Toyota Australia will 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 has 4000 pre-orders and counting.

    Without confirming much in the way of detail, it’s expected the unnamed HiLux halo will be designed and suitably modified by Toyota Australia at its Melbourne Product Centre – as was the case with the Rugged X, and with the newly 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, as detailed below in our deep-dive.

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    “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,” is all Toyota Australia would say. Cryptic buggers…

    The outgoing HiLux Rugged X was finished in Australia after arriving from the Thai plant: bringing factory-backed add-ons such as a steel bullbar, 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 Rugged X successor suggests it may go further with its mods this time– possibly veering into more specialised off-road suspension, better brakes, and potentially more power.

    For some context, the updated Rogue announced today gets overhauled suspension with a rear stabiliser bar, and rear disc brakes in place of drums. You can imagine a similar degree of change for the Rugged X successor, with a less-obvious on-road focus.

    Regarding power, consider this South African-market HiLux GR Sport with its tweaked 2.8-litre diesel making an additional 15kW and 50Nm – to 165kW and 550Nm. That might be something worth adding…

    It would be 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.

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    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 that’s soon to expand, and Volkswagen Australia’s fruitful arrangement with Walkinshaw around re-engineered Amaroks – one set to flourish with the new model too.

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    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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