May 18, 2023 6 min read 10 Comments
“But the Tacoma is reliable!” Yes, we get it. But, that reliability has always come at the expense of drivability, a safe payload, and performance. No longer. For 2024, Toyota has completely redesigned an all-new Tacoma, and it appears as if the result will, for the first time in Tacoma history, be a genuinely good pickup truck.
And the company is specifically acknowledging some of its past failings with previous generation Tacomas. “Tacoma can ascend an 8-percent interstate grade without the need to downshift, making long road trips more pleasant than ever,” reads Toyota’s harmoniously written press release. Third generation Tacomas, when equipped with the automatic transmission, were notorious for their inability to maintain 6th gear at highway speeds, even while driving on level roads.
That won’t be a problem on this new 4th gen. While base model SR trim trucks will come with a 228 horsepower, 243 pound-foot version of Toyota’s ubiquitous 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder motor, all other trim levels will include either a 278bhp, 317lb-ft version, when paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual with rev matching and anti-stall features will make 270bhp and 310lb-ft.
There will also be a higher performance option. Dubbed iForce Max, that 2.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder is paired with an electric motor located inside the transmission’s bell housing for a total output of 326bhp, and a class leading, genuinely impressive 465lb-ft of torque.
Toyota is not, at this time, releasing any information on fuel economy, performance, weight, or pricing. Non-hybrid versions will go on sale, “later this year,” while Toyota says iForce Max-equipped trucks will begin reaching customers in early 2024.
Even more impressive than the new powertrain is the payload capacity. As a refresher, payload is the total amount of weight a vehicle is capable of carrying, a figure which must include the weight of gasoline and passengers. At 1,125 pounds, 4x4, four-door versions of the 3rd gen Tacoma are unable to safely take four people on a camping trip. This new truck? Toyota is only releasing one number, for the hybrid 4WD version of the Tacoma, which will be the heaviest version, with the lowest payload number. And that makes its 1,709lbs payload seriously impressive. Non-hybrid, manual transmission Tacomas could feature class leading payloads when those numbers are announced. Man, times change fast.
Now’s probably the time that we should point that all versions of this new Tacoma will, for the first time, be equipped with disc brakes on all four wheels.
Toyota has also gone a long ways to address criticisms directed at the new Tundra, with which the Tacoma shares its frame. Where the bigger truck goes without any option for front recovery points, those parts are standard on all Tacomas. Another problem with the new Tundra is limited articulation, particularly on TRD Pro models, thanks to that version’s stronger anti-sway bar. Front sway bar disconnects will be an option across the Tacoma range, increasing front wheel articulation 10 percent over the outgoing model. Those disconnects will remain compatible even with aftermarket coilovers.
The new Tacoma will be available in both two and four-door configurations, with options for both five and six-foot beds. Two door Tacos are dubbed XtraCab, and feature a cargo area behind the seats, rather than extra passenger capacity. Toyota is building in locking storage for that version, both under the floor and in the rear of the cabin. The company specifically calls out room for “fishing rods” inside those lock boxes, which we assume is a euphemism for long guns.
And then there’s the suspension. While SR, SR5, and TRD PreRunner trim levels will continue to use leaf rear springs, TRD Off-Road, TRD Pro, Limited and Trailhunter trims will come equipped with a multi-link coil spring setup. Expect improved ride and handling from those versions. Unfortunately, like the new Tundra, this new Tacoma positions its rear shocks outboard of the frame, an arrangement that limits rear articulation on the half-ton, and will likely do the same here. It’s worth noting that one payload figure Toyota is releasing is for the coil-sprung TRD Off-Road Trim. Leaf sprung versions may be able to carry even more weight.
With this new Tacoma, Toyota has set out to achieve greater functional differentiation between trims than ever before. SR will remain a very basic (and presumably very affordable) work truck version targeting fleet and commercial customers. SR5 pairs the more powerful, non-hybrid motor with leaf rear springs, a limited-slip rear differential, and presumably a comfortable interior. TRD Prerunner represents an intriguing option. Available in Xtracab only, its leaf springs and two-wheel drive suggest an affordable price, which will include an electronic locking rear differential, and a two-inch front lift. Taco squat isn’t dead yet! There’s also a TRD Sport, which includes a bunch of appearance upgrades, and stiffer dampers, but no one should consider spending more money just to reduce their truck’s performance.
