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The Toyota HiLux needs help! But will the i-Force Max petrol-hybrid powertrain help it reclaim its crown from the Ford Ranger?

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2025 Toyota HiLux render. (Image:
2025 Toyota HiLux render. (Image:

The Toyota HiLux needs help, with Australia's once-dominant dual-cab now being routinely beaten by the Ford Ranger.

Last year's sales race was a tight-run affair, with the Ford Ranger and HiLux swapping positions throughout the year before a late run saw the Ford finish with 63,356 sales, ahead of the Toyota's 61,111 sales.

But 2024 is looking more like a blowout. The Ford Ranger has outsold the Toyota HiLux for each of the first five months of this year, with 27,242 units shifted so far, compared to 22,885 units of the HiLux.

That puts Ford's lead at 4357 already this year – a wider margin than the one that concluded the 2023 sales race, when the gap across the entire year was just 2245 sales.

It could well be that it is production capacity that's slowing Toyota's sales – we know Toyota is always holding far more orders than they have vehicles to deliver – but the bigger fear internally will be that the shine is starting to come off the ageing HiLux in the face of newer competitors.

In March, Toyota rolled out a series of updates to its HiLux lineup, headlined by the addition of fuel-saving V-Active 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, saying that it “provides an improvement of up to approximately 10 per cent in fuel economy compared to variants equipped with the standard 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine”. There were no power or capability gains, though.

We know that an all-new Toyota HiLux will launch 2025, but it is now predicted that Toyota will be pulling out all the stops to deliver that vehicle as soon as possible.

We spoke to Toyota Australia's VP of sales and marketing, Sean Hanley, back in March, and asked whether the all-new HiLux would be able to retain its diesel engine in the face of tightening emissions regulations. Mr Hanley answered "you'll have to wait until '25", seemingly confirming rumours that the new model would arrive next year.

Now firming as an option for that model is a game-changing i-Force Max petrol-hybrid powertrain, which is also destined to appear in the new LandCruiser Prado.

It pairs 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 would deliver a 2.7-tonne braked towing capacity – admittedly down on the the three-tonne-plus expected from a diesel.

"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 told CarsGuide.

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

Also on the long-term cards is a plug-in hybrid powertrain, with Mr Hanley previously confirming the technology is being developed for LCVs.

"If you had asked me three, four, five years ago, I was reluctant, because I don't think it's a convenient technology,” Mr Hanley says.

“However, having said that, that was under the condition that you got very little, or no, BEV (battery electric vehicle) power alone from a PHEV.

“However, battery technology evolves, and it's evolving quickly. If we can get to a situation where a PHEV has the capability of doing 200-plus kilometres on BEV alone — so in other words, if I've got a HiLux I can just go around town, I can run that on BEV and be carbon-neutral pretty well, providing I'm using renewable energy to do it.

“Now the issue is of course, can it tow? Can it take a heavy load? Well, to be able to flick a switch and say, well, for those moments where I'm going out off-road or for those moments where I need to tow a heavy load, I've got the convenience of going to a normal hybrid engine and I can get 500 or 600 kilometres and it's convenient, then I see a role for PHEV in that space.

“I think that's some years away, to be honest, that battery technology. But when it comes, PHEVs will have a renewed engagement with the market because they'll go from what I call the ultimate inconvenience to the ultimate convenience.”

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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