1996 Hilux Surf VZN185
Available for: $16,995
The 3rd generation Hilux Surf has been legal in the states for a few months now, and new owners have been returning rave reviews. This 1996 SSR-G model provides one of the easiest ownership experiences of any JDM import, as this 3.4L V6 powering this rig was sold here in the US under the bonnet of the 4Runner. Offered with a mere 99k verified and documented miles, this SSR-G is optioned with a tasty Recaro interior and more performance upgrades and cabin amenities than our domestic version of the truck. Accessorized by factory rainguards, an OEM step bar, rear spoiler, and factory bullbar with OEM foglamps, this eye-catching truck turns more than a few heads. Finished in a striking Evergreen Pearl over Silver two-tone(751) the body is in good shape aside from some minor scuffs, dings, and chips associated with normal use. Recently serviced and legally imported this capable, reliable and well-optioned SUV is a real-deal, 4x4 Japanese Classic.
The cabin is spacious and logically laid out from an ergonomics standpoint. It's also considerably safer than the truck it replaces and this Surf comes with standard dual SRS airbags. The view of the road ahead is clear and commanding and the dash lacks any cracking or distortion. Power windows, locks, and mirrors are standard, and aside from the power-folding function, work as advertised. As the SSR-G is the highest available trim package, an electric retractable sunroof adds some additional natural light to the cabin and ventilation. If you enjoy a light breeze the rear glass also power retracts into the tailgate. The A/C also assists in that regard and blows cold air at a moment's notice. The auto climate control is simple to use and adjust. Obviously, the star of the show is the Recaro seats. They are in good shape overall and lack any major rips stains or tears. Besides looking like a million bucks, the front seats are highly bolstered and provide a great deal of lateral support so that you won't slosh around while tackling some backwoods trails. The rear 60/40 bench can be folded flat and has more recline settings than USDM models. The glovebox and center console provide additional storage and even the owner's manuals are tucked away for the new buyer to enjoy. That's not to say the cabin is perfect as the ashtray is missing, the OEM head unit is no longer operational, nor is the field monitor. On the positive side the headliner, door cards, and carpets have resisted major abuse over the past quarter-century and still look decent. Our favorite Japanese option was the power rear mirror. It unfurls from the spoiler and allows the driver to see the rear bumper when parking to avoid a costly bumper replacement. Overall, the cabin is much nicer than the 4Runners you see for sale in the USA and is better equipped, which never hurts.
The body-on-frame platform under the VZN185 is a gem. Its rigid, tough and delivers above-average ride quality over most all vehicles this age. This Surf is powered by the 5VZ-FE gasoline V6. It's fresh off an oil and filter service and starts up immediately thanks to a new 12v battery. The engine idles confidently and is connected to a slick-shifting automatic gearbox. For those who want to take this SUV on the beach, a selective transfer case and center locking differential are there to assist. We did want to note that this Hilux does sometimes take a bit longer to dial in the center locker, but ultimately the system works. The TEMS adjustable suspension is perfectly suited for daily use and is communicative and predictable for a truck. The brakes are adequate and the power steering is on point and light. The 16" aftermarket alloys are all wrapped in new Falken all-terrain rubber. The 31" tires will last for tens of thousands of miles to come, and provide plenty of year-round grip when called upon. We even replaced the spare tire when we were at it!
*California Residents: In order to register a Grey Market vehicle in the state of California then it will have to be made CARB complaint first. CARB certifications will have to be performed within the state. Depending on the vehicle and any existing modifications will affect the pricing. Typically CARB compliance will range between 5-10K. Additional information can be found on the California Air Resources Board website.