LOS ANGELES – Launching from a stoplight shows off the torquey powertrain prowess of the redesigned ’24 Toyota Tacoma, while minimal head toss and quiet ride reveal a subtle on-road stability that the previous-generation pickup never possessed.
Toyota completely remakes its popular Tacoma pickup for 2024, with more off-road capability, better on-road manners, an interior makeover and a hybrid powertrain option all designed to maintain the Japanese automaker’s dominance in the midsize truck segment.
The ’24 Tacoma, the first stem-to-stern remake of the truck in more than 10 years, is built on the same TNGA-F platform as the Tundra and Sequoia SUV. The bones of the pickup are a fully boxed high-strength steel ladder frame, an upgrade from the outgoing truck.
In upper trim levels, the truck gets a new multi-link, coil-spring rear suspension, which definitely improves ride and handling on our test drive around the Southern California hills. There’s far less jounce in on-road driving than what was characteristic of the outgoing model.
Tacoma offers three engine options, replacing the previous generation’s naturally aspirated 2.7L 4-cyl. and 3.5L V-6. The base engine is the iForce 2.4L turbocharged 4-cyl., producing 228 hp and 243 lb.-ft. (329 Nm) of torque. The same engine with a software upgrade and oil cooler punches up output to 278 hp and 317 lb.-ft. (430 Nm) of torque – equal to the power of the outgoing V-6, but with more torque. The top-of-the-line powertrain is the iForceMAX, the first hybrid system for Tacoma. Available next spring, the propulsion system teams the 2.4L turbo with a transmission-integrated 48-hp electric motor for a total output of 326 hp and 465 lb.-ft. (630 Nm) of torque.
Transmissions include an 8-speed automatic, replacing the previous truck’s 6-speed, and a 6-speed manual with “intelligent” controls including upshift engine-speed hold to smooth gear engagement and automatic rev-matching on downshifts. The manual also includes a clutch-start cancel feature that allows the truck to start while in gear, handy for tricky off-road situations.
That said, we can only recommend the manual to enthusiasts and hardcore off-roaders due to its long-throw shifter and oddly long clutch travel.
The base engine with rear-wheel drive is rated at 21/26 mpg (11.2-9.0 L/100 km) city/highway. There’s a penalty for choosing 4-wheel drive across the board, but it is particularly pronounced with fewer gear ratios in the manual, which gets just 18/23 mpg (13.0-9.0 L/100 km).
The increased torque makes each engine responsive from stop lights and when accelerating on highway ramps, as well as providing surefooted-ness while moving from pavement to dirt and mud. The two extra gears in the automatic transmission help keep the truck in the sweet part of the torque curve.
The Tacoma has a desirably stiff feel, which truck buyers want, but without the harsh on-pavement jounce and occasional fishtailing typical of the old model when stomping the accelerator.
The suspension comfortably handles potholes and trail ruts. The tuning of the trims, plus the shock absorbers – not including stiffer options offered on the Trailhunter trim – makes for the most road-compliant Tacoma in three decades. The TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road, available only in crew cab, come with coil springs and unique shocks with longer travel for uneven terrain.
We tested the TRD Off-Road on a course of steep hills and rutted paths. In Crawl Control off-road, low-speed cruise control, the truck feels like it could take on 99% of the surfaces and hills likely to be encountered.
Toyota is doing something curious with its midsize truck, using active noise-canceling in some trims, as well as generating “artificial” engine noise. The overall effect, not surprisingly, gives the truck an engineered “voice” under the hood rather than engine sounds that feel authentic.
The Trailhunter is an attractive choice in the model lineup as well as a halo truck. It offers higher ground clearance – 9.5 in. (241 mm) and 11 in. (279 mm) running ground clearance slightly higher than the standard Tacoma, along with 33-in. Goodyear Territory R/T tires, and high-strength skid plates. The off-road package comes with a bronze-colored grille with a 20-in. (51 cm) LED lightbar and RIGID fog lamps.
Maximum towing is rated at 6,500 lbs. (2,949 kg), with the ability to handle as much as 1,709 (775 kg) lbs. of payload.
Toyota offers two cab configurations: a four-door Double Cab and a new two-door XtraCab, a 2-seat model with a bit of extra room behind the front seats for backpacks, tool bags or groceries.
Tacoma gets a completely updated interior with improved infotainment system, multiple USB-C ports and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Available features include wireless device charging and a 12.3-in. (31-cm) digital gauge cluster. The pickup comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 suite of advanced driver-assistance features, including full-speed range adaptive cruise control and Proactive Driving Assist.
The infotainment system includes audio by JBL. Included in the speaker system is a JBL Flex removable portable speaker in the center of the dash, allowing the driver to carry it outside the car in perhaps a tailgating or campsite situation.
The Tacoma has succeeded where its big brother, the Tundra fullsize pickup, has not. While Tundra never threatened the dominance of Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra or Ram 1500, the Tacoma has been the top-selling midsize pickup in the U.S. for 20 years.
To be fair, the Tacoma has had an open field for a decade or more, as the Detroit 3 bailed out of the category as the market skewed to heavily discounted fullsize trucks. But the competition has stiffened as GM has returned with the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon duo and Ford with the Ranger. Ram is expected to relaunch the Dakota next year.
But with this new model, Tacoma should have no problem defending its slice of the segment. Toyota sold 215,000 Tacomas in 2022, compared with 117,936 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks and 57,000 Ford Rangers, according to Wards Intelligence data.
Tacoma pricing starts at $32,995, $2,900 more than the outgoing model. The popular SR5 trim starts $5,810 higher at $37,695. The TRD Off-Road starts at $43,295.