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Australian Toyota Hilux gets American-inspired refresh

Reese Counts

The grass is always greener, isn't it? For years Americans have pined over Toyota's global pickup truck, the Hilux. Sure, we get the Tacoma, but, like French hot hatches and German wagons, it's not quite the same. While the Hilux isn't coming here, the bestselling vehicle in Australia is getting an American-flavored refresh, namely more automatic transmissions, along with some new cab configurations.

In Oz, Hilux owners can choose between one gasoline engine or two flavors of diesel, with the latter being far and away the more popular option. The 2.7-liter gasoline inline-four makes 164 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, pretty paltry numbers for a truck these days. A 2.4-liter diesel engine makes either 148 horsepower and either 253 or 295 pound-feet of torque, depending on trim, cab, transmission and drive configurations. The top-tier 2.8-liter diesel engine makes 180 horsepower and either 310 pound-feet of torque with a manual or 332 pound-feet with an automatic. The V6 has been dropped. Toyota says the engine made up just half a percentage point of sales.

Those engines are all carryovers. The real news is that Toyota has dropped some trim levels and increased the availability of automatics, which now account for more than half of Australian sales. Lower trim levels now have options like alloy wheels and satellite navigation, meaning buyers don't have to move up a trim to get popular features. The WorkMate trim with an automatic can now be had in a four-wheel-drive double-cab configuration. The popular two-wheel-drive Hi-Rider can now be had in more trim levels. That truck has the looks but not the off-road prowess of other Hilux models.

All together, the Australian-market Hilux comes in 31 configurations. And 10 slow-selling configurations have been replaced by some of the new automatic models, so 17 trims can be had with automatics, up from 12 last year.

It's been a big year for the Hilux. It's been the bestselling commercial vehicle in Australia for 20 years, the bestselling four-wheel-drive vehicle for 12, and in 2016 it became the bestselling vehicle overall. With sales up 13.7 percent through August, it looks on pace to repeat that feat. Next year will mark 50 years of the Hilux in Australia.

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