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2015 Toyota HiLux and Fortuner SUV | spy shots

Spy shots from the Northern Territory show the successor to the 4Runner - and next year's HiLux.

The Toyota 4Runner is set to return to Australian showrooms next year - and CarsGuide has exclusive photos of it during top-secret testing.

Photographer Phil Williams of the Centralian Advocate newspaper caught a convoy of disguised Toyotas in the outback this week.

We've published spy photos of HiLux prototypes before but this is the first time its twin-under-the-skin, the new generation 4Runner, has been caught on camera in Australia.

It is pictured towing a loaded trailer in durability testing south of Alice Springs. Locals say the Toyota team has been there for several weeks.

The 4Runner was last sold in Australia between 1984 and 1996 priced between $40,000 and $48,000. It was dropped from the line-up locally because Toyota chose to import the family-sized Prado seven-seater SUV instead.

That proved to be a wise move as the Prado became one of Australia's top-selling recreational vehicles, as a cheaper entry point into Toyota's heavy duty four-wheel-drive range than the LandCruiser. However, its price has risen over the years.

As Australia's appetite for 4WDs continues to grow, Toyota, the biggest seller of SUVs, has found the need to introduce a more affordable model.

The new generation vehicle is a little different to the 4Runner as we knew it. Back in the 1980s it was initially marketed as a cosy two-door, five-seater ute with a fixed canopy, designed to appeal to surfers and young couples keen on camping. The second model was available with four doors and five seats.

But it has grown up since then and is now available as a seven-seater, putting it among the most affordable family-sized, heavy-duty 4WDs.

In Australia its most likely rivals will be the Holden Colorado7, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Challenger and the coming Ford Everest. It is tipped to carry the Fortuner badge, as in overseas markets.

All of these vehicles are made in Thailand and based on their ute siblings. The Toyota is built on the next-generation HiLux platform. Toyota Australia has not confirmed the Fortuner is coming to Australia but CarsGuide understands it will be in local showrooms by the end of 2015, soon after the all-new HiLux goes on sale in October, priced about $45,000.

Joshua Dowling
National Motoring Editor
Joshua Dowling was formerly the National Motoring Editor of News Corp Australia. An automotive expert, Dowling has decades of experience as a motoring journalist, where he specialises in industry news.
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