Toyota Australia has suggested the GR Sport is not the last development we will see of the current-generation HiLux model – and that could mean a new hero model to rival the Ford Ranger Raptor.
The new HiLux GR Sport is a hardcore off-roader with a number of significant changes to the underpinnings and powertrain, but it’s not a ‘proper’ rival to the Ford Ranger Raptor.
That doesn’t mean, however, there won’t be something else coming down the line, according to Toyota Australia vice president of sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley.
Mr Hanley reaffirmed that 48-volt “assist” technology will arrive on some models in 2024, but not for the GR Sport. However, he said there is more coming to the HiLux.
“The arrival of the 48-volt battery will be the third major update for highlights since October last year. And we have at least one more HiLux surprise in store for next year. And before you ask me what it is you’ll have to wait – we need another event! It just keeps getting better,” said Mr Hanley at the press conference for the new HiLux GR Sport.
But in a follow-up one-on-one chat with CarExpert, Mr Hanley expanded on that a little further.
“You know, you’ve seen that Toyota doesn’t necessarily sit back and wait for product cycles anymore – we move with the market. So it’s exciting times,” he said.
When asked if he feels there is still “white space” above the $73,990 (MSRP) HiLux GR Sport in terms of what customers want and are willing to pay, he indicated that is indeed the case, referring directly to the $86,790 (MSRP) Ford Ranger Raptor.
“That’s interesting. I think there is a limit in that market, at some point, of cost. Whether we’ve pushed that limit yet, I’m not so sure,” he said. “This car [the GR Sport], though, is not a competitor to Raptor. I can tell you that. It’s not aimed at Raptor.”
Mr Hanley said the company is eager to see what the customer reaction to the GR Sport is like in order to gauge if there is still scope for a more hardcore HiLux – one that could potentially wear a GR badge without the “Sport” suffix as part of its name, which essentially indicates a model that is “largely a donor car of another vehicle that we dress up a bit”.
“It’s a good question, and it’s something we really need to evaluate with this car. To see whether we need to go another step up, or is this the sweet spot, is this it?” he said.
“In our mind, potentially, we have [made that decision already], but you know, it’s a dynamic ute market. It’s interesting, because we’re so locked into these product cycles and life-cycles, and yet the market is not. So therefore, we’re moving, other companies are moving – all of those life-cycles are null and void in certain segments.
“So I see that in the same sense with this product. This was a relatively quick turnaround for us,” he said of the GR Sport HiLux project, which is the result of a collaboration between Toyota Australia, the brand’s headquarters in Japan, and the Argentinian arm of the company.
“Toyota is rarely first to market, but that’s okay – because when we do come to market, when we do arrive, we arrive. And we arrive with a damn good product – good quality, good reliability, good durability.
“Even Tundra, when you look at how we are testing that – I don’t know of too many companies that publicly and quite openly put 290 [vehicles] out into the real world for testing before it’s approved for launch,” he said.
As for whether we’ll see a production version of the HiLux Revo BEV concept in 2024, Mr Hanley said: “That’d be a long bow.”
The HiLux GR Sport has just gone on sale in Australia, with a more powerful take on the 2.8-litre four-cylinder formula, revised transmission calibration, redone suspension and bespoke styling inside and out.
Stay tuned for our review of the HiLux GR Sport, coming Thursday, 21 September at 7pm (AEST).
MORE: Everything Toyota HiLux
MORE: 2023 Toyota HiLux Rogue review