A GR-eat drive south

Published November 5, 2021, 5:19 AM

by Neil N. Pagulayan

Hands on with the Toyota Hilux GR-S and Fortuner GR-S

Toyota recently took the wraps off their latest offerings, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux GR-S and Fortuner GR-S. These new models are Sport variants of their pickup and midsized SUV. While the vehicles were launched virtually, Toyota promised we’d get a hands-on test drive of the vehicles soon.

One week later and Toyota delivered by organizing a drive to the south of Manila in these new wheels. After a quick breakfast, we set off and made our way to our lunch destination.

I chose the Hilux GR-S for the drive out, spanning roughly 50 kilometers to Sulyap Gallery Café and Restaurant in San Pablo City, Laguna.

Hilux GR-S

Pickups these days are a far cry from their workhorse origins. They’re more capable and easier to drive in and around tight urban parking areas. Getting out of the mall parking of Alabang Town Center was easy with it’s new Panoramic View Monitor. Getting onto the SLEX and merging with other vehicles at speed was also an easy task. Unlike older diesels, the Hilux GR-S’ turbocharged 2.8L diesel made short work of “getting up to speed” and joining the flow of traffic.

Launched very recently, the Hilux GR-S is the next step up after the Conquest variant. Up front, it gets a new black gloss G-Mesh front grille design and body-colored overfenders. Around the back, you get a black gloss sports bar. Finding our way to our lunch destination was easy with Apple CarPlay connectivity allowing us to use Waze and at the same time, listen to either the radio or our favorite playlist on Spotify.

Upon exiting the expressway, we made our way through winding country roads and some morning traffic through the towns of Calamba, Pansol, Anos and past UPLB, in Laguna. Thankfully, it eased up as we made our way to San Pablo. 

Having made it early to Sulyap Gallery Café and Restaurant, we were fully able to enjoy catching up with each other in person. Since the pandemic, events like these were few and far between.

After a sumptuous Filipino lunch, and lots of time to spare, we went for a quick drive around San Pablo. We visited the Sampaloc Lake, located behind the City Hall; a nice open space where locals can safely spend time outdoors.

Soon it was time to head back, and this time it was my turn to drive the Fortuner GR-S back to Manila.

Fortuner GR-S

I was especially looking forward to driving this Fortuner, as it’s equipped with JBL speakers, which would definitely help me stay awake on the ride back.  Resembling the LTD variant, the GR-S has a more aggressive front end with a redesigned bumper and fog lamp housing. The wheel arches are body-colored, while it gets a bi-tone rear spoiler, back door garnish and a redesigned rear bumper. The rear hatch is powered and now opens with a kick-sensor.

It’s also equipped with the same safety suite found in the LTD and Q variants: Toyota’s Safety Sense consisting of the Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control. There’s also the Panoramic View Monitor, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

What do they share?

The experience behind the wheel is definitely different for both vehicles, but the two have some things in common. Both are relatively easy to maneuver in city streets and tight parking situations, both are fun to drive on the open road. With the same engine and tuning, both put out 204-Ps at 3,400 rpm and with 500-Nm of torque coming in between 1,600-2,800 rpm, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

You’ve got more than enough power on demand, whether you’re carrying cargo, friends or both in either the Hilux or Fortuner GR-S, and that torque comes in early where you want it. Both Hilux and Fortuner get black tinted clear coat on their 18-inch alloy wheels and bright red brake calipers with GR markings.

Both cabins are equally as sporty as the exterior, with red, black and smoke silver metallic accents on surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheels, suede and leather sport front seats all with red stitching. Aluminum pedals are standard on both Hilux and Fortuner GR-S and they also have paddle shifters. Both get eight-way power adjust seats for the driver and interiors are unmistakeably GR with the logo on the headrests, the steering wheel, the engine start button, and even the floor mats.

The Hilux GR-S is far removed from its humble pickup origins. With car comforts and amenities you’d find in top of the line sedans, it will still remind you that it is a pickup, especially if you’ve not put anything in the back or are driving alone. The ride can be quite stiff due to its cargo carrying capacity, but it’s not harsh.

The Fortuner GR-S, as expected, has a more civilized ride than the Hilux. The seven-seater SUV is more composed on the open road and is definitely more comfortable. Getting back to Manila was helped by Apple Carplay allowing Waze to guide me while my Spotify playlist sounded awesome on its JBL speakers.

You can’t compare the two vehicles as they represent two different lifestyles. Both are still capable vehicles, made even more appealing with Toyota Gazoo Racing appointments.  The Toyota Hilux GR-S we drove in Emotional Red is priced at P2,005,000 and the Fortuner GR-S we drove in White Pearl CS/Attitude Black Mica is priced at P2,509,000. Both are now available at your nearest Toyota showroom.