Toyota has started work on getting the hybrid-powered, Ram 1500-rivalling Tundra pickup truck to Australia to sit above the top-selling HiLux.
The company confirmed an “extensive program is underway to re-engineer Tundra” for right-hand drive in partnership with Walkinshaw Automotive Group, which already re-engineers the Chevrolet Silverado for GMSV, and the Ram 1500 for Ateco Group.
Toyota says it will draw on “key components” from its global parts catalogue in the re-engineering process, including the steering column and rack, pedals, and shift lever from the right-hand drive LandCruiser 300 with which the Tundra shares a version of its platform.
The first Tundra prototypes are expected to show up on local roads in September 2022, with a further 300 mules set to hit Australia in the fourth quarter of 2023 “as part of the final validation stage of the RHD program”.
Despite confirming an expensive, long-term development program for the ute, Toyota hasn’t confirmed if the Tundra will go on sale locally.
“An Australian RHD Tundra faces further checkpoints in Toyota’s global approval process before its retail introduction can be confirmed,” the brand said in a media release.
Unlike the LandCruiser, and the Tundra’s full-sized rivals in Australia, the first batch of test mules will feature the 3.5-litre petrol V6 hybrid powertrain offered in the USA.
The hybrid pairs a twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine (featured in the LandCruiser 300 overseas) and 10-speed automatic with a motor generator, new Power Control Unit, and a sealed 288V nickel-metal hydride battery charged by brake-energy recuperation.
It packs 326kW of power and 790Nm of torque, and the Tundra has a quoted braked towing capacity of 5500kg.
Under the skin, the latest Tundra features double-wishbone front and independent rear rear suspension, along with a rear air suspension option designed for buyers who tow heavy loads.
Inside, the Tundra comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with a 14-inch touchscreen optional. A full suite of active safety features is offered in the USA.
The pickup truck market is booming in Australia, led by the Ram 1500. Sales of full-sized American pickup trucks have soared since 2018, and Toyota clearly doesn’t want to miss out on the action.
Ram sold 3819 examples of the 1500 in Australia during 2021, and GMSV sold 2114 examples of the Silverado 1500.
Both those cars are remanufactured to right-hand drive for their respective distributors by Walkinshaw in Clayton, Victoria, which has also paired with Volkswagen on flagship versions of the Amarok dual-cab ute, and has confirmed it’s in talks about doing the same to the new model.
Ford has recently confirmed it’s bringing the best-selling car in America, the F-150 pickup, to Australia in 2023 on the back of strong demand. It’ll be remanufactured by RMA Automotive at a facility in Mickleham, Victoria.
Unlike the hybrid Tundra, the Silverado and Ram are both exclusively available with V8 petrol engines, while the F-150 will offer only V6 petrol power when it hits showrooms in 2023.