Here's why the GR-S trims of the Toyota Fortuner and Hilux are ideal for a road trip

Here's why the GR-S trims of the Toyota Fortuner and Hilux are ideal for a road trip

The proverbial "trip to the south" usually involves driving to Tagaytay, in which one can enjoy the cool weather and mountain views, or Batangas, which offers many places to soak the sun while sitting above sandy shores. 

A recent day trip organized by Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) followed a unique southern route in the areas of San Pablo, Laguna, a little more than 100 kilometers away from Metro Manila. This Laguna town showed its own pleasant surprises. 

The trip also allowed TMP's latest offerings — the Fortuner GR-S and Hilux GR-S — to prove themselves as proper road trip vehicles. After all, the vehicles sport four-wheel drive and brawny diesel engines, qualities that can make long drives a walk in the park. The Fortuner and Hilux's Gazoo Racing-Sport kit—which takes inspiration from Toyota's performance arm—add to the vehicles' go-anywhere appeal. 

During our unusual trip to the south, we learned why the Fortuner and Hilux GR-S are ideal travel companions.

Stylish and rugged appearance

As mentioned, the GR-S kit enhances the exterior of the midsize SUV and pickup. These racy and rugged details are enough to entice one to hit the road. 

Toyota-Fortuner-GR-S

The Fortuner GR-S is finished in a two-tone affair, with its Super White body topped by a black upper half. To continue the monochromatic theme, the 18-inch GR wheels are finished in black, as are the grille, front fog light housings, and rear diffuser and spoiler. The GR-S logo of honor front and back, and on the red brake calipers, are affixed front and back. Sequential LED turn signals enhance the look further. 

Toyota-Hilux-GR-S

Meanwhile, the Hilux GR-S finished in Emotional Red catches the eye with its gloss black grille, GR wheels, and sports bar, among other accessories. Perhaps our favorite part of the Hilux GR-S is how TOYOTA is spelled out boldly on its grille, a styling cue similar to the FJ Land Cruiser's. 

Despite the wild appearance of the Fortuner and Hilux GR-S, they didn't look too out of place parked in the grounds of Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Boutique Hotels and Restaurant where we had our lunch. 

Toyota-Hilux-GR-S-Sulyap-Cafe

Sulyap-Gallery-CafeSulyap's cafe and restaurant, which also doubles as a gallery, serves traditional Filipino cuisine. The place offers accommodations in its villas wearing colonial era architecture. 

Impressive ride, handling, performance

As part of the GR-S kit, the two vehicles are fitted with monotube rear shock absorbers for better off-road performance, which could complement the vehicles' 4WD. 

Driving the Fortuner GR-S, what made the most impression to us is that, compared to the pre-facelift and standard Fortuner, this new version's ride seemed to pitch and heave less during cornering and braking.

Toyota Fortuner GR-S

Steering feel was noticeably better, too, as we maneuvered the SUV around narrow rural roads in Laguna, one of which was overlooking the Sampaloc Lake. 

As for the Hilux GR-S, its rather stiff ride had us wincing over the ruts, bumps, and craters of the national highway The upside to this, however, is less body lean in corners. But the ride quality showed with only two occupants in the pickup; perhaps the ride should improve when the cabin and pickup bed become weighed down with people and cargo. 

Toyota Hilux GR-S

The two GR-S models are powered by the same engine found with the rest of the range: a 2.8-liter turbodiesel mill which generates 200hp and 500Nm of torque. Despite bearing the GR-S moniker in their names, the vehicles' engines don't feature any performance mods. But why mess with an already capable engine, right?

During cruising speeds, the engine settles down at an easy rev range. When overtaking, the torque kicks into action along with the standard six-speed automatic. We managed between eight to 10kpl during our drive, and that's with our mix of languid and spirited driving. 

Road trip-friendly features

Loading luggage or what have you is easy in the Fortuner GR-S—its automatic tailgate opens and closes upon a push of a button. To play your driving music via the JBL audio system, just link your phone to the Fortuner GR-S' phone mirroring-compatible infotainment. 

Toyota Fortuner GR-S

Meanwhile, securing surfboards or bicycles onto the bed of the Hilux GR-S is a breeze with the damped opening of the tailgate. The standard bed liner also protects the body from dents and scrapes. LED lights helps in looking for objects in the bed at night. 

Speaking of looking, shifting the Hilux GR-S in reverse activates the 360-degree camera. 

Toyota-Hilux-GR-S

Inside, the Fortuner GR-S and Hilux GR-S come with amenities that made the drive both relaxing and exciting. We loved how GR-branded seats, wrapped in leather and grippy material, balanced firmness and comfort. The seats' side bolsters hold the driver and passenger in place. The rear seats in the same material are equally as comfy. 

Toyota-Hilux-GR-Sport

The aluminum in the pedals is a nice sporty touch, while enhancements in the steering wheel are much appreciated. Along with leather and red stitching, the tiller now comes with beefier thumb grips. The reach adjustment made for a better driving position and comfort, too, as is the padded armrest. 

If another opportunity to take a southern drive—or any drive, for that matter—presents itself, we know which rugged vehicle to take. 

Photos from Toyota Motor Philippines, Roy Robles, and Dylan Afuang

 

 

 

 

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