Is Toyota the new homegrown Holden? How Australia was critical in shaping how the new HiLux looks and drives

Toyota might not build cars in Australia any longer, but if the new HiLux is anything to go by, our fingerprints are all over the design and engineering of its vehicles.

Like Holden in its hey day, Toyota has been making real noise about selling vehicles that are designed for Australia, largely in Australia, and it’s no different with the new HiLux.

It’s an important message, too. Consider that the Ford Ranger Raptor – the flagship of the HiLux’s arch-rival ute range – was conceived and developed in Australia

That team, led by Ford Performance program manager Justin Capicchiano, has been hard at work developing the new Raptor, and the brand is promising big things, assuring CarsGuide the new model will push the bar set by the last vehicle even higher.

Like with Ford, the new HiLux will be manufactured in Thailand, but Toyota says they’ve been developed and tested in Australia, and the local design team has perhaps its biggest seat at the Toyota table when it comes to having a say over the HiLux, given the powerful sales of that vehicle in this country.

Take the HiLux Rouge, for example. Much of that car’s front-end design was cooked up in Toyota’s Port Melbourne design studio, headed up by Peter Elliott.

The local design gave the then-new HiLux a bolder front-end, with a bigger grille and new fog lamps with chromed bezels. That design was so well received it was picked up globally for the SR and SR5 models that followed in 2018.

“When we styled the Rogue, we knew it was the right design for the growing top-end recreational ute market and our faith in that has now been borne out with the same face adopted on SR and SR5 HiLux models,” Toyota said at the time.

Which is why, when it came time to pen the updated model – which, at this stage, is expected to launch in Australia in August – Toyota in Australia was once again called in.

In fact, Toyota’s Australia design studio is said to have “significant input” into the look and style of the new HiLux.

It doesn’t end with design, of course, with Toyota again confirming there was a “strong level of local input” in testing and evaluating the new model, with that information fed back to Thailand.

The evaluation team in Melbourne is seen as a key plank in Toyota’s local plan, given the wide variety of roads and surfaces in Australia, many of which are misunderstood by international engineers.

Sure, the biggest news surrounding the new HiLux is under the bonnet with the HiLux’s 2.8-litre diesel engine now good for 150kW and 500Nm. But there has also been key suspension upgrades, with new bushings, a new leaf-spring design, and revised shock tuning, designed to “provide a more comfortable ride, particularly over rough roads and with low loads while maintaining HiLux’s legendary off-road capabilities”.

Expect Toyota to make a Very Big Deal of Australia’s involvement in the new HiLux closer to the vehicle’s official launch.