A few days ago, DriveLife attended Toyota New Zealand’s media launch of the 2021 Hilux range.

After spending an entire day experiencing the rest of Hilux model range on an adventure from the Manawatu through Taranaki, Toyota threw down the gauntlet at their high-end, adventure ute competitors, with the grand entrance and debut of the new Toyota Hilux Mako, arriving at the Cape Egmont Boat Club suspended under New Zealand’s only Black Hawk helicopter.  

Toyota New Zealand’s Chief Executive Neeraj Lala says that “the Hilux Mako will be the ultimate bespoke Ute, for customers who want a fully kitted out Hilux.”

The Mako nameplate for the new halo model is inspired by the Te Reo-named shark, Mako, also one of the smartest and fastest sharks in the ocean.   

Befitting the Kiwi lineage, the Hilux Mako will be a custom, built-to-order Ute by Toyota New Zealand’s Thames Vehicle Operations, the same crew responsible for Toyota custom fit-outs for commercial customers.   

Underpinning the new Hilux Mako is the former range-topping Hilux SR5 Cruiser, meaning that the Mako receives the new Hilux 2.8-litre turbo diesel, producing 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque, offering greater low-end and mid-range performance.  The Mako is exclusively offered as an automatic. 

After arriving at Thames, the humble SR5 Cruiser undergoes an extensive four-day customisation before becoming a Mako.   

On the exterior, there’s an abundance of bespoke modifications, including 18-inch Black Rhino wheels, unique fender flares, front and rear tow hooks, a soft-close tailgate, a rear heavy-duty bumper with a non-slip step and a T Custom Sports Guard non-slip deck liner.  The Mako also gains a steel front bull-bar with integrated LED light bar, which Toyota’s Thames crew needed to construct a custom front bumper design to accommodate.

Inside, the Mako gains front bucket seats adorned with the Mako logos, custom leather wrapped front and rear seats, and a chunky sports steering wheel. The Mako comes with all the same safety and tech features offered on the SR5 Cruiser.  

The Mako isn’t just a blinged out SR5 Cruiser, as the extensive performance modifications continue underneath the ute.

The Mako gains the range-topping Old Man Emu heavy duty suspension from ARB, the same set-up featured on the Hilux Gladiator. This system offers a 40mm front lift and 50mm rear lift, and BP-51 bypass shocks with adjustable compression and rebound control.

Further performance enhancements continue with upgraded brakes, with stainless steel braided lines for improved feel and durability, plus larger diameter front discs borrowed from the revised Toyota Fortuner, which is expected to arrive in the near future. The Mako’s unique Black Rhino wheels are also wrapped in Maxxis Razr off-road tyres rolling out of Thames.

The final cherry-on-top, the Thames crew signs-off the Hilux Mako with an engine-bay build plate – “Handcrafted by the good buggers at Toyota”.  “Enjoy your unbreakable bond with Hilux Mako.”

With all of the Mako’s comfort, aesthetic and performance modifications, it’s clear that Ford’s Ranger Raptor sits squarely in the crosshairs of the new Hilux Mako.   

Where the component modifications are subjective, the Mako has the clear one-up on the Ranger Raptor with its tow rating.  The Mako maintains the 3500kg braked tow rating and 940kg bed payload as other 4WD Hilux variants, whereas the Raptor only musters 2500kg towing and 758kg in the bed.

At $79,900, the Hilux Mako undercuts the Ranger Raptor by around $5,000.  The price includes all on road costs; WOF, registration, a full tank of fuel, 1000kms of RUC, the Toyota Care Service Advantage fixed price servicing package, floor mats, and three years or 100,000 kms warranty.

Although the Mako comes at a steep $21,000 premium over the SR5 Cruiser, given the appetite for high-end Utes, Toyota New Zealand CEO Neeraj Lala expects to sell around 250 annually in the current post-Covid-19 era.  Toyota further intends to integrate the Mako nameplate into the Hilux range for the foreseeable future.

DriveLife briefly experienced the Hilux Mako on a drive of the streets of New Plymouth during the final date of the launch. First impressions were good, with the Mako offering a superior ride despite sitting on knobbly tyres.

DriveLife looks forward to conducting our own test of the new Hilux Mako and Hilux range.  

Be sure to check our article of the Hilux launch event experience in the subsequent days.

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