Toyota’s played in this sandpit before, but it didn’t go particularly well. Its first stab at a TRD-badged Hilux was back in 2008, when it jammed a 225kW/453Nm 4.0-litre supercharged V6 in the front, stuck a few stickers on the side and charged $64,990 for the pleasure.
Now, choosing the previous TRD Hilux for its performance credentials was about as sensible as, say, choosing Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, but what might surprise you is that in recent years the Hilux has been honing its motorsport chops.
Each year numerous V8-powered Hiluxes line up to tackle the gruelling Dakar endurace rally, with one finishing third in 2016. These brutal sounding trucks are powered by a re-tuned version of the Lexus RC F’s 5.0-litre V8, producing around 285kW/600Nm.
Full-size utes are exploding in popularity in Australia, with punters proving they are willing to drop big money on their trucks. Combine that with Australia’s traditional love of performance utes and the imminent demise of our own V8 hay haulers and you have a golden sales opportunity.
Here’s how we’d do it
1. EIGHT IS GREAT
It’ll surprise no one to learn there’s a dirty great V8 lurking under the bonnet of the TRD Hilux. It’s not the 5.0-litre Lexus unit like the Dakar racers use, that would be much too costly. But the US Toyota Tundra offers a 284kW/543Nm 5.7-litre V8, linked to a six-speed automatic, which will fulfil our needs nicely.
2. TUNE IT UP
With a 2150kg kerb weight, the TRD Hilux won’t be a rocketship, but it’ll make an awesome noise and those craving extra speed can always turn to any number of aftermarket tuners to supercharge their new toy, just as Tundra enthusiasts in the US have done.
3. GO AHEAD, JUMP
If you’re going to build a high-performance off-road ute, Fox Racing, the company that supplies the shocks for Ford’s F150 Raptor, are the people to turn to. If it can survive 120km/h jumps through the desert, you’re sure not going to break it on the daily commute.
4. GUARD FILLERS
Wheels are 17 inches all round, with 35-inch BF Goodrich All Terrains providing grip in the slippery stuff, though they’ll struggle on-road. The larger wheels will allow fitment of larger brake discs and calipers, which will be required to pull this beast up from unfamiliar speeds.
5. PUSHING UP
Given there is currently no full-size high-performance ute on the market, we’re breaking new ground here. However, the number of punters putting up $60K-plus for top-spec Rangers and Amaroks (before aftermarket gear) makes us confident Toyota would find plenty of buyers at $75,000.