Goodbye Toyota HiLux Rugged X, hello Toyota HiLux GR Sport.

    Toyota Australia has announced its new “hardcore halo” HiLux variant to be introduced in the second half of 2023 will take on the global ‘GR Sport’ name.

    In a sparse three-paragraph press release, Toyota’s local arm described the HiLux GR Sport as its “off-road focused” range-topping ute, but offered precisely zero more intel.

    When we reached out to the company, a spokesperson simply said it was “too early to confirm any further details” – particularly the degree to which Australian engineering would be involved.

    We’re expecting the global supply chain to be in better health this time next year, so there’s a chance the company is waiting to secure greater stock of donor vehicles.

    The now-defunct Toyota HiLux Rugged X range-topper, which the GR Sport will replace, came bristling with 4×4 accessories tested and fitted in Australia after donor HiLuxes rolled off the boats.

    MORE ON THAT: Toyota Product Centre, Australia’s new car engineering, design hub

    The new Aussie-market Toyota HiLux GR Sport will top the local range, alongside the updated HiLux Rogue that was revealed in July this year and is expected to arrive by the end of 2022.

    This new Rogue will itself get rejigged suspension and brakes, and a meaner body kit offering a tougher stance.

    Toyota uses the HiLux GR Sport nomenclature elsewhere, including on this model in South Africa which has a body kit and comes with a 15kW and 50Nm power and torque bump from its familiar 2.8-litre diesel engine.

    Toyota also sells HiLux GR Sport variants in the European market, as well as in the Thai and Japanese markets – with more details on both of these models available at the links.

    What we know so far

    Toyota Australia said in July 2022 it would axe the HiLux Rugged X flagship model and replace it with a new “apex off-road variant” – clearly with one eye on Ford’s hot-selling new Ranger Raptor, which launched with 4000 pre-orders and counting.

    It’s expected but not confirmed the HiLux halo will be designed and modified by Toyota Australia at its Melbourne Product Centre – as with the aforementioned upgraded Rogue spinoff.

    Since their arrival in 2018, HiLux Rogue and HiLux Rugged X have amassed more than 17,000 sales, giving TMC Australia some license to grow its local skunkworks operation.

    In previous correspondence from July, TMC Australia said:

    “In a further upgrade to the HiLux range, Toyota plans to launch a new apex off-road variant, replacing the HiLux Rugged X. Details, including launch timing, will be announced in due course.”

    It looks like the information drip-feed is only somewhat finished…

    The outgoing HiLux Rugged X was finished in Australia after arriving from the Thai plant: bringing factory-backed add-ons such as a steel bull bar, bash plating, rock rails, bed-mounted sports bars, heavy recovery points, new front springs, an LED light bar, and a snorkel.

    Without having much in the way of official detail, the wording from Toyota Australia around plans for the now-named GR Sport suggests it may go further with its mods this time, possibly veering into more specialised off-road suspension, better brakes, and potentially more power.

    But it would be something of a surprise to see Toyota investing in a proper performance powerplant like the Ranger Raptor’s turbocharged petrol six, since the Ford was designed for global markets rather than as an Australia-specific model, which obviously impacts business cases based on volume.

    If we go into full pipedream mode, we can refer to the March 2017 Toyota HiLux Tonka concept created by Toyota Australia, which got a six-inch lift, 35-inch tyres, a power bulge, 6mm bash plating, new heavy-duty suspension and the like.

    Australia has a peculiar desire for modified pickups, and car brands hate to lose that market to the aftermarket entirely – though Ford has found a middle ground with its ARB tie-up.

    As well as the Toyota HiLux localisation scheme, other examples include the Nissan Navara Warrior re-engineering program in Melbourne by Premcar, and Volkswagen Australia’s fruitful arrangement with Walkinshaw around re-engineered Amaroks – one set to flourish with the new model too.

    MORE: Toyota HiLux sets sales record
    MORE: Toyota Product Centre, Australia’s new car engineering, design hub
    MORE: Toyota appeals Federal Court finding as DPF class action looms

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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