TRD Off-Road is the entry point for multi-link rear suspension. It’ll be available in four-door format only (which is a shame), and also includes a very basic set of Bilstein monotube remote reservoir shocks, Toyota’s class-leading electronic off-road traction system, 33-inch tires, and an electronic rear locker.
An upgrade from there will be TRD Pro, which will only be available with the iForce Max engine and 8-speed auto. It includes 2.5-inch Fox internal bypass, remote reservoir shocks complete with hydraulic bump stops and aluminum upper control arms. Those shocks will feature three-position compression adjustment. For protection, the Pro incudes an ARB steel rear bumper, faux “rock sliders,” and skid plates. Expect high prices, the Pro is only available with lux interior options. This new Tacoma also debuts Toyota’s new Trailhunter trim, which packages a bunch of upgrades typically only available in the aftermarket into a vehicle you’ll be able to finance under a single payment. Trailhunter features unique internal bypass, remote reservoir Old Man Emu shocks, and a bunch of unique features high-quality Australian 4x4 accessory maker ARB has partnered with Toyota to design just for this Taco, those include bumpers, a snorkel, frame-mounted rock sliders, and even an integrated air compressor. Additional options abound, but quickly start to feel like less function, and more functionless bling.
Finally, there’s the Limited trim, which is focussed more towards light-offroad use and people who regularly tackle winter driving. It includes a luxury interior that’s a lot less loud than TRD Pro or Trailhunter, a bunch of chrome, and will be the only Taco available with full-time four-wheel drive. That means the Limited will nominally function in all-wheel drive (good for safety in slippery conditions), but can lock its center diff to enter 4WD for driving off-road or in deep snow. Limited won’t be available with any sort of rear locker.
There’s one feature here we need to talk about: the TRD Pro’s “IsoDynamic Performance Seat,” which will be included standard on that vehicle. This features a (very bulky) carbon-look plastic exoskeleton that mounts the seat on dampers that enable the seat to move in three dimensions. Toyota claims its purpose is to, “stabilize the driver’s field of vision to improve focus, comfort, and reduce fatigue while on rugged trails.” There’s no nice way to put this, so we’re just going to jump to the point: this tacky gimmick will add weight, potential points of failure, and reduce rear seat leg room. It’s tacky in the extreme, and would deter us from purchasing any vehicle so-equipped. Bummer.
Aside from that ridiculous seat, we can’t understate what an impressive effort this is. For the first time, without caveat, it appears as if the 2024 Toyota Tacoma will be a genuinely good vehicle that’s absolutely competitive in its segment. It’s also head and shoulders better than its platform mates, featuring a genuinely useful payload that’s considerably higher than even the seven-seat Sequoia.
Weighing about 275 pounds, depending on which bed length you go with, pairing a 2024 Toyota Tacoma with the $7,700 GoFastCampers Platform Camper creates a genuinely appealing, multipurpose vehicle. Let’s run the math. Assuming the new truck shares a similar fuel capacity with the 3rd gen, then a fully fueled Taco carrying two 200lbs adults, complete with a GFC, nets you a remaining payload of 1,183lbs, 58 pounds more than an empty 3rd gen. That leaves plenty of capacity leftover for any activity you can imagine, while adding a cozy place to sleep, an instantly-accessible shelter from the sun, and 800lbs of dynamic roof load capacity, all in a vehicle that you'll be able to huck harder than any Taco made before.
Which version of the new Taco should you buy? If it was us, we’d go for the TRD Off-Road, with the non-hybrid powertrain and six-speed manual. That vehicle will presumably come with an even higher payload. To that, we’d add a GFC, plus OME BP-51 suspension, which will give it more off-road performance than even TRD Pro. We haven’t seen prices yet, but you should be able to get out of that entire setup for around the same price as the Pro, all in a package that can carry more weight, allows you to row you own gears, and minimizes both long term maintenance costs and potential points of failure. Honestly, it’s fairly unbelievable you’ll still be able to buy and build such a high performance, broadly useful truck, manual transmission truck in 2024. — Wes Siler