2023 HiLux GR Sport review – first drive of Toyota’s most expensive HiLux 4×4

By Evan Spence 10 Min Read
2023 Toyota HiLux GR Sport

The words Ranger Raptor and GR Sport HiLux don’t exist together. They just aren’t the same vehicle, and it’s not fair to compare the two. Those who want to draw comparisons don’t understand the GR Sport HiLux. With that off my chest, it’s time to take Toyota’s latest 4×4 ute offering for a spin, both on and off-road, to see what makes it tick.

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So the 2023 GR Sport HiLux isn’t a Raptor killer, and nor is it designed to be. What is it then? Well, it’s taller, wider, more powerful and more stylish inside the cabin than any other HiLux before it. But is that enough to justify the nearly $75,000 asking price before driveaway costs? Is the GR Sport HiLux special enough to make Aussie buyers cough up the extra dough for an off-road-ready HiLux straight from the dealership? 

Before we get started on this review, make sure you brush up on your GR Sport HiLux knowledge, with our quick article titled: Everything we know about the 2023 GR Sport HiLux so far. 

What I like about the GR Sport HiLux

  1. On-and-off-road handling is well-dialled in  
  2. Excellent braking performance with disc brakes on all four corners 
  3. Wider track width adds to stability and a chunky look

2023 GR Sport HiLux problems 

  1. No front diff lock – yet the 300 Series GR Sport gets one? 
  2. Small tyres – GR Sport really deserves more rubber 
  3. I’m personally not a fan of GR Sport’s chunky flare design 

What’s the story 

This is a vehicle that has seen the light of day, off the back of Toyota’s HiLux-based Dakar Rally entry. Which has proven to be a success in the gruelling race. 

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Toyota Australia has been instrumental in developing the GR Sport for Australia and told Unsealed 4×4 at their recent launch of the 2023 GR Sport, that this is a vehicle designed to go four-wheel driving. Straight from the dealership. And that it’s rally inspired. Whereas the HiLux Rogue, has been designed around urban adventure… Toyota’s words not mine.

More power 

Yep, 10% more power. The output figures of the GR Sport HiLux are now 165kW and 550Nm. This is 15kW and 50Nm more than the SR, or SR5 HiLux. Even the Rogue doesn’t see this extra grunt. 

While this power increase is welcomed, it is conservative. In the real world, there is a  boost to low and mid-range engine performance, but like most small-capacity turbo-diesel engines, it still runs out of puff higher in the rev range. 

With more power, comes more responsibility. As such, the GR Sport HiLux brakes have been upgraded to feature disc brakes on all four corners. And they work a treat, let me tell you. The braking performance on the 2023 GR Sport HiLux is first class, if almost a tad too touchy. With a set of larger tyres (which should have come from the factory) and a load in the tray, this enhanced braking performance will be greatly appreciated. 

Inside the 2023 GR Sport HiLux 

Something that caught my eye, is the tweeter speakers on the doors. Which feel like they are held in place with double-sided tape. This doesn’t feel like a solid solution, nor does it match the quality levels found elsewhere inside the GR Sport HiLux. 

Special inclusions for the 2023 GR Sport HiLux, include red seat belts (if you’re into such things), as well as GR Sport stitching in the headrests. The front seats are lovely, both aesthetically and from a functional point of view. 

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In the back seat area, you don’t get much at all. The red seatbelt theme carries over, as does the suede seat material. It’s a very basic place to be in the back seat of the GR Sport HiLux, but it’s a comfortable back seat even for slightly taller folks.

GR Sport HiLux off-road 

Credit where credit is due, the N80 HiLux platform has always been a very competent off-roader. And the GR Sport takes this model even further when it comes to off-road ability. 

The KYB shock absorbers are tuned well for rough road surfaces. They did feel firm on more technical low-range terrain, but not annoyingly so. 

With more ground clearance, decent suspension travel, and a very well-calibrated traction control system, the 2023 GR Sport HiLux is very capable off-road. Add in the heavy-duty rock sliders (Toyota calls them Rock Rails), the front bash plate and the wider wheel track, and well it’s not going to make the HiLux worse off-road. Is it? 

What I’m not so stoked about, is the skateboard tyres found on the GR Sport HiLux. It really would have been good to see some larger, say 265x70r17 tyres from the factory. With a more aggressive tread pattern. Also, the lack of a diff lock in the front differential is very disappointing to see. There is naturally a rear differential lock included. 

The aftermarket has options here, in the form of E-Lockers or Air Lockers. Front and rear diff locks, would not only make the GR Sport HiLux much more capable, it would make this a proper GR Sport.

GR Sport HiLux on-road

While the main benefit of the GR Sport HiLux is its extra chops off-road, its on-road handling is much improved. I put this down to the KYB shock absorbers and suspension tune. While the GR Sport is taller than it’s say SR5 equivalent, you don’t notice any additional body roll. The widened track width helps there. 

What you do notice, is how the choppy ride on rough roads is basically gone. Even unladen. The GR Sport HiLux front seats are also incredibly supportive and comfortable. I especially noticed the shoulder bolstering to be a welcome addition on the front seats. 

On-road is also where you notice the additional power increase. The HiLux takes off better and is able to get to the speed limit quicker. For those inclined, paddle shifters have also found their way into the GR Sport HiLux. These allow you to manually shift through the 6-speed automatic transmission without taking your hands off the steering wheel. 

2023 Toyota GR Sport HiLux conclusion

It’s expensive, and it’s not perfect – but the 2023 GR Sport HiLux 4×4 is the best HiLux I’ve driven. And yes, I’ve owned most of them except for an N80 now that I think about it. 

The GR Sport rides great, looks terrific, other than the flares in my opinion, and has a real presence about it on the road. The extra track width gives the ‘Lux a chunky appearance, and the ride quality is a big improvement compared to an SR or SR5 HiLux. It’s also a bit unique, a touch special. 

Now, if it came from the factory with a front diff lock and bigger tyres, I’d be a very happy off-roader. But it doesn’t, and I feel that is a real shame for the GR Sport badge. I like it, but do I like it enough to spend that sort of coin on a dual-cab ute? Hmm, further investigation is required I feel.  

2023 GR Sport HiLux specs

Engine: 2.8-litre single turbo diesel

Power Figures: 165kW at 3000rpm 

Torque figures: 550Nm at 2800rpm 

Gearbox: Six-speed automatic transmission

Payload: 780kg

Towing Capacity: 3500kg

Length: 5320mm 

Width: 2020mm 

Height: 1880mm 

Wheelbase: 3085mm 

Front Track Width: 1670mm 

Rear Track Width: 1705mm

Want to see it in action? See video below

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