Toyota Australia knows it has room at the top of its HiLux line for an even musclier pack than what it offers right now with its latest take on a TRD-badged model.
The company is no stranger to performance-tweaked HiLux packages, however, having dabbled in that segment nearly 10 years ago with the supercharged 225kW TRD HiLux 4000S.
Now, with Volkswagen offering the powered-up Amarok V6 and Ford preparing its still somewhat mysterious Ranger Raptor, Toyota Australia sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley concedes the HiLux SR5 and HiLux TRD models may not be quite hot enough to compete.
"Clearly there's a gap for us," Hanley told Australian media in Tokyo this week. "We don’t have the ‘level four’ (above SR5, TRD)".
"When you look at that ute market, the HiLux combined 4x2 and 4x4 is number one year-to-date, and I expect it’ll finish number one for the year. It’ll possibly and probably be the number-one selling car, again, in our market.
"However, it is clear to us that the demand sits one step above that level three now, which is our SR5. We’ve been able to fill that gap somewhat with our TRD vehicle, and we certainly understand that in the future, we’ll have to examine very closely what we do to fill that gap to ensure that our number-one selling car continues to hold that momentum in the future."
Above: the first official look at Ford's new Ranger Raptor
Don't expect the company to rush an option to market, though.
"We haven’t confirmed any changes. We’ve just launched the tech-change car (model year 2018 updates), so we’ll leave it [this line of questioning] at that," Hanley said.
What should we expect from a future range-topping HiLux halo model? The Tonka concept revealed earlier this year might provide a few clues, although any production version is unlikely to wear quite so mean a look.
Still, that bonnet scoop, chunky honeycomb grille and bold black sports bar could easily make the leap to market. We could also see a tough - if less aggressive - take on the bash-ready front and rear bars, massive bolt-on guards, jacked-up chassis and meaty off-roading tyres.
What sort of power upgrade we could expect remains to be seen, although Toyota South Africa did stuff a 335kW Lexus IS F V8 into the previous-gen HiLux back in 2015 as a one-off sales celebration…
If a halo HiLux does surface, it might come bearing the Gazoo Racing name rather than the usually US-focused TRD brand - one which has often, in that iconically Aussie way, been saddled with a less than encouraging nickname.
In the same discussion, Hanley said Toyota's racing outfit Gazoo - the baby of motorsport-mad global boss Akio Toyoda - will play a much bigger role in future development.
"Gazoo stands for a lot more, it’s a lot deeper, than just motorsport. Gazoo Racing stands for development, for teamwork, for our ability to demonstrate to the world that we can and we will," Hanley said.
"We’re very fortunate that this year, in November - as you know, we have the World Rally Championship in Australia, in Coffs Harbour - and we will introduce Gazoo Racing, initially, using that platform. The team will come out here.
"I can’t confirm future product, but certainly if that [GR-badged models] became available to us, it’s something we’d be deeply interested in."