The trustworthy Toyota Tacoma is a legendary enthusiast vehicle in North America, which means the stakes for the all-new fourth-generation 2024 Toyota Tacoma couldn’t be higher. Did Toyota screw it up? Absolutely not. I got to spend some time with all the new Tacoma variants and I walked away extremely impressed with what Toyota has done.
In the truck world, the Ford F-150 is the absolute sales dominator, but in the midsize truck space, Toyota holds the crown. Toyota sold 237,323 Toyota Tacomas in 2022, laying waste to everything from the Nissan Frontier to the Ford Ranger. In fact, if you were to combine the sales of the Chevrolet Colorado and the Jeep Gladiator, the Tacoma still comes out on top. The Tacoma only barely trailed behind the 241,522 units of the GMC Sierra. What I’m getting at here is that the Toyota Tacoma is hands down America’s favorite midsize pickup truck.
America loves the Tacoma so much that the truck’s sales are double that of Toyota’s own Tundra. It’s easy to see why Americans love themselves a Taco. These trucks are known for their off-road prowess, ease of use, and endurance that so many come to expect from a vehicle bearing the Toyota logo.
The 2024 Toyota Tacoma has finally emerged from its secret hiding spot on a mountain. Get excited, because America’s favorite midsizer has gotten its biggest and most exciting updates in decades. How exciting? I’ll give you a tease. On one model, you get to sit in wild air-over-oil shock absorber seats. Yeah, suspension seats!
(Full Disclosure: Toyota sent over 100 journalists to Hawai’i’s big island to experience two important new vehicles for the brand. Toyota paid for my flights, a long stay in a resort where one night is more than my rent, and more food than I could imagine.)
A Giant Leap Forward
Toyota says its Tacoma has spent the past two decades as the champion of the midsize truck segment. Through that time, the truck has built a reputation for being slow to change with the times. Perhaps a perfect example of this is the old Taco’s interior. It’s all very 2010s in there with a plastic-y look, old-school buttons, and an infotainment screen that isn’t taking up a ton of real estate. I mean, the Tacoma has been rolling with its famous 3.5-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic at a time when transmissions are getting ever-increasing gears and engines lost cylinders and displacement.
Toyota has listened with the 2024 Tacoma. After exploring four different trim levels, I can say that, at least with styling and technology, the Tacoma no longer feels trapped in 2005 or even 2015.
Starting with the Taco’s bones, Toyota says that the 2024 Tacoma was totally redesigned from the ground up. The new truck rides on the TNGA-F global truck platform alongside the Sequoia and Tundra as mates.
Designed specifically with the United States market in mind, the Tacoma sits on a new high-strength boxed, laser-welded steel ladder frame. Meanwhile, the body utilizes aluminum parts to reduce weight and, in some situations, to increase ease of use. For example, the tailgate (which has an optional power open and close function) is aluminum, as is the lightweight hood.
Overlanding is a focus with the new Tacoma and to help facilitate that, there are structural upgrades. Toyota says it has strengthened frame crossmembers both for durability and to help carry the load of Toyota-available overlanding upgrades like rooftop tents and refrigerators. The new Tacoma also comes with integrated attachment holes in its roof for overlanding gear, and the frame has a new high-lift jack point in the rear end.
Also new is the bed. The 2024 Toyota Tacoma has a deeper one, gaining a 7-percent increase in volume.
Toyota tells me that some customers have complained about not being able to fit coolers and camping gear in their beds while still being able to use a tonneau cover. This new bed, which comes in 5- and 6-foot configurations, is designed to fit camping gear under whatever cover you’d like to add.
The V6 Dies, But The Manual Transmission Stays
Moving this new chassis is a different powertrain. The famed 3.5-liter V6 is gone. In its place, you’ll find three versions of the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Yes, the new Taco only comes with four-cylinder engine options. The base engine for the new Tacoma is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four. In base SR trim, it’s making 228 horsepower and 243 lb-ft torque. In all other trims, and when paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s making 278 horsepower and 317 lb-ft torque. For those of you counting, that’s the same horsepower as the outgoing V6, but a bit more torque.
Toyota is quite happy to announce that the manual transmission is sticking around. The new Tacoma will be offered with a six-speed manual transmission with some neat tricks up its sleeve.
