THE fourth-generation Hilux of 1983 saw another body style introduced. The Xtra-cab was, and still is (but now simply called extra-cab), a two-door cab that is extended at the back to provide space for occasional seating or a secure spot for tools and valuables. You wouldn’t want to carry passengers in the back for long distances, but the rear seat comes in handy. The extra-cab also has a longer load bed than a double-cab, making it great for carrying dirt bikes in the back and your mates up front. Engine choices had by this time grown to four, with two petrol and two diesel powerplants. More powerful 3.0-litre V6 and turbodiesel engine options also appeared for the first time during this period, as did an automatic transmission. These later options were designed to add further appeal to the private buyer (more so than the farmer or tradie) and, at first, were only offered on top-ofthe-line SR5 double-cab models. Features such as power windows, air-conditioning and floor carpets made the utes more liveable, and Australians were coming around to the idea of using a ute as a family vehicle – but their popularity in this segment was still nothing like what it is today.
At the other end of the market Toyota introduced a basic version of the Hilux aimed squarely at tradies, with bare essential features, a 1.8-litre engine and a manual gearbox only. The interestingly named Hilux Grinner was the ute the apprentice drove to the worksite, while the boss got around in his upper-spec SR5 model. This base-spec version is called the Workmate in today’s Hilux range and has been broadened to include various engine and body configurations.
The popularity of the Hilux was also feeding a booming aftermarket industry that met the needs of owners to tailor their vehicle to their specific requirements. As a car that can be both a hardworking tool of the trade or one to conquer the Australian Outback, there is swag of parts that can be added to it. Canopies became popular to convert the ute to a wagon-like vehicle and secure the load area, while items like bullbars, raised suspension, big tyres and driving lights were what recreational off-road enthusiasts wanted. Specialist camper conversions are now available to fit on to the back to provide all the comforts of home to the bush traveller, while racks and bars are manufactured to support ladders, pipes, lengths of timber and other work-related hardware.
AUSTRALIANS WERE COMING AROUND TO THE IDEA OF USING A UTE AS A FAMILY VEHICLE – BUT NOTHING LIKE IT IS TODAY
IT WAS A FAR CRY FROM THE HUMBLE MINI-TRUCK THAT DEBUTED MORE THAN 40 YEARS EARLIER
The fourth, fifth and sixth generations of Hilux continued to take the vehicle forward in terms of refinement, usability and size. The four-wheel drive models lost their truck-like, leafsprung live front axles for independent front suspension with torsion bars, to improve their on-road driving characteristics. The range grew to accommodate more models to suit the growing number of buyers, and the Hilux was made in factories all over the world and not just Toyota’s native Japan.
In 1991 Toyota did a deal with Volkswagen to sell a variant of the fifth-gen Hilux in Germany badged as a Volkswagen Taro. The name signified VW would one day release its own ute, even if that didn’t come for another 20 years with the Amarok.
The seventh-generation Hilux appeared in 2005 and was manufactured in Thailand, where the majority of utes of this style are now made. With coil-sprung independent front suspension and levels of performance, safety, style and comfort to match many conventional passenger cars – while maintaining its rugged purpose-built demeanour and unbreakable reputation – it was a far cry from the humble mini-truck that debuted more than 40 years earlier. It rode the wave of popularity as more buyers chose the versatility and functionality a dual-cab ute can provide.
The modern engines used included a 2.7-litre petrol engine only available in the 4x2 Workmate, while most of the models used either a 4.0-litre V6 or a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel.
In 2008, Toyota Australia debuted the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) brand, with the TRD Hilux being one of two TRD models alongside the TRD Aurion sedan. The TRD Hilux SL4000 featured a supercharged 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine, Bilsteintuned sports suspension and a bespoke body kit, but the project was short-lived, getting axed at the end of 2008 with just 351 TRD Hilux models produced.