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Life after diesel: Why the 2025 Toyota HiLux Hybrid could be the brand's best ute ever | Opinion

The new Toyota Hilux seems certain to follow in the Prado's footsteps (image: Thanos Pappas)

Like it or not, the end-of-days for diesel is upon us, and there will be few manufacturers brave enough to launch an all-new diesel powertrain in the years ahead.

Toyota itself is on record as saying the end of arguably its most popular fuel source is coming, and that its portfolio would need to change, which leads us to ponder just what will be powering the new Toyota Hilux, due in 2025.

And if you ask me, I expect Toyota has already laid its cards on the table, you just need to know how to read them.

Take the all-new LandCruiser Prado, due in Australia this year. Like the HiLux, it's predecessor a diesel-only model, offered with the ute’s 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine.

And while that engine will carryover to the new Prado, it won’t be alone. Toyota Australia finally confirmed the off-road focused SUV will also nab a petrol-hybrid powertrain. What happens next is pretty clear, though, not confirmed – the diesel is gently phased out, and the hybrid lives on.

After first locking the petrol-hybrid Prado out of Australia, Toyota’s VP of sales and marketing, Sean Hanley, now says it will come "sooner rather than later”.

"We don't have a date, we are investigating the potential of whether that powertrain is suitable for our market. It's part of our overall decarbonisation and multi-pathway strategy. It would be an outstandingly good attribute to our product line-up," he says.

"Speculatively, we would rather do it sooner rather than later, but we don't have a date.”

The hybrid powertrain in question is Toyota’s i-Force Max, which links a 2.4-litre turbo-petrol engine with a 36kW electric motor integrated into an eight-speed transmission to pump out a total 243kW and 630Nm. It should prove both powerful and efficient, and still deliver a 2.7-tonne braked towing capacity – admittedly down on the three-tonne-plus expected from the diesel.

So, a carryover diesel engine in an all-new model, followed by a more modern petrol-hybrid — I suspect that’s a launch strategy that will become familiar when the new HiLux arrives next year.

The question then surely becomes which would be more popular, hybrid or diesel? And my money is on the hybrid. Sure, at 2.7-tonnes it might lack the out-and-out towing power of its diesel rival, but it will generate more power, sip cheaper fuel — and use less of it — and undoubtedly offer a smoother and quieter drive experience.

You won’t have to plug it in, petrol is every bit as common as diesel (and will likely soon become more so), and hybrids are a proven and popular technology.

Only time will tell if our theory proves accurate, but I’ve got my money on it. And even Toyota is making noises about its portfolio needing to change,

"We were studying the options on all our cars before NVES, but let's be clear — whatever happens, there's going to be an emissions standard, and we will have to adjust our portfolio of product," Hanley has told CarsGuide.

"I just don't know now what that means, we're studying that, at the appropriate time we'll let you know."

Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist
Andrew Chesterton should probably hate cars. From his hail-damaged Camira that looked like it had spent a hard life parked at the end of Tiger Woods' personal driving range, to the Nissan Pulsar Reebok that shook like it was possessed by a particularly mean-spirited demon every time he dared push past 40km/h, his personal car history isn't exactly littered with gold. But that seemingly endless procession of rust-savaged hate machines taught him something even more important; that cars are more than a collection of nuts, bolts and petrol. They're your ticket to freedom, a way to unlock incredible experiences, rolling invitations to incredible adventures. They have soul. And so, somehow, the car bug still bit. And it bit hard. When "Chesto" started his journalism career with News Ltd's Sunday and Daily Telegraph newspapers, he covered just about everything, from business to real estate, courts to crime, before settling into state political reporting at NSW Parliament House. But the automotive world's siren song soon sounded again, and he begged anyone who would listen for the opportunity to write about cars. Eventually they listened, and his career since has seen him filing car news, reviews and features for TopGear, Wheels, Motor and, of course, CarsGuide, as well as many, many others. More than a decade later, and the car bug is yet to relinquish its toothy grip. And if you ask Chesto, he thinks it never will.
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