Toyota entered the aspirational 4×4 double cab market with its first attempt at a bespoke lifestyle bakkie with its GR Sport model back in 2019 and is now back with an updated look and plenty of power.

Kick it up a notch

As with many motoring manufacturers, there is a model hierarchy and with Toyota, it is no different. We have covered the structure before in a previous article and in 2019 Toyota decided to spruce up its double cab offering by entering it into the GR lineup.

The initial 500 units of the Hilux GR Sport were instantly snapped up by new owners and the responses were so great that Toyota decided to make the GR-S nameplate a mainstay within the model line up and as of this month, the GR-S is a standalone designation. This means that it now joins the Raider and RS at the top of the pile. For this special occasion and the 2022 model year, we spent a few days in the bush with the new GR-S Hilux and found that it is more than just a sticker pack.

Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review

Looking the part

The most prominent feature on the GR-S is the new chunky grille with chrome Toyota lettering that dominates the front end. Down the side, you will find black over fenders with contrasting inserts and a set of GR-branded running boards. Filling the space under the arches is a new set of 17″ alloy wheels and multi-terrain tyres and around the back, the GR-branded fashion bar and tonneau cover take care of rear styling, however, the best changes have been saved for the interior.

Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review

Not just a fancy face

Jumping inside you are immediately struck by how less utilitarian the GR-S is, there is no leather upholstery and no solid colour plastics, instead, you will find Alcantara-like cloth seats with contrasting red stitching, faux carbon fibre inserts with red detailing and requisite GR badging on everything. The overall feel of the interior is much more lifestyle SUV than anything we have driven from the Hilux stable.

Behind the leather-bound steering wheel with its paddle shifters, you will see the new gauge cluster with its metallic bezels and red needles that add to the air of sportiness inside and allude to what may be under your right foot

Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review

More than skin deep

The GR-S Hilux is more than just a brand package though, the engineers did some proper work on the oily bits and it shows. Starting with the tried and trusted 2.8 GD-6, the engineers jacked up the power to 165kW and 550Nm and reprogrammed the 6-speed auto box to shift better, allowing it to work with the aforementioned paddle shifters.

They also fettled the suspension replacing the setup with new monotube shock absorbers that are paired with stiffer coil springs that improve high-speed stability and handling response. This was instantly felt while careening up a twisty mountain pass that was more pothole than tar, an experience that was so unlike a Hilux, it felt like cheating.

Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review

Model and pricing

Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 double cab 4×4 GR-Sport / GR-S  R 865 400

*Pricing correct at time of publishing and subject to change without notice.

Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review

Verdict

It goes without saying that Toyota has hit on another winner here. Borrowing much of its styling from the American Tacoma model, the GR-S ticks all the boxes that South African buyers are looking at, looks, performance and cost. It is an amazing place to spend your day in driving up and down mountains and is a phenomenal long-distance drive that has more than enough power in reserve to despatch pesky trucks. Toyota knows, and listens, to its clientele and you can now also choose whether you want the GR stickers down the side and how garish you want to go.

South Africans will now be spoilt for choice in the aspirational lifestyle bakkie segment but with the lion’s share of the bakkie market wrapped up, I think it’s safe to say that Toyota will be king for a while still.

 Lawrence MinnieLawrence has been involved with motorsports for almost 30 years. Whether it's two wheels or four, if it has an engine, he will try to race it. This love of motor vehicles has led him to ride, drive, film, photograph, and write about his passion. Freelance for a while but now a permanent fixture on the AutoTrader team for over 7 years, Lawrence contributes written, photographic, and video content for AutoTrader and AutoTrader Bikes.View News & Reviews

Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review
Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review
Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review
Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review
Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review
Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review
Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review
Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4x4 GR-S (2022) First Drive Review

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