Building on Toyota’s Dakar-dominating legacy, the new iteration of the Japanese automaker’s fully localised high-performance bakkie shows off an upgraded suspension, wider track, and a terrain-conquering attitude.

As South Africa’s best-selling bakkie for over five decades, the Toyota Hilux needs no introduction. Whether in workhorse form, as a stylish daily commuter, or as an uber-capable family leisure vehicle, the many personalities of the Mzansi’s most desirable double cab are its greatest strength.

When the first-generation Hilux GR Sport burst onto the scene as the zenith of the Hilux range, buyers clamoured (a little more than usual) to get their hands on the ultimate Hilux at the time. With striking livery designed to underscore its Gazoo Racing heritage, the Hilux GR-S I became the first production Toyota bakkie to wear the coveted GR Sport moniker reserved for vehicles in the second tier of Toyota’s GR pyramid, encompassing suspension upgrades and cosmetic enhancements.

The first-gen Hilux GR-S was powered by Toyota’s trusted 2.8 GD-6 turbodiesel engine delivering 130 kW and 450 Nm, mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission and a “switch-on-the-fly” 4WD transaxle.

Although performance remained unchanged from other 2.8 GD-6s, the 2022 GR-S II toned down the racing livery but upped the ante under the hood to 165 kW and 55 Nm of torque. Further suspension enhancements, interior upgrades, and exterior improvements elevated the GR-S II’s legendary status even more.


When the third-generation Hilux GR Sport made its unofficial debut at Toyota’s annual State of the Motor Industry workshop at the start of the year, a few details about the GR-S III properly set tongues wagging. 

Although Toyota remained tight-lipped about what lurked under the bonnet, a much larger new Dakar Hilux-inspired grill, a widened track, and the largest tyres ever fitted to a Hilux from the factory made no bones about its off-road intentions.

The speculation proved all too true when we finally had the opportunity last month to sample the sportiest Hilux on the road and, notably, in a giant sandbox outside of Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape.

Building on the exclusive look of GR-S I and the high-powered fun of the GR-S II, the Hilux GR-S III development concept successfully entrenches the bakkie’s rally-inspired design, but adds “more intuitive driving and handling performance”, according to Toyota. What that means in practice, and how this has been achieved, is the real magic of the GR-S III Hilux.


Playing in a market niche where bigger is always better, the new GR Sport Hilux has some serious off-road competition in the form of the Ford Ranger Raptor and the Isuzu D-Max AT35. While the former is significantly more powerful, and the latter boasts a formidable Arctic Trucks suspension system, the Hilux GR-S III carefully straddles these extremes with a much wider tread than before (expanded by 140 mm at the front and 155 mm at the rear compared to the standard Hilux), an improved approach angle (from 29- to 30 degrees), and a 20 mm increase in ride height.

Although not more potent than its GR-S II predecessor, the new GR-S Hilux also sports expanded front disc brakes (from 16” to 17”) and new 15” discs on the rear (which replace the previous drum brakes) for more precise and powerful braking performance.

These upgrades, along with newer, lightweight, 17” alloy wheels, made an easy meal of the dune-driving section of our launch route, while on-road handling performance seems markedly improved as well, thanks to larger piston-diameter shock absorbers at the front and rear, and the re-tuning of suspension system overall.


Hilux GR-S III is all about the looks, specifically at the front, where several premium exterior design details, such as the black G-mesh front grille supporting the classic Toyota name logo, black sidestep, and mirrors and door handles, make a bold statement. Silver-coloured protective front underguard, a black rear bumper, and distinctive GR logos complement the overall appearance.

Inside, the GR Sport Hilux is only slightly less premium than its range-topping Legend counterpart, with a monotone colour scheme laying the foundation for the interior look and feel. Bold red accents in the form of contrasting red seat belts and contrast stitching emphasise the motorsport passion behind the GR identity. The seats, supremely comfortable and decked out in suede and leather, offer good lateral support over longer distances and improved grip to minimise sliding when seeking out the Hilux’s performance and handling limits. 

Paddle controls add the option of manual shift selection, while the perforated sports leather steering wheel and aluminium sport pedals further hint at the GR-S III’s motorsport heritage.

From a tech point of view, the GR-S III now comes standard with a JBL nine-speaker sound system, although you will still have to make do with Toyota’s standard 8” touchscreen infotainment system – the only aspect of the overall package that lets the side down when compared to the significantly more advanced system in the Ranger Raptor, for example. 


At R999,000, the new GR Sport Hilux is the most powerful sub-million Rand off-road-focussed performance bakkie available in South Africa and only the second-most powerful overall. While these credentials alone make it a desirable option for buyers looking to stand out from the crowd, its significantly upgraded suspension also transforms it into one of the most comfortable bakkies around, which is new territory altogether for the Hilux brand.


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