Australia's best-selling vehicle HiLux is now more Australian than ever, thanks to the significant styling, development and evaluation work performed by Toyota Australia's design and engineering teams for both local and international markets.
The company's local design team played a considerable role in styling the exterior of the HiLux range, as part of an international team, while its local engineers focused on evaluating and helping to develop upgrades to power and torque, suspension and steering.
Both Australian teams worked extensively with their Toyota counterparts in Japan and Thailand to deliver new HiLux's bolder looks while offering even stronger performance, enhanced ride comfort and a more precise steering feel.
Toyota Australia's General Manager of Product Planning and Development Rod Ferguson said the local design team had transformed the HiLux styling to align it more closely with the global Toyota ute and truck family.
"Being awarded this project was a real feather in the cap for our team - and a tribute to the level of design capability we have at Toyota Australia," Mr Ferguson said.
"In addition, our vehicle evaluation team was instrumental in the global development of the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine and improvements to the way it rides and handles across a wide variety of conditions," he said.
"I'm sure if HiLux could talk, it would definitely have a strong Aussie accent."
Toyota Australia's Product Design Manager Peter Elliott said the brief was to develop a simple and strong athletic pick-up truck, a vehicle that was tough and genuine.
"From the beginning, our sketches investigated bold and tough themes that centred on a larger, more vertical trapezoid grille enhanced by an upper bonnet moulding and lower bumper components that lock into the grille surround," Mr Elliott said.
"The headlamps have been moved outboard and they now connect with the distinctly chiselled bumper corners, linking the design. We progressed through clay models and CAD, evolving the idea to be cohesive with the rest of the vehicle, while maintaining maximum visual impact.
"The final design was milled as a full-size clay model and shipped to Japan, where it was well received as a bold step forward with a strong Toyota DNA."
Development and evaluation of the 2.8-litre engine, suspension and steering in Australia was conducted in collaboration with teams from Japan and Thailand, as well as representatives from other markets.
Toyota Australia's Vehicle Evaluation Manager Ray Munday said Australian road conditions cover more than 80 per cent of the different environments around the world, and local customers are some of the toughest HiLux users.
Mr Munday said higher engine output, particularly with a wider and flatter torque curve, had resulted in significantly improved acceleration, overtaking and towing.
He said the six-speed automatic transmission had been recalibrated to allow earlier lockup for improved acceleration and cooling performance, especially while towing.
"The ride comfort of the rear suspension has been noticeably improved when driving without a load. Importantly, the vehicle maintains the HiLux DNA of being able to carry heavy loads with excellent body control, both on sealed and dirt roads.
"We also confirmed that HiLux maintains its acknowledged off-road traction with the combination of high wheel articulation and traction control systems which have previously been tuned in the real-world customer conditions of Australia.
"In addition, we adopted a variable flow control power-steering pump to provide a more direct steering feel on narrow winding country roads and to reduce steering effort when parking."
Each part of the new package was tested in Australia to confirm that it met the performance targets in real-world customer conditions as well as on test benches and test tracks.
Importantly, we were able to confirm the cooling performance was maintained in every test we could throw at it - including uphill highway towing with an ambient temperature well over 40 degrees.
"If a vehicle can survive the Australian customer and the Australian environment, it can survive anywhere," Mr Munday said.