Tacoma Chief Engineer Sheldon Brown tells me that this transmission is going to be great for so many different situations. Are you new to driving manual? The new Tacoma will be able to tell when you’re about to stall and will lend you a hand via some throttle. Brown told me that the anti-stall feature will be great for off-roading, too.
Sometimes you’re focusing on getting through a rough patch on a trail, forget about the transmission, and end up stalling out. Brown tells me that the Tacoma will be able to help keep itself from stalling in these situations. There’s more, too. This transmission has automatic rev-matching. As Brown told me me, say you’re driving home from a hard day of work: You’re tired, so your shifts aren’t perfect. Well, the truck can pick up the slack and rev-match for you so that your engine’s flywheel is already at a speed similar to that of the clutch (which rides on the transmission input shaft driven by the wheels).
Toyota says that trucks equipped with the manual transmission have the 2.4-liter turbo, but it’s making 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque — so just a little down on power compared to the higher-trim automatics. Manual is not available with the hybrid drivetrain or other trim levels than are listed below.
I got to shift the stick — which will be available on SR, TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road — and thought it felt nice and clicky, with an engaging feel.
The Hybrid Tacoma Is Here
The other engine coming is something perhaps unexpected. The 2024 Tacoma’s optional engine is the 2.4-liter turbocharged four paired with a 48-horsepower electric motor integrated into the eight-speed automatic.
This engine is called the i-FORCE MAX, and the hybrid system feeds from a 1.87-kWh NiMH battery pack. Adding this hybrid system to the Tacoma brings the system’s overall output to 326 horsepower and a huge 465 lb-ft of torque. Toyota says Tacomas equipped with this powertrain are the most powerful Tacomas ever to roll out of the factory.
Toyota says that trucks equipped with the i-FORCE MAX can climb an eight percent grade on a highway without needing to downshift (obviously, this depends on loading, speed, ambient conditions, etc). The company also says that this engine will be available on the TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited models and standard on the TRD Pro and Trailhunter models. You’ll hear about that Trailhunter in a moment.
Disc Brakes, Coil Springs
Other upgrades under the metal include four-wheel disc brakes (yes, the old one came standard with rear drums) and an optional multi-link coil rear suspension. Leaf springs can still be found on SR, SR5 XtraCab, and TRD PreRunner (the PreRunner is a two-wheel drive model) grades. Brown says that one of the goals of the new Tacoma was to provide greater separation between Tacoma grades. In other words, the Tacoma TRD Pro is going to handle and feel a bit different than a Tacoma Limited.
Toyota itself demonstrated this with the four trucks it flew to Hawai’i. As I said before, this was a pretty serious operation. Toyota flew a Tacoma Limited, a Tacoma TRD Pro, a Tacoma TRD Sport, and a Tacoma Trailhunter out to the island inside of containers. Then, the trucks were taken pretty far back onto private property, away from the public gaze.
The 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Let’s start with the halo trucks. The 2024 Toyota Tacoma has two halo models, the Trailhunter overlander and the speed-running TRD Pro. This truck is designed for high-speed off-roading.
Under the muscular body, you’ll find red aluminum front TRD upper control arms, which Toyota says optimizes front geometry while reducing unsprung weight. Backing up the new multilink rear suspension is Fox internal bypass 2.5-inch manual modal Quick Switch 3 (QS3) shocks.
These can be adjusted through three different settings using dials on the shock bodies to tune compression damping. When the going gets real tough, Fox Internal Floating Piston (IFP) bump stops are said to take some of the harder impacts. The truck also sports underbody protection in the form of an aluminum skid plate up front and what appears to be a steel skid plate under the fuel tank:
Toyota says the 2024 Tacoma TRD Pro sits two inches higher in the front and an inch and a half higher in the rear while being three inches wider than a Tacoma SR5. Aiding in your trail performance are 33-inch Goodyear Territory R/T tires wrapped around flow-formed TRD wheels.
This truck comes standard with the i-FORCE MAX engine, which nets a TRD performance air intake and a TRD cat-back exhaust system.
Moving back out to the body, Toyota has chosen to make the 2024 Tacoma TRD Pro look like it’s been bench-pressing Chevy Colorados at the local gym.
It looks mean and like it could rip your face off you look at it the wrong way. As you’ve probably already seen, this truck is also covered in lights; in addition to the off-road lights you get an integrated light bar, fog lights, and lights around the bed’s perimeter.
