Is Toyota going to equip its new Hilux light truck with a camera-based autonomous braking system, an almost sure-fire way of winning five-star crash safety credentials from the European New Car Assessment Programme? Or is it just measuring the impact on a dummy pedestrian (above) as its works towards an approved pedestrian-safety rating from the Euro-NCAP facility? European spy agency Automedia says its pictures really don’t need any explanation, that the Toyota Hilux is indeed testing autonomous braking. The pictures at the top and at left clearly show the Hilux braking in a hurry. The circular device on the roof of the Hilux is the giveaway. Could it be similar to Subaru’s Eyesight system, which can detect pedestrians and automatically apply the vehicle’s brakes, if necessary. Toyota is a self-proclaimed admirer of things Subaru – it didn’t buy 17 per cent of Subaru for nothing – and Eyesight has received much praise worldwide. Toyota desparately wants its eighth-generation Hilux to immediately get a maximum five-star crash rating from Euro-NCAP as it seeks to recapture the high ground from its main rival the Ford Ranger. The current Hilux range has been around for almost 10 years, in which time it has mostly carried a four-star rating. Some variants have been upgraded to five stars along the way. The Ranger launched in 2010 with the maximum five stars and its success in becoming the best-selling workhorse in New Zealand, at least, has clearly being helped from day one by the rating.The new Hilux is longer, wider and more muscular than the current model, says Automedia. The spy agency and its designers have looked for tell-tale signs under the camouflage and say both the front and rear ends pick up design elements from the Toyota Tacoma, a US market pick-up. “Generally speaking,” says Automedia, “the new Hilux’s design is closer to American tastes, spurring speculation about the light truck’s potential in the US market.” The facelifted Ford Ranger also gets an all-American touch here and there, especially F-150 styling around the
grille. The new-look model is due in New Zealand later in the year. The Hilux is also expected then, although there is talk that it won’t arrive until early in 2016. It is almost certain to come with an improved version of the four-cylinder 3.0-litre turbo-diesel, tuned for better fuel use. Toyota has been trialling a hybrid Hilux, says Automedia, using a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric generator/motor from the A-Bat concept first seen at the 2008 Detroit motor show. It says the optional 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine that has been available in NZ might not meet new emissions regulations and could be ruled out of some markets.