The Hilux, should you not be aware, is Toyota’s legendarily durable pickup favored by ranchers and militant groups around the globe. The Japanese company used to sell it in the U.S. as the “Toyota Pickup” — as seen in Back to the Future — before the Tacoma replaced it in 1995. Now, Toyota has unveiled a new 2021 model year Hilux for markets abroad, which makes us wonder: could it offer a preview of the next-generation Tacoma?
After all, there has been some speculation about Toyota merging the Hilux and Tacoma model lines on Toyota’s global truck platform — eventually. Automakers everywhere were scrambling to reduce development costs and streamline models before the coronavirus hit sales; one way Toyota could do that would be to have just one body-on-frame midsize truck instead of two.
Still, it’s not guaranteed, as there are a few differences between the trucks. The Hilux has traditionally been smaller and more utilitarian than its American counterpart. But there’s some evidence truck taste abroad is beginning to line up with the desires of us Stateside; the 2021 Hilux is getting both an Invincible X luxury and off-roading trim, and a GR performance version is reportedly in the works as well. There may be more overlap to the two models than there once was.
Whatever changes may be coming to the Tacoma, they’re still some way off. A new model is not expected until 2024. However outdated the present Tacoma has become, particularly when it comes to on-road driving, there’s little incentive for Toyota to alter anything. People keep buying the Tacoma in record numbers.
Still, if the idea of Toyota bringing over the Hilux and swapping out the diesel for a U.S. emissions-compliant gas engine sounds crazy, it shouldn’t. That’s precisely what Toyota’s rival Ford did with the current generation Ranger.