The highlight of the 2024 Tacoma TRD Pro is what Toyota says is a segment first. The front seats are what Toyota calls the IsoDynamic Performance Seat. The TRD Pro on hand in Hawai’i had prototype seats with parts and colors that didn’t match the production version, so you’ll have to check out this press image:
Here’s how Toyota explains these novel seats:
The goal of this patent-pending feature is to stabilize the driver’s field of vision to improve focus, comfort, and reduce fatigue while on rugged trails. The IsoDynamic Performance Seat uses an air-over-oil shock absorber system allowing for vertical and lateral seat movement simultaneously to dampen body movement and stabilize the head and neck to keep alignment with the spine. This dampening effect is tunable based on body mass and occupant preference and can be bypassed, if desired, via levers on the seatbacks.
The best comparison I can think of is the Recaro air seat in my GM RTS bus. The seat softens the blows of sitting on top of my bus axle. This seems to be somewhat similar to that concept but jacked up on steroids for off-roading. Going trail-riding can really beat you up as your seats do little to stop what could be some violent motion. These seats will try to keep you from ending an off-road trip feeling like you just survived a boxing match.
Plus, they just look cool. I bet these seats will be a conversation piece for years to come. Personally, from my short time with this truck, it was one of my favorites of the four. The bold red interior felt great to the touch and the seats almost have an optical illusion going on.
The white inserts of the seat sit under the red and almost have a 3D effect as you move your eyes around the interior, which immediately caught my attention. And just check out that interior; it feels as fantastic as it looks.
The 2024 Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter
This next Tacoma is the other halo truck. Where the TRD Pro is designed to take you across terrain at high speed and in comfort, the Trailhunter is designed to be an overland truck straight from the factory. The Toyota Tacoma is already the truck choice for many overlanders; it’s a machine with a strong aftermarket that makes it easy to build into a rig for an epic journey. Well, Toyota decided to hop into this market itself by selling an overland Tacoma straight from the factory with a warranty. That’s what this Trailhunter truck is.
Toyota says it worked with Australia-based off-road parts supplier ARB to create the Trailhunter. The companies co-developed what they call Old Man Emu (OME) 2.5-inch forged monotube shocks. [Editor’s Note: Old Man Emu shocks are prolific, known to offer an excellent ride on even lifted vehicles, including Jeeps. -DT].
These shocks are position-sensitive with rear external piggyback remote reservoirs. ARB also helped Toyota out with a steel rear bumper, rear recovery points, and a bed utility bar with removable Molle gear organization panels. ARB will also offer a light- or heavy-duty bed rack to support rooftop tents, canopies, camp showers, fuel, or anything else you’ll need to mount up.
The Trailhunter is available in either a five- or six-foot bed Double Cab configuration. In terms of off-road gear, the OME shocks combine with 33-inch Goodyear Territory R/T tires for a lift of two inches in the front and one and a half inches in the rear. This Tacoma comes with the i-FORCE MAX hybrid engine setup, and it breathes from a high-mounted intake meant to get clean air to the engine in rough conditions. In terms of protection, the underbody is covered in hot-stamped steel skid plates and the sides are protected with rock sliders. Even the exhaust sweeps up for better clearance.
Much like with the TRD Pro, the Trailhunter also comes with a bunch of LED lighting — enough that the truck can illuminate your entire campsite. Speaking of electrical bits, the Trailhunter comes with a 2400W AC inverter providing power to two spots in the cabin and the rear deck where both 12V and USB devices can get power. The Trailhunter also comes pre-wired for other electrical gear with three auxiliary toggle switches on the dashboard. Other gear comes in the form of an onboard air compressor to adjust tire air pressures for overlanding or road use.
It should be noted that all grades with the i-FORCE MAX come with the aforementioned inverter. Regular gas versions have a 400W AC inverter accessible through a port on the dashboard and one more in the bed.
A huge part of this Tacoma launch is Toyota edging into the spaces occupied by the lucrative aftermarket. From launch, you’ll be able to order over 100 accessories like an ARB refrigerator, off-road recovery gear, rack attachment brackets, outdoor sporting equipment carriers, and more. Over time, Toyota wants to build this catalog as something that you’ll use as your first stop for customizing your Tacoma.
Toyota says that not only are the customizations not limited to the Trailhunter, but you’ll retain a factory warranty and you could even roll the accessories into your car note.
