Going through the Toyota Hilux family tree
Is there a more iconic pickup truck than the Toyota Hilux? Sure the Americans have the F-series but globally, there is no other more popular nameplate than the Hilux. Now that it's here, let’s take a look back at the history of every generation of Toyota Hilux, and find out what made this truck so desirable.
First-generation: N10 (1968-1972)
The Hilux wasn’t originally a Toyota at all! The Hino motor company, which is still one of the foremost commercial vehicle manufacturers in Japan, came into a partnership with Toyota to produce their pickup truck model, the Hino Briska. After a few years and a change of name, we got the first Toyota Hilux, model N10, and the journey started. It had a 1.5-litre engine that produced 69bhp and a solid rear axle. Curiously, Toyota literally named it the ‘Toyota Truck’ for North America, saving the Hilux name for the rest of the world. It would remain named the Toyota Truck till 1992! The new Hilux replaced all the car-based pickups that Toyota was selling before.
Second-generation: N20 (1972-1978)
Just in its second generation, the Hilux was already gaining a reputation as a true workhorse. The second generation was not a huge change mechanically but its length and wheelbase were extended. It also had more efficient servo-assisted brakes and the option of a floor-mounted gear lever! (To get that option you would have to give up the three-person bench seat for two individual seats.) Although the Hilux was also available with more powerful 2-litre and 2.2-litre engines, they were abandoned in favour of a 1.6-litre unit in order to meet emissions regulations.
Third-generation: N30-N40 (1978-1983)
For the third generation, Toyota decided that other pickups would not be its only competition. They started offering creature comforts only previously available on sedans and made the truck a viable only-family vehicle. It is perhaps the catalyst for the current American scenario in particular, where pickup trucks are the highest-selling vehicle class. Toyota also introduced four-door cab body options, increasing the appeal of the truck for families. The 1.6-litre engine was carried over, while coil springs gave way to more advanced torsion bars in the front suspension. The biggest change was the arrival of four-wheel-drive in 1979, setting a standard for everyone else.
Fourth-generation: N50-N70 (1983-1988)
The first generation where Toyota really faced competition from automakers like Ford and Nissan. The four-wheel-drive version had aggressive blisters on the fenders that made the truck look more butch, and had four engine options - two petrols and two diesels. This is probably the most iconic Hilux of them all, as it was an example of this generation that Top Gear tried and failed to kill, earning the name ‘invincible’ and spawning a fan following. Toyota also added a plastic canopy to the back and added more seats to make the first 4runner, or what we would call the Fortuner.
Fifth-generation: N80-N110 (1988-1997)
With the arrival of the Hilux in the modern age, this generation saw a bit of everything. More and more luxurious interior options were offered while more insulation was given to both decrease cabin noise and increase rust-proofing. Similar to the previous generation, the four-wheel-drive Hilux had massive fenders that differentiated it from the rear-wheel-drive version. The iconic V6 made its debut in the fifth generation and has remained ever since.
Sixth-generation: N140-N170 (1997-2004)
Looking at the use cases of the Hilux, Toyota finally separated the truck into two lines: one for business use and one for personal use. Thus, the personal use Hiluxes got more and more luxurious while the Hiluxes used by businesses became more sparse, and in turn, cheaper to buy and operate. A major change was the introduction of independent front suspension - by this point advanced enough to be more useful on the road while being as capable as a solid axle off it. This innovation helped the Hilux shoot up the sales charts around the world, and become the de facto pickup truck. The sixth gen cemented Toyota’s legendary reliability and you’d often find very high mileage sixth-gen Hiluxes on sale at classifieds even now.
Seventh-generation: AN10-AN30 (2004-2015)
If you feel like this face is familiar, fret not. While we may not have gotten the Hilux, the other models spawned from this seventh-generation platform all came to India. These were the Toyota Fortuner and Innova. Seeing as how successful these two cars became in India, and not only dominated but completely defined their segments, one can only wonder what the Hilux could have done. Nevertheless, the move towards comfort and luxury continued, and the Hilux became more upmarket. But the shining moment for this generation was again on Top Gear. The boys took a modified Hilux all the way to the North Pole - and it wasn’t the car that suffered. It also went to the South Pole and climbed a volcano!
Eighth-generation: AN120-AN130 (2015-present)
FINALLY! The whole country rejoiced when Toyota made the announcement we had been waiting to hear. The Hilux is coming to India. While the Fortuner and Innova Crysta based on this platform are still going strong, the trio will reunite for the first time in this country. Developed with feedback from all around the world, the new Hilux has been made tougher, more comfortable and more capable than any generation before it.