Taco Tuesday: Is the Toyota Hilux Actually Coming to America?

Since the early 1990s, the Toyota Tacoma has been the North American stand-in for Toyota’s global Hilux pickup truck. If you’ve ever traveled in Central and South America, Africa, or Thailand, there’s a solid chance you’ve seen a Toyota Hilux pickup truck from one of its eight generations navigating the landscape. But is the Toyota Hilux actually coming to America

A 2021 Toyota Hilux sits on a cliffside
Toyota’s Hilux truck | Toyota

If it does, it will not technically be a Toyota Hilux pickup truck. In fact, it would mean that the Toyota Tacoma could end up with a diesel powerplant. A recent Gear Junkie report of a new patent in combination with Toyota’s recent video about diesel engines leads us to believe that, while the Toyota Hilux may not ever make it stateside, a diesel Toyota Tacoma could be on the horizon. 

Does the Toyota Tacoma have a diesel engine? 

A green 2021 Toyota Tacoma rock climbing, the Tacoma is one of five Midsize Trucks with the Best Gas Mileage in 2021, According to TrueCar
2021 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

No, there haven’t been any Toyota Tacoma pickups with a diesel engine. The legendary Taco and the Toyota Hilux both have the same roots that date back to the original Toyota Truck. The current Tacoma base engine for the SR and SR5 Tacos is a 2.7 liter four-cylinder 159 hp engine that Car and Driver calls “anemic.” 

On the other hand, the 278 hp 3.5 liter V6 is available for every trim and standard on the upper level Tacomas, including the TRD Pro model. Additionally, the upcoming 2022 Tacoma Trail Edition will also feature the V6 engine as standard equipment. So what’s all this about a diesel Toyota Tacoma truck? 

The Toyota Hilux has a turbodiesel engine and the patent means that new powerplants could be coming soon

While there is not a diesel Toyota Tacoma truck, there is a Toyota Hilux with a turbodiesel powertrain. According to Toyota Europe, the Hilux, which received a facelift for the 2020 model comes with either a 2.4 or 2.8 liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. This global Toyota truck comes in several different configurations. 

There are double cab, single cab, and extended cab versions. The Hilux and Tacoma also come in similar grey, green, black, white, and green paint colors with a few exclusive colors on either end. The 4WD Hilux off-road truck is also a popular truck for off-road enthusiasts that like to make custom upgrades to or modify their pickups. In fact, there are custom Hilux trucks with factory modifications like New Zealand’s Mako, which competes with the Ford Ranger Raptor

The Taco is, in many ways, the North American version of the well-loved Toyota Hilux. But there’s never been a diesel engine in sight. Until now. Will it land itself under the hood of the Tacoma truck or the Toyota Tundra?

Will Toyota really bring diesel engines to the North American pickup truck lineup? 

A white 2022 Toyota Tundra on a white background with a black vignette.
2022 Toyota Tundra | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc

So does this mean that Toyota is actually going to add the Hilux to its North American truck lineup? We highly doubt it. Our version of the Toyota Hilux pickup truck will probably always remain the Toyota Tacoma, or Taco, as enthusiasts lovingly call it. 

However, it could mean that there are some exciting powertrain options in store for upcoming Toyota truck models like the Toyota Tacoma and the full-size Toyota Tundra. The patent hints at a diesel engine with innovations that eliminate the use of glow plugs. There has also been buzz of a hybrid powertrain coming for the Tundra and Tacoma trucks.

Diesel Toyota trucks and SUVs 

2021 Toyota Sequoia at a campsite in the mountains
2021 Toyota Sequoia | Toyota USA

If we do end up with a new Toyota diesel powerplant in North America, Toyota’s lineup could end up with some pretty cool upgrades. We certainly wouldn’t mind off-roading in a diesel-powered Lexus GX 460. Fuel gulping SUVs like the GX, Toyota Sequoia, and Toyota 4Runner could also benefit from new powertrain options. 

The Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks could certainly improve their fuel mileage stats with a new diesel option. Apparently, hybrid innovations may not be the only way that Toyota plans to produce more efficient vehicles. But whether the U.S. will ever actually see a diesel Toyota Tacoma like the Hilux truck is pure speculation for now.

RELATED: The 2022 Toyota Land Cruiser Is a Beast When it Comes to Practical Application