GR Hilux

Does Mysterious White Hilux in Toyota’s Dakar TV Ad Suggest a New GR Model?

If like most home fans, if you diligently watched Nasser Al Attiyah and Mattieu Baumel drive their Proudly South African Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux DKR T1+ to a compelling Dakar victory, you’d have noticed it. Before and After each show, they screened a TV ad. You know the one. Where gleeful Giniel powers his Dakar Hilux past a series of everyday Toyotas pursued by a great Grrrrr. And like magic, each model he passes, turns into its GR variant. To the delight of Giniel’s teammates standing by them.

‘Nobody Knows’ if new GR Hilux IS FOR SA

Most of those cars we know — the Land Cruiser 300, the Yaris and the Supra are all regular GR models. And clearly portrayed in the visuals. But that Hilux? Well that’s a bit of an enigma. It was only shown fleetingly and mostly shrouded in some level of dust. And it certainly piqued our interest. It’s not the previous GR version — that sold out years ago. Our friends at Toyota get that silly look on their faces when we ask them. Like they don’t know. But clearly, there’s more to it.

Interestingly, Toyota Thailand introduced a Hilux GR Sport to that local market in mid 2021. It comes in two models — a rugged ‘Dakar replica’ with clear off-road credentials. And a slammed 4×2 version with lowered ride height like a race car. That raised body bakkie has its Legend spec grille, wing mirrors and other trim in body colour, a smart set of darkened 17-inch alloys, a unique body skirt kit, and a Toyota GR inspired war colours sticker pack on its flanks.

Both models come with the regular 150 kW and 500 Nm 2.8-litre four-cylinder GD-6 turbodiesel. The single cab 4×2 version features a monotube suspension that can be raised or lowered by up to 23 mm. And larger 18-inch alloys for a ‘tight, firm and sporty driving experience’. The double-cab meanwhile comes in 4×2 or 4×4 and its adjustable shock absorbers promise improved stability and confidence. That’s the one that has our attention. Will it come to South Africa to deliver on that ads promise?

Thai model GR Hilux unlikely for SA

Probably not. And here’s why. The Thai GR Hilux is built in Thailand. But Toyota’s European, and various other markets this week revealed, and confirmed that they will be launching their own and subtly different GR Hilux in the coming months. And those bakkies are of course built right here in Prospection on the south end of Durban harbour. So, if you’re keen on a little GR for your next Hilux like the one in that ad, somehow this is the one we reckon you should be looking to for inspiration…

The Euro version lacks the colour coding. It rather gets the black treatment. Its darkened G-pattern mesh grille has a central bar that harks back to ‘80s Hiluxes with ‘TOYOTA’ emblazoned across it. Just like it is in Nasser and Giniel’s Dakar racers. The dark effect spreads to the wing mirrors, side steps and flared wheel arches. Add GR badges, larger front fog light garnish, LED headlights, shiny machine faced 17-inch alloys, rather than the Thai version’s darker wheels, and all-terrain tyres. Because you know why!

There are new red stitched leather and synthetic suede sports seats inside, and aluminium sports pedals. And paddle shifters on its leather multifunction centre lined GR steering wheel. Add a JBL sound system, navigation, heated seats front and rear, smart entry, dual-zone air conditioning and Downhill Assist Control. Like its Thai cousin, the forthcoming SA-built Hilux GR Sport keeps the standard 150 kW 500 Nm 2.8-litre turbodiesel turning the default six-speed automatic transmission.

Will SA-built Euro model be sold at home?

So, you can lug 3.5 tonnes and haul close to a tonne in the load bay. Only available in double cab, there’s no low rider in the Euro range. Europe’s GR Hilux also gets a bespoke suspension setup, with those same monotube shock absorbers. And also stiffer front coil springs. ‘For better damping, faster response, sharper handling, and increased grip’, according to Toyota. That all over and above the standard Hilux limited slip differential and Active Traction Control as well as recent reduced noise, vibration and harshness. Which means its more comfy too.

Both the European and Thai GR Hilux models are cosmetic updates to celebrate Hilux’s undeniable racing successes. Rather than all-out Raptor rivals. That is likely to change in the next generation Hilux, along with V6 turbo power. But for now, the Thai models are available off the dealer floor. The order book for the subtly different European version opens later in January, with deliveries commencing midyear.

Which is about when we’d expect that SA-built version to break cover in the local market too. That GR ad suggests a unique local trim with subtle Toyota war colours on its flanks. To celebrate Hilux’s latest Dakar success. And the rest!

“Inspired by our Dakar race cars” – Nasser

In conclusion, and to quote Nasser Al Attiyah: “The Toyota Hilux has a legendary reputation for toughness and reliability. “This new model was inspired by our iconic Dakar race cars, to bring new levels of driving experience both on-road and when going off-road. “It truly encapsulates the spirit of our race cars, bringing a part of Dakar to buyers all over the world.”

So there you have it — coy smiles on the faces of Toyota suits or not, the writing is clearly on the wall. Expect the European-spec Hilux GR Sport as a local option soon.

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