Toyota’s fourth-generation Tacoma looks set to continue dominance of the midsize pickup market when it debuts in December.
With several versions of a 2.4-liter turbo-four, including a hybrid, there’s power aplenty for towing up to 6500 pounds and hauling up to 1705 pounds.
Prices range from $32,995 to $53,595.
The fourth-generation Toyota Tacoma coming out next month is all-new from its optional steel bumpers to its aluminum upper body. It rides on the larger, more rigid TNGA-F platform shared with the Tundra full-size pickup and Sequoia and coming Land Cruiser SUVs. More crossmembers and added welds make it structurally stronger than its predecessors while a Calty-designed exterior further aligns with its larger siblings.
But it might not have needed any of that because even in its eight-year-old third-gen self it has absolutely stomped the competition. While most every other midsize pickup competitor has lost sales this year, Toyota Tacoma actually went up, despite pretty much everyone on the planet knowing it was going to be all-new by year’s end. Good bargains to be had?
Through September Toyota moved 179,681 Tacomas off dealer lots, an increase of 2.2% over the same period in 2022. That’s almost three times more than the number-two competitor Ford Maverick and number-three Chevy Colorado.
Yet, Toyota redid the whole truck anyway.
The TNGA-F architecture (Toyota New Generation Architecture–F) incorporates high-strength steel that gets more laser welds than before for increased rigidity. There’s aluminum in the upper body for added lightness, along with an extra crossmember in front and stronger crossmembers running the length of the frame.
There’s even an attachment point for a high-lift jack (though if you were paying attention you wouldn’t get yourself stuck in a place that required a high-lift jack).
In back are leaf springs on some models and coil springs on others, depending on how much you plan to load into the bed or onto the tow hitch. Leaf springs are generally better for large loads, coil springs for ride comfort with light loads, so take your pick based on what you plan to do with your Taco.
Disc brakes are standard across the board—surprisingly, they weren’t before. You can get bigger brakes on the higher-zoot models. Standard for each rig is electric power steering—it’s like the Tacoma has entered the 21st century!
“The Calty team focused on Toyota’s truck DNA and the Toyota Baja race trucks for inspiration to capture the extreme spirit of off-road adventure,” Calty President Kevin Hunter said. “High lift, big tires, slim body, and a powerful athletic stance define the iconic Tacoma look, referred to as ‘Tacoma-ness.’”
(For the record, I’ve never in my life heard the term, “Tacoma-ness” applied to anything, nor have I ever heard the erudite and intelligent Calty head Kevin Hunter call anything a “Badass adventure machine,” yet both terms were in the Toyota press material attributed to him. I suspect marketing and PR wrote those words.)
A Satisfying Off-Road Adventure Hauler
Regardless of how you describe them, the features of the new Taco make for a satisfying off-road-capable adventure hauler. Toyota let us try them out on a newly bulldozed section of Calamigos Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu.
We are all supposed to be “saving the manuals,” so I chose a manual-transmission Tacoma for my first off-road foray—a TRD Off Road Double Cab 5-Foot Bed Manual to be exact. It came with the 2.4-liter turbo-four driving the six-speed manual through all four wheels, which meant 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. It rode on double wishbones in front and coil springs in the rear.
All that torque meant you could just about start it in gear and go forward if you wanted, though I started it with the clutch depressed and then quickly let it out, whereupon it crawled admirably like it thought it was a Jeep or something. It only required a small application of throttle to keep it crawling, even up the steepest hills Malibu could throw at it, enabled by 310 lb-ft of torque that peaks at a low 1700 rpm. The outgoing V6 didn’t reach its peak 265 lb-ft of torque until 3500 rpm.
Likewise, approach, departure, and breakover angles were ready for just about anything, with 32.2, 22.2, and 24.7 degrees respectively.
Downhill, the manual’s gearing took over for controlled descents on the steepest creeps Da ’Bu could toss at us. There was no disc-brake-grabbing “descent mode”—that’s for Range Rovers.
It was fun, as anyone who has played with Tacomas already knows. This one would be handy for a family four-wheelin’ weekend, too, with seating for five and a pickup bed 60.3 inches in length. In different configurations than this one, Tacomas can tow up to 6500 pounds of jet skis or pop-up trailers, making for an even more entertaining weekend of “badassery,” as Hunter would no-doubt call it.
Another drive on the paved two-lane curving roads of Malibu showed the Tacoma still had some of the typical pickup truck’s frame-twisting reaction to irregular road surfaces. Don’t expect sedan-styled cornering here, even though the Camry gets its own version of the TNGA architecture. Likewise, the manual shifter wobbled about and had a longer throw than I expected. But it’s a truck, not a Supra, for goodness’ sake.
New 4-Cylinder Makes Outgoing V6’s 278 HP
Like many large-volume pickup manufacturers, Toyota is offering many, many configurations of Tacoma, with leaf- or coil springs, rear- or all-wheel drive, and a couple different trim levels of that 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
Engine outputs range from 228 hp and 243 lb-ft making 23 mpg combined to 278 hp and 317 lb-ft squeezing out 21 mpg combined. That 278 hp is the same as the previous V6, said powertrain engineer Craig Herring.
But wait, there’s more. The range-topping i-Force MAX hybrid powertrain makes 326 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque—enough to tow or haul almost anything. “It’s the same architecture as our Toyota Tundra Sequoia hybrid, which is different than all of our other hybrids like the Camry and everything like that is a single electric motor,” said Herring.
So you can’t really bemoan the lack of a six-cylinder.
There are two transmissions: a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic.
Cab configurations include: 4x2 XtraCab (with an abbreviated rear seat), 4x2 Double Cab with full back seats, and 4x4 XtraCab and Double Cab. Bed lengths range from 60.3 to 73.5 inches, or just over five feet and just over six. Curb weights range from 4145 pounds in a 4x2 XtraCab to 4720 in a 4x4 Double Cab.
There are eight trims in all, ranging from the SR, SR5, Limited, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and TRD Pro. There’s even a Trail Hunter model, loaded with overlanding gear, and the return of the mighty Pre-Runner. (A pre-runner is a truck you use to scout out the course of a desert race. It’s almost as capable as your race truck but much more comfortable).
The TRD Pro halo model even has those IsoDynamic seats we saw demonstrated on the Toyota stand at SEMA—seats that absorb road whallops to make for a comfortable ride even in the harshest desert environments.
Pricing starts at a reasonable $32,995 including destination, but you can go all the way up to a Limited Double Cab 4x4 for $53,595 before loading up more options.
There are millions of different Tacoma configurations, one of which will be just right for you. Start searching through it all now to be ready for first deliveries starting sometime in December.
Do you think any other compact or midsize pickup has a chance to conquest some of the Tacoma's dominant market share? Please comment below.