BY PETER BARNWELL
TOYOTA has moved solidly into the “anticipatory zone” in sales terms with a bunch of supply constrained mainstream models keeping customers on tenterhooks along with specialised GR models keenly sought by a legion of potential buyers.
Many have put their name on wait lists for the soon to be released GR Corolla, GR CH-R and other more speculative models such as a possible GR RAV4 and GR Corolla Cross.
That Gazoo Racing (GR) mob sure is busy but not all models featuring their nomenclature are hot rods as some are merely sporty upgrades of existing models.
Not so the HiLux GR Sport ute that’s due here towards the end of 2023 and is a truck that would arguably be one of the most anticipated vehicles hitting the market this year, certainly within the Toyota line up.
The big “T” tantalisingly pulled the cover off its “apex” HiLux GR Sport a few weeks ago as a counter measure to other manufacturers so called ‘halo’ one tonne utes.
The HiLux GR Sport is lauded as the most powerful model to be offered Down Under with an impressive 165kW/550Nm tune thanks to a revised turbo and higher boost.
It had been rumoured for a year at least with speculation as to what power plant would be under the bonnet including the twin-turbo-diesel V6 from LandCruiser 300 Series.
But no, that would be a step too far as the GR HiLux utilises a power-up version of the existing 2.8 turbo diesel four banger in other models. The engine has been in certain South African HiLux models for some time.
Gazoo Racing’s focus wasn’t solely on the engine as the HiLux GR Sport features the same chassis upgrades introduced on HiLux Rogue wide body late last year.
That includes race-inspired looks, a wider track front and rear (+140mm and +155mm respectively), redesigned wishbones and reinforced rear axle, and larger disc brakes.
The hero HiLux also scores model-specific monotube dampers with higher damping force and heat-dissipation capacity, stiffer coil springs and “an optimal front to rear balance” to deliver even better steering response and stability.
The HiLux GR Sport has been engineered in collaboration with Australian, Japanese, Latin American and Thai four-wheel drive experts to offer what Toyota says is “Dakar-inspired design, intuitive handling and powerful driving performance”.
In addition to suspension and engine upgrades, the HiLux GR Sport also has a retuned six-speed automatic transmission with an expanded lock-up range for improved acceleration and overtaking response.
Like the HiLux Rogue – which will sit beneath the GR Sport in the local HiLux range – the new variant is available exclusively in a double-cab pick-up body style. It is further distinguished by satin-black over fenders, an increased approach angle, higher ground clearance, and a “strong, upright grille with TOYOTA lettering”.
The HiLux GR Sport rides on 17-inch alloys shod with all-terrain tyres and is further equipped with a front skid plate, rock rails, red-painted rear recovery points and brake callipers, and an embossed tub liner.
Finally, and inside the cabin, we find a monochromatic black décor with contrasting bright sports pedals and steering wheel shift paddles, red seatbelts, and a red 12 o’clock marker on the steering wheel. The head restraints are branded with the GR Sport logo.
"HiLux GR Sport draws on the spirit of Toyota's Dakar success as a hard core 4WD that will appeal to customers seeking the quintessential off-road version of Australia's best-selling vehicle," said Toyota Australia vice president of sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley.
"It has been designed to turn heads with aggressive in-your-face styling that's reinforced by a healthy performance boost, enhanced high-speed handling and even better grip on dirt roads.
"Thanks to the extensive involvement of our local designers and engineers, HiLux GR Sport is a fun-to-drive vehicle that will bring new capabilities and excitement to the adventure lifestyles of Australian customers."
The launch of the new HiLux GR Sport in Australia is expected during the second half of 2023. Pricing and full specifications will be revealed closer to the model’s local launch.