The two aforementioned halo trucks were absolutely a rush. After touring the Tacoma TRD Pro I had the urge to take it through some desert jumps to see just how good those suspension seats were! The TRD Pro looks like something I’d drop the hammer in and giggle as it hops its way through whatever terrain lies ahead..
Meanwhile, the Trailhunter seems like overlanding catnip. Toyota is basically willing to sell you a factory-built overlanding rig, or at the very least, get you on the right path to your ultimate build. It’s awesome.
Off-Road Gear: A Rear Locker, A Disconnecting Front Sway Bar
The trucks also feature good off-road specs. Tacomas in rear-wheel-drive spec have a limited-slip differential while trucks with four-wheel-drive have an electronically controlled two-speed transfer case, an off-road traction control system, and an electronic locking rear differential (the locker is standard on TRD Prerunner, TRD Off-Road, TRD Pro, and Trailhunter, but optional on other grades). The Trailhunter also boasts a front stabilizer that disconnects with the touch of a button. With the stabilizer disconnected, you get 10 percent more articulation.
The stabilizer will even work with Toyota-approved lift kits.
The Other Tacos
All of this said, the other Tacomas on deck were just as wonderful as trucks. In fact, my favorite truck at the event was not the desert-runner or the overlander, but the 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport shown above.
This 4×4 truck isn’t nearly as hardcore as its siblings. The TRD Sport on hand was powered by the regular 2.4-liter turbo four without the hybrid drivetrain and it wasn’t styled like an animal that’s ready to rip your face off. Instead, you got a beautiful deep blue truck with a matching interior. [Editor’s Note: Yikes on that chin air-dam! -DT].
This, I feel, will be the everyday enthusiast’s truck. Getting the TRD Sport nets you 18-inch TRD wheels, color-matched door handles and overfenders, a hood scoop, black badges, and aluminum pedals. It doesn’t have a wild suspension, either. Instead, it just gets “TRD-tuned” shocks.
What I really loved about this truck was what was inside. Yes, the interior felt lovely, but look right there in the center.
Yep, this Tacoma has a glorious six-speed manual transmission! The Toyota reps that I talked to were quite proud that the Tacoma is still offering a manual transmission. While the transmission type is disappearing from the lineups of so many automakers, Toyota is glad to be among the automakers attempting to save the stick.
Thus far, we’ve talked only about off-road Tacomas. What if you want your 2024 Toyota Tacoma to be a bit more luxurious — something to sit pretty in your driveway and at your office? Toyota has you covered there as well. The final Tacoma at the event was a Limited.
The Tacoma Limited trades some of the off-road capability for a luxurious interior and a more conservative, classy exterior.
The i-FORCE MAX versions of the Limited get Torsen-style full-time four-wheel-drive with a locking center differential. The suspension is also different. In the Limited, you get what Toyota calls the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system. It’s designed to constantly adjust damping forces based on changing road conditions using actuators in the front and rear shocks. The goal is a supple, luxurious ride.
Sitting in these Tacomas, the seats felt comfortable (that’s underlined because many have a problem with the current Taco’s seating situation) and no interior piece really felt out of place. That’s especially nice considering that these trucks were pre-production prototypes with a bunch of quirks. The TRD Pro had the wrong seats and the Trailhunter’s digital instrument cluster had every conceivable warning light illuminated. Its electric tailgate was also sticky. Yet, even the preproduction interiors with a marvelous step up from the 2023 Tacoma.
All of the Tacomas on hand were in the Double Cab four-door configuration, but two-door XtraCab models (with smaller coach-doors in the rear) will be available. Interior space seemed to depend on your seating position in the truck. Front seat occupants have ample space to stretch out. The same couldn’t be said for those sitting in the rear.
With the front seat set give or take how I’d have it, a six-foot-tall rear seat occupant might feel a little cramped. Put a six-foot-tall person up front, and someone shorter like me might feel cramped. More testing on interior room will be needed, but four generously tall folks in a 2024 Tacoma might be in for a tight trip.
Capacities And Technologies
Despite the massive upgrades in some departments, the Tacoma still falls behind the competition when it comes to towing. For example, the Chevrolet Colorado can tow up to a 7,700-pound trailer and the Ford Ranger gets as high as 7,500 pounds. The 2023 Toyota Tacoma clocks in at 6,400 pounds maximum. Well, at least the new Tacoma earns an extra 100 pounds of towing capacity, specifