!

Rivals & alternatives

The formidable Ford Ranger, the surprising Volkswagen Amarok, the hyped Jeep Gladiator and a couple of cheaper options from the Chinese manufacturer GWM. Also, last year’s GR Sport, now called the Adventure is also available for a lot less.

GOOD                – Rugged exterior; tried-and-tested V6; utility; reliability; off-road prowess

BAD                   – Relatively unknown; not particularly fuel efficient; not luxurious like some of its rivals

EDITOR’S RATING – 7.5/10

SPECIFICATIONS

Body type        – 5-seater; 4-door mid-size pickup truck

Engine              – Front-engine; 4.0-litre V6; four-wheel drive

Transmission  – 6-speed automatic

Peak output    – 235 hp @ 5,200 rpm; 375 Nm @ 3,800 rpm

0 to 100km/h – sub-8 seconds (estimated)

Top speed        – 180 km/h (drag limited; estimated)

Fuel economy – 14.5 l/100km (estimated)

Price                  – AED 169,900 (as tested)

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