Hilux differences
This page high lights the differences between the North American spec. Toyota
pick-up and later Tacoma verses the overseas Hilux.  Make no mistake.  
Especially in recent years, these two trucks are nowhere near the same.  For
more than 18 years, Toyota has built two different lines of compact 4X4s.  The
one version destined for North America and the one version for everywhere else
in the world.
One  surprising fact is that the Hilux kept using the soild front axle through 1997 before switching to IFS.
 Even more suprising is which IFS was used.  Not the Tacoma coil spring system, but the older torsion
system found on North American Toyotas built from '86 through '95  In fact the entire frame and
suspension of the current generation Hilux is identical to the '86 through '95 North American Toyotas.
Since the mid 1980s, the Toyota 4X4 compact pick-up has been split into two different
models.  The first is generally known as "pick-up" or "truck" as no model name has been
attributed to it since the early 1980s, until the introduction of the Tacoma.  This model is
destined for the largest automobile and truck market in the world.  The United States and
Canada.   The other model, the Hilux, was destined for every other market in the world.

The reason for the differences in these two model has mainly to do with which customer the
truck is generally marketed too.   In the United States and Canada, the Toyota pick-up is
marketed to the general public.   In a society where work trucks are almost exclusively the
full sized domestic models, Toyota didn't even attempt to break into the commercial market
in North America, until the advent of the T-100 pick-up in the early 1990s.

However, overseas, in almost every other market, the Hilux is marketed as a commercial
truck, for commerical use.  This means that the Toyota Hilux truck is generally used as a
farm and industry work truck.  The Toyota Hilux is ideally suited for this role.  With basic
half ton models as well a 1 ton models being available.  Where an even larger truck or
payload was needed, customers could opt for the Toyota Landcruiser 70,75 and 78.

As a commercial truck, different considerations were given to the design of the Hilux.  
While both trucks are very similier, including the same frame, suspension, engines, etc,
what differs, is when the truck underwent a design change and what the design change was.

Through 1985, both the North American model and the Hilux were very similier.  Both
models had the same frame and solid front axle suspension.  Both models used the same
engines, although the diesel engine was rarier in the North American market.   The Hilux
differed in one major aspect.  It included an optional 4door body style that the North
American market would not see until 2000.

In 1986, both models made a dramatic split.   Toyota introduced an entirely new front
suspension and engine options on North American models, while Hilux models remained
unchanged.   The North American models introduced a turbo 22RE and dropped forever,
the diesel engine as an option.  But the most striking and disappointing change was the
introduction of independent front suspension.   This demonstrated the  difference between
the markets the two models were destined for.   In the North American market, Toyota
assumed that a better ride, better handling and more comfort would increase sales to the
general public.   IFS did just that.  It improved handling, improved the ride, and
surprisingly, it improved sales.  The Toyota pick-up became one of the most popular, best
selling compact trucks in America.   But that same IFS that improved sales, became
extremely lamented by the hardcore off road enthusiests.   The IFS limited off road
capability due to it's lack of articulation.   Another area that the two models differed is that
the Hilux offered a factory optional limited slip.   An option that was never available on
American models.

The Hilux remained unchanged.  The commercial customer of the Hilux, did not require
better handling, better ride or better comfort.  They wanted simplicity and strength and off
road ability.  Something that the soild front axle Hilux provided well.   The Hilux frame and
suspension, which included the soild front axle would remain unchanged for another 12
years.  However, the body style did change for the American  trucks in the late 1980s, just
as it did on the trucks in America.  While the body styles would always look similier, there
would always be major differences through the current generation.

In 1995, Toyota introduced a completely new model for the North American market.  This
new truck was a complete redesign, including an all new frame, body, and engine options.  
Virtually nothing remained of the old truck.  It was called the Tacoma and was not only
exclusively a North American market truck, but was exclusively built in Fremont,
California.   The new truck was powerful and well designed, but it continued with the
marketing philosophy that a better riding and handling truck was more important to
American customers than brute hardcore off road capability.  While IFS was retained, it
too, was also completely redesigned.  Instead of the very stout, strong double wishbone,
torsion bar suspension with ball type steering, the new system used a weaker double A-arm
coil sprung system with car like rack and pinion steering.   While this system proved to be
extremely comfortable on the highway and improved handling, off road durability was
slightly compromised.   Especially with the rack and pinion steering which would tend to
wear out after lots of off road use.   However, the demands of off roading customers was
not completely lost on Toyota when they designed the Tacoma.   Toyota introduced an
electric rear locker on some models.   It was this option that actually pushed Toyota over
the top in the American truck market.  Making the Toyota Tacoma the most capable
factory off road truck in the North American compact and mid-sized segment, due to it's
rear locker and larger optional tires.

With the Hilux, Toyota again left it relatively unchanged from 1986 through 1997, except
for body and interior changes.   Only in 1998, did Toyota make any major changes to this
model.   Despite still being a primarily commercial and farming truck, Toyota saw the
success of the '86-'95 North American market Toyotas and wanted to implement that
success into it's new Hilux.  But Toyota also knew that it's primary customer, industry and
farms, wanted to retain the same strength and simplicity of the old Hilux.  Toyota
compromised.  The jigs and machinery were already in place, in Japan to continue to build
the original IFS frame.  The same frame and suspension found on the '86-'95 American
models.   So, Toyota elected to use that frame and suspension for the new Hilux and not
use the frame and suspension of the Tacoma.   The original IFS, while lacking in
articulation, was specificly designed for durability off road.  The torsion bars were mounted
high and out of the way.  The A-arms were stout and heavy duty.  The steering used the
same recirculating ball that the solid axle steering used, and used simlier sized tie rods.  To
improve durability, much of the steering was located behind a skid plate.   The system was
well suited for farm and industrial use.  And it was the perfect compromise for Toyota who
felt that at least some Hilux customers would appreciate the better highway comfort and
handling.   But one of the most important reasons for selecting the older suspension may be
surprising.  The frame of the older truck was far more durable than the new Tacoma.  The
older truck has a fully boxed, internally gussetted frame that is capable of up to a 1 ton load
capacity with minor modifications, including different springs and full floating rear axles.  
The Tacoma, and even the bigger Tundra, is only rated for 1/2 ton on all models and offers
no 1 ton model.  One reason is likely the weaker only partly boxed frame.   Most of the
Hilux's customers are industry who demand high payload capacity.  A great number of
Hilux's sold are of the 1 ton capacity type.  In the United States, the last Toyota that was 1
ton capable was a version of the 1998 T-100.  The T-100 uses the same suspension and
frame as the current generation Hilux, only wider.

The current generation Hilux, first introduced in 1998, has body panels that are very
similier to the North American Tacoma, but rest of the suspension and frame are indentical
to the North American market '86-'95 Toyota 4x4.   For engines, Toyota does offer the
same 2.7 4 cylinder that is standard in the Tacoma, as optional in the Hilux.   But the diesel
motors that very popular in the Hiluxs of today, nowhere to be found on any North
American market Toyota.
The underside of a 2002 Toyota
Hilux 4x4, long wheelbase frame.
Click on image for larger view
A frame diagram of a North
American market 1990 Toyota
4X4 pick-up, long wheelbase
Click on image for larger view
Mid-1980s 4 door Hilux
1988 North American IFS Toyota
1990 Australian Hilux 4X4
1990 American 4X4 pick-up
Note that while both body styles look very similier, the hidden differences are huge.  The
Hilux still retains a solid front axle, while the American truck has IFS.
2002 Toyota Hilux 4X4 4 door
2002 Toyota Tacoma 4X4