We expected a limited edition Hilux to follow in the sand tracks of Toyota’s first win at Dakar and our speculative predictions were half correct. Now we’re at the exciting point where we can confirm that the Hilux GR-Sport, which we first saw at the Brazilian Motor Show towards the end of 2018, will come to South Africa with a dab of exclusivity that is highly atypical for the ubiquitous Hilux nameplate. Half right because there’s not one Dakar badge in sight and Nasser al Attiyah hasn’t signed each one.
All 535 units will come with the unique GR-Sport specification that no aftermarket business has yet cloned. This includes some bespoke GR decals, black exterior trim items and revised grille. If you’ve been inside a Yaris GRMN then you’ll already be familiar with the Hilux’s newly branded start button, floor mats and seats.
What sets Gazoo Racing apart, along with the other cascading variations like GRMN and GR-Sport, is the company’s ethos that it must – in one way or another – deliver better performance versus the standard version, thus negating the purely vanity-spec tributes we see far too often – especially from Toyota.
But in saying that, the GR-Sport Hilux doesn’t inherit the 5.0-litre V8 engine with genuine Dakar development – instead it uses the widely popular 130kW, 420Nm 28-litre turbo diesel with a six speed auto. To lend credence to the GR-Sport additions, the new Hilux is fitted with smaller 17-inch wheels attached to stiffer front springs and twin tube dampers. The configuration is suited to high-speed gravel driving, not unlike Ford’s Ranger Raptor but here it exists in a far milder state of modification just to whet your appetitie.
While it’s one of Toyota’s tamer packages that doesn’t launch Gazoo Racing into the same lexicon held by Toyota Racing Developments, the GR-Sport Hilux is a cunning marketing ploy by Toyota South Africa; how do you increase brand awareness of GR-Sport? By branding your most popular product.