It's fantastic and refreshing to see typically conservative Toyota doing an about-turn and making cars that appeal to petrolheads as well as your regular commuter, but how far should Toyota go? With the meteoric rise of Toyota's Gazoo Racing brand, we think the sky's the limit and we could be seeing GR-branded Toyotas being rolled out regularly. One vehicle we've got our eye on is the popular Hilux. Toyota Hilux GRMN anyone?
An article from Australia suggests that the Hilux GRMN is coming. Chatting to CarsGuide.com, Toyota's senior manager of product communications, Vincent Dewaersegger spoke extensively about Gazoo's plans for the Toyota portfolio. "We cannot talk about future plans, but we can talk about intention. And our intention is of course to have more products and more derivatives, and this will be discussed car by car and model by model, based on whether it fits the purpose, and if there is a demand," he said. "But of course there is the intention - that's why we created the company. But I can't really comment much more than that, because it will be revealed in the course of the product launches. As a general company, the intention is to develop more (Gazoo) cars and more models.”
Now while this can be interpreted as a 'we will have a GR product in every model', it's highly unlikely that we'll see a Prius GR anytime soon. However, we can look at the mainstream models and given how much South Africa loves its bakkies, we think the Hilux is next.
Naturally, a hardcore performance Hilux will need some serious firepower under the bonnet for it to be worthy of the GRMN name. There's is where it gets fun as Toyota has quite an arsenal of engines to call upon. On one end of the scale is the mighty 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated V8 engine which does duty in the Hilux Dakar race truck and in the Lexus RC F.
However, we suspect that Toyota's conservative background, as well as costings, will ensure that it's highly unlikely to see the light of day. We do know this engine is capable of fitting into a Hilux though, evident by the one-off Toyota Hilux REX which pumped out 335 kW and 600 Nm. So it is possible, but unlikely as extensive work will need to be done on the brakes and gearbox to cope with all that power. If there's one thing we've learnt about Toyota's way of doing things, everything is carefully thought out and meticulously planned. A brash decision does not exist in the Toyota vocabulary.
The realistic powertrain, we think, could be one of two options. Firstly, the iconic 4.0-litre V6 motor is still soldiering on. However, we have noticed it's no longer offered in the Hilux, with the Fortuner being the sole provider. It produces 175 kW and 376 Nm, impressive numbers given the potential rivals the Hilux GRMN would face. With an intake and an exhaust tune, the vehicle would be a lot more vocal, giving it some kudos. The second powertrain option would be an enhanced version of the current 2.8GD-6. Ford's efforts with the biturbo setup in the Ranger Raptor will not have gone unnoticed and we suspect that Toyota is capable of extracting a few more ponies without having to do serious mechanical work. An extra 15-25 kW and 25 Nm would be just enough to whet the appetite, with the suspension and offroad prowess doing most of the talking. Power gets the fans excited (as Ranger Raptor found out to its detriment) so Toyota would do well to give it creditable performance.
While engine choice is vague right now, we do know that the Toyota will not compromise on the vehicle's offroad capability and the hardcore GRMN will be one extremely tough 4x4 vehicle. Expect trick performance suspension, chunky offroad tyres and as our render suggests, flared wheel arches and raised ground clearance.
Rivals? Well, there's been a remarkable increase in high-performance bakkies since the Ford Ranger Raptor made its debut. Toyota already offers the Hilux GR Sport, while Isuzu has given its D-Max the Arctic Trucks treatment. Having experienced the offroad prowess of the Ranger Raptor and Isuzu D-Max AT35, the Hilux GRMN will have its work cut out.