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Hype is building for Toyota's new top-shelf HiLux, the GR (Gazoo Racing) Sport, which is set to take on the Ford Ranger Wildtrak when it arrives in Australian dealerships in September.
But is the hype justified? Or has Toyota done the bare minimum to retain repeat buyers and attract new ones?
Some people – even die-hard HiLux fans – have expressed disappointment in what looks to be a lacklustre finished product (as in the GR Sport hasn’t been modified enough) especially when compared with the likes of Ford’s high-performance Raptor.
But it has to be noted here that the HiLux GR Sport will have a price-tag of $73,990 before on-road costs, pitting it against the likes of the 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 Wildtrak with a pricetag starting from $71,190.
The Raptor costs about $86,790 (excluding on-road costs), so perhaps Toyota is keeping something up its sleeve for later – perhaps a fair dinkum beastly high-performance HiLux?
Meanwhile, has Toyota done enough on the GR Sport? Or should the GR Sport have been kitted out and engineered to take on the Raptor, rather than the Wildtrak?
There are two ways to consider the scenario: Toyota hasn’t gone far enough with the HiLux GR Sport, or the HiLux GR Sport seems fine as it is.
Let’s take a look at both points of view below.
“Toyota hasn’t gone far enough with the HiLux GR Sport”
Where Toyota has had the opportunity to this time rattle the Raptor’s cage, it seems like Toyota has simply been happy to settle for a “same-same, but slightly better” approach in the GR Sport. For one, it keeps the engine that’s in most of the HiLux line-up – the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel – but it gets a 15kW/50Nm boost, nudging outputs to 165kW at 3000rpm and 550Nm at 2800rpm.
That means the GR Sport does offer more power and torque than the discontinued Rugged X, the Rogue (the previous top dog HiLux), and the SR5.
Still, its output figures are nowhere near as high as those of the 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 Ford Ranger Wildtrak or the petrol-powered 292kW/583Nm Ford Ranger Raptor.
Elsewhere, it gets a new suspension set-up with KYB monotube shock absorbers and increased piston diameter; 17-inch Dakar-style alloy wheels (on 265/65 Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tyres); red four-piston calliper disc brakes up front, and single-piston floating callipers on the back wheels; and the rear swaybar has been removed to free up more axle articulation (aka wheel travel).
By comparison the Raptor gets big 2.5-inch-diameter Fox Racing Shocks with internal bypass chambers (adjustable damping) and a Live Valve system onboard – basically, active dampers that are capable of adjusting compression-damping up to 500 times every second.
The Raptor also has the option of bead-lock-capable wheels. Bead-locks’ job is to hold the tyre against the wheel and can help a lot when tyre pressures are set very low. These will cost an extra $2000 from Ford to have fitted – and will still involve a lengthy process to get them ready prior to 4WDing. Do you need bead-locks? Well, no, but geez they come in handy if you’re dropping tyre pressures below 10 psi, doing serious rock-crawling and you want to minimise the risk of rolling a tyre off the wheel.
Back to the GR Sport, it gets a Dakar-inspired skid plate (“a newly-designed skid plate for advanced off-road protection”, Toyota reckons), heavy-duty rock rails and rear recovery points.
Most telling of all GR Sport details is probably the fact that even for something as crucial as tyres are for off-roading, Toyota has opted for Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tyres rather than rubber of the same ilk as the Raptor’s LT285/70R17 BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tyres. The Bridgestone Dueler all-terrains are a decent tyre, but if a vehicle manufacturer touts their vehicle’s hardcore off-road capability as a major drawcard, then it makes sense, and shows the vehicle manufacturer’s commitment to the cause, if they actually put hardcore tyres on that vehicle.
Beyond those aforementioned mods, the GR Sport gets a black-mesh grille – with ‘Toyota' across it – and a GR badge.
All good things, but it’s no Raptor, is it?
Sure, Toyota may actually be targeting the Wildtrak with the GR Sport and maybe its pricing gives it the edge over the Wildtrak, but Toyota still could have done more to the GR Sport.
“The HiLux GR Sport is fine as it is”
Toyota says the GR Sport has been engineered to be “the widest, toughest and most powerful HiLux available”.
And you can’t argue with that. It looks suitably cool and tough.
For the record, the GR Sport is 5320mm long, 2020mm wide (with a 3085mm wheelbase), and 1880mm high (up 15mm).
Wheel track front and rear are up 135mm and 155mm respectively over the standard HiLux range to 1670mm and 1705mm.
And as well as those mechanical changes mentioned earlier, this HiLux will sport a distinctive look, replete with new front bumper silver-coloured scuff plate, overfenders with aero ducts, rock rails, exposed recovery points and factory-fitted towbar.
The GR Sport’s interior includes a "rally-inspired" leather steering wheel with paddle-shifters, a 12 o'clock mark and GR branding; red seat-belts and sporty front seats with leather and suede; aluminium race-style pedals; a GR Sport shifter; and a nine-speaker JBL sound system.
Exterior paint choices will include Stunning Silver, Eclipse Black, Glacier White, Frosted White and Feverish Red. If you get one of those last three colours, you can get your GR Sport with a black roof.
What I reckon
The GR Sport slots nicely into the HiLux line-up and will keep the die-hard Toyota fans happy, no doubt.
But it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
It’d be nice to see Toyota take on the Ford Ranger Raptor with a factory-modified high-performance ute of its own that gets everyone’s adrenalin going.
However, the GR Sport has a fair bit going for it, and is a chunk cheaper than something like the Raptor, so there’s that. It even manages to do well in the pricing stakes against the likes of the 154kW/500Nm bi-turbo Wildtrak (from $67,990).
And the market positioning of the GR Sport leaves Toyota some wriggle room to unleash a more powerful, torquier high-performance HiLux in the not-too-distant future.