Magazine – April 2001
– Hottest Hilux –
Diesel bakkies are slow, right? If that’s what you think, then think again.
Because the standard Toyota Hilux 3,0 KZ-TE is a pretty good performer.
But now, Steves Auto Clinic offers a kit that transforms the vehicle from impressive to downright astounding.
Waldo van der Waal drives one.
From the outside, the SAC Hilux doesn’t look any different to its standard stable mates.
It has the same modern lines and rugged approach.
As a matter of fact, if you parked the silver SAC vehicle next to Drive’s own silver double cab long termer, you’d be hard pressed to spot any differences.
This, of course, is good news. It means that the guys at SAC have managed to do what they did, without having to change anything in terms of visible bodywork.
It would take an exceptionally sharp eye to spot any external evidence of SAC’s work, which is neatly tucked away under the sump.
But let’s start at the beginning. When SAC takes a standard 3,0 KZ-TE diesel engine, it pumps out in the region of 69kW on the rear wheels.
It also has a maximum torque figure of 252Nm, again measured on the wheels.
Now, these figures are highly competitive in the bakkie market.
They are right up there with Colt’s 2,8 turbo diesel, and pretty close to the almighty TD5, which is used in the Land Rover Defender and Discovery.
But, for the guys at SAC, those ratings are not nearly enough.
So, step one is to take off the standard sump protection plate and, in its place, bolt on an intercooler.
Hein Lategan of SAC designed the device in question, and the whole thing is hand-built at the SAC workshop to the very highest standards.
The intercooler is incredibly sleek, and fits snugly under the engine so that it’s only just lower than the old protection plate.
Protection of the intercooler is handled by a new steel plate, which doesn’t buckle under any sort of impact (as we discovered after a particularly rigorous off-road session at Gerotek).
With the intercooler in place, the vehicle’s engine appears a lot happier.
The exhaust temperature drops, simply because the intake temperature is a lot lower, and obviously there are substantial power gains, thanks to denser air that makes it into the combustion areas.
But again, that’s not enough for the guys at SAC.
Step two is to add a smart computer chip, which helps the engine to cope better with the effects of the intercooler.
The chip is also used to change the engine mapping in terms of fuel usage, which makes a huge difference not only in terms of performance, but also in terms of economy.
A myriad of small adjustments are made to the engine, and hours of expert tuning are spent setting the diesel pump just right.
With everything in place, the vehicle is put on the dynometer, to check the installation, and also to fine-tune the chip.
This time, even the stringent fellows at SAC have to smile.
The increase of torque is almost 23 percent. And much the same goes for the power too.
The interesting thing is that the torque curve has also changes, making maximum twist effort available over a wider rev range.
If you take the old torque curve, you find that its peak is at 2 500 revs/min.
With the engine mods, the amount becomes available all the way from the 1 800 mark to 3 400.
And the best news is that there’s even more torque available.
So, what does that do in terms of performance? Well, the standard Hilux 3,0 KZ-TE 4×4 Double Cab Raider sprints from zero to 100km/h in 13,2 seconds.
With the intercooler, chip and tuning, the bakkie manages the same test in only 10,4 seconds – an improvement of 21 percent!
Top speed has also increased and, while the standard vehicle runs to 168km/h on the road, the modified bakkie clocks 179km/h.
The increase in performance means that you’ll be using a smaller throttle opening in order to attain the same speed as before.
This, of course, means that the fuel consumption drops overall.
Even though the stats sell the story, it was the on-road driving experience that made us fall in love with the SAC vehicle.
On the highway you never need to shift down on hills or when overtaking.
In town the vehicle is so quick that it takes many motorists by surprise.
Imagine this two-ton truck getting out of the blocks quicker than the bloke in his little semi-hot hatch.
Off-road, the conversion also works very well.
With more torque available lower in the rev range, you can now use even less speed through obstacles.
As far as we’re concerned, there can be no doubt that the Hilux is a better vehicle with the SAC conversion.
It pulls better, uses less fuel, and is much easier to drive.
Frankly, we think it’s only a matter of time until Toyota fits this system, or a similar one at least, as a factory option on its KZ-TE.