Photos taken in Thailand appear to depict the upcoming Toyota HiLux GR Sport, the ‘apex’ off-roader flagship of the ute line.
Camouflage appears to have been applied to the front bumper and grille and the fender flares, though even with this disguise we can make out a more aggressive front-end treatment.
Toyota Australia has confirmed the “off-road focused… hardcore halo” GR Sport will arrive locally in the second half of 2023.
It will replace the Rugged X atop the range, which included numerous 4×4 accessories tested and fitted in Australia to the Thai-built ute such as a steel bull bar, bash plating, rock rails and new front springs.
Like the rest of the HiLux range, the GR Sport will be built in Thailand but it’s expected the flagship will be designed and modified by Toyota Australia at its Melbourne Product Centre, as is the refreshed Rogue.
Since their arrival in 2018, the outgoing HiLux Rogue and HiLux Rugged X have amassed more than 17,000 sales, giving Toyota Australia some licence to grow its local skunkworks operation.
It’s unclear what changes will be made to create the Australian-market GR Sport.
This model features not only a body kit, but also a bump in power and torque of 15kW and 50Nm.
While a 165kW/550Nm turbo-diesel 2.8-litre four-cylinder engine can’t match the burly Ford Ranger Raptor’s twin-turbo petrol V6, it does bring the HiLux closer – on paper, at least – to the 184kW/600Nm outputs of the regular Ranger’s available 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6.
Changes under the skin for the local GR Sport could go further than those applied to the 2023 HiLux Rogue.
That model features a wider front and rear track (up 140mm) and an additional 20mm of ride height when compared to other HiLux dual-cab 4x4s.
Toyota engineers overhauled the existing suspension by extending the front suspension arm and front stabiliser bar length. It also adjusted the shock absorber angle.
The rear axle length has been extended, and the dampers have been moved further outwards towards the wheels.
For the first time on the HiLux, there’s a rear stabiliser bar fitted to the Rogue, designed to “enhance cornering stability and ride comfort”.
Toyota claims that roll rigidity has been “enhanced by 20 per cent” as a result of all these suspension changes.
The upgrades don’t stop there, as there are new ventilated rear disc brakes that replace the existing drum brakes.
The front disc brakes have also been upgraded to units that have a diameter of 17 inches, one inch larger than the ones on the pre-update Rogue.
Capping off the exterior upgrades to the updated HiLux Rogue are wider wheel arch flares to accommodate those wider track widths, as well as 18-inch alloy wheels with a darkened finish.
The 2023 Toyota HiLux Rogue retains its locally developed electric roller cover for the tub, a sports bar, and tub lining made from “marine-grade carpet”.
There’s been a lot of activity in recent years at the higher end of the segment the HiLux competes in.
These range from models loaded with off-road accessories like the HiLux Rugged X and Mazda BT-50 Thunder, to utes that have been modified by a third-party like the various Walkinshaw-fettled Volkswagen Amarok models and the Premcar-modified Nissan Navara Pro-4X Warrior.
The Ford Ranger Raptor rules the roost, with the latest generation ditching the bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel shared with other Ranger models for a unique twin-turbo 3.5-litre petrol V6.
MORE: Everything Toyota HiLux