Starting in Thailand, so could it end up here?
While we’re only just getting used to Toyota’s 2018 update of the Hilux ute here, it seems the company has had something interesting going on elsewhere. Thailand will soon be welcoming a refreshed and revised Hilux ute to the market, sporting a brash new face and a new trimline to do battle in the fiercely-competitive Land of Smiles.
Just two years have passed since the eighth-generation was introduced in the Thai market, and while we’ve gotten a kit update a year after local introduction, it appears that Thailand’s required a more significant rework. If that front end looks familiar to you, then you may have spent far too much time looking at the new Toyota Tacoma, a US-exclusive ute of about the same size. The Hilux gains the Tacoma’s hexagonal grille that’s probably not the last word in subtlety, as well as a new bumper and fog-light surrounds.
The new face isn’t applied across the range though, as it appears that it’s only being offered with the all-wheel drive and premium rear-wheel drive variants, with the rest of the range getting the face we’re more familiar with. There are no other aesthetic changes to report externally, with the rest of the car staying identical to the model it supersedes.
Kit on offer hasn’t changed either, and neither has interior trim and design. However, there’s a new variant on offer at the top of the Hilux range in Thailand. Called the ‘Rocco,’ it’s offered exclusively as a double-cab ute with the 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine, albeit in two- or all-wheel drive variations. Rocco trim adds things like a grey rear bumper, black trim around the wheel arches, black 18-inch alloys, a fancy-looking sports bar and bed lining, ‘Rocco’ graphics al over the place, and a black interior.
The Thai market continues to offer the two turbodiesel units we’re familiar with here (in 2.8 and 2.4 guises) as well as the 2.7-litre atmo petrol engine that we no longer get. While most of this is of little consequence to our market without context, comments made previously by Toyota top management suggests that perhaps the Rocco could make its way to our market, just a little differently.
In the face of the impending Ford Ranger Raptor, Toyota reckons that it might be on the back foot as far as securing a slice of the lucrative high-performance ute segment. The Volkswagen Amarok V6 enjoys comfortable sales despite its price premium, while the Ranger Raptor promises a very different take on this highly desirable niche.
“Clearly there’s a gap for us. We don’t have the ‘level four’ [sitting atop the SR5 and TRD]. When you look at the ute market, the Hilux 4x2 and 4x4 is the number one year-to-date, and I expect it’ll finish number one for the year. It’ll possibly be the number-one selling car, again, in our market. However, it’s is clear to us that the demand sits one step above the third level now, which is our SR5. We’ve been able to fill that gap somewhat with our TRD, and we certainly understand that in the future, we’ll have to examine very closely what we’ll do to fill that gap to ensure that our number-one selling car continues to hold that momentum.” — Sean Hanley, VP (National Operations), Toyota Australia
Bearing that in mind, perhaps the exterior treatment that the Thai-market Hilux Rocco has could find its way to a tuned-up Gazoo-badged version of the Hilux here, perhaps packing something more potent under the bonnet. The Yaris GRMN has already proven that Gazoo’s capable of turning up the wick on Toyota’s mainstream cars, so can it do the same to a Hilux?