Australia’s hardcore ute explosion: Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton and Toyota HiLux move on new tough truck variants

Australia looks set for a hardcore ute explosion, with Toyota, Ford and Mitsubishi all moving on new tough-truck variants.

Reports of Ford preparing to stuff the Coyote V8 engine from the Mustang into its flagship Ranger Raptor got petrol-headed hearts fluttering right across Australia this week.

The news, first reported in Wheels Magazine, would see the top-spec Raptor’s outputs increased from 157kW and 500Nm, produced by its 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel, to a thumping 339kW and 556Nm, with all that extra grunt complements of the Mustang’s 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8.

According to the reports, Ford would sell the vehicle from its official dealerships, and it would arrive with a full five-year manufacturer warranty.

CarsGuide has since spoken to the three major engineering houses likely to carry out the work – Tickford, Herrod Performance and Premcar – all of whom denied involvement in the project.

But after conversations with several independent sources, we’ve been left with the impression the V8 Raptor looks certain to go ahead, though the project remains in its infancy.

Less happily, engineers have also suggested suggested that, when the vehicle does arrive, it could carry a price tag significantly north of $100,000, with one even suggesting it would need to sail closer to $140,000 to cover the cost of engineering what will be a small-number project.

Still, how much is too much for a V8-powered ute?

In even more exciting news, the V8 Raptor won’t be alone on the hardcore ute front, with Toyota and Mitsubishi both seemingly readying a tougher version of the HiLux and Triton to steal some of Ford’s thunder.

First, Mitsubishi. You’ll recall, I’m sure, the hardcore Triton Absolute concept (pictured) that has spent the past six months or so touring Australia?

Mitsubishi has made no bones about that vehicle being designed to gauge customer and dealer reaction to a hardcore Triton. And CarsGuide is happy to report that the feedback has been good.

So good, in fact, that the brand told CarsGuide it’s “working on a few things”, saying: “The Absolute was partly there to gauge customer reaction, but it was also put there to see if we could drive derivatives off this product. And we are doing that, we are creating derivatives from it.”

The Absolute version of the Triton bumps up the tough factor, with flared front and rear arches, dark chrome accenting and badging, a black grille, and a carbon-fibre tailgate. There’s also a roof bar and LED spot lights.

The brand says “upgraded” suspension has increased ride height by 50mm for improved ground clearance, there’s more suspension travel, and there are front and rear skid plates, too. There’s also a wider track to allow for heavy-duty off-road tyres.

Mitsubishi is quick to point out that the new ute won’t get the full Absolute treatment, but suggested looks, accessories and power were all on the table.

While the brand is yet to confirm what a more hardcore Triton might be called, we do know it registered the name “Triton Predator” with the Australian Government’s IP (intellectual property) office in April 2018, and we’re yet to see the moniker put to work. So watch this space.

Which leads us to the Toyota HiLux, Australia’s best selling vehicle in 2019, and a car with a legion of fans crying out for it to receive a hardcore makeover.

Those plans could be about to be answered, with news this week that Toyota has registered the moniker “GR HiLux” with the same IP office in July last year.

It seems a matter of if, not when, for a hardcore HiLux, with Toyota having previously promised that any car given the GR badge would benefit from “noticeable” performance upgrades from its regular counterparts.

A trademark filing is no guarantee of production, and Toyota Australia has issued CarsGuide the following statement:

“It is standard practice for our parent company to reserve vehicle names that could potentially be used in future, as a means of protecting that name for future use. This is done in all key markets as a matter of course.

“There are definitely no plans to introduce a GR Hilux at this stage, but as always, it is something that we would definitely not rule out for the future, especially with the high level of interest locally for high performance utes.”

Either way, it sounds like Australia’s hardcore ute market could be about to get a lot more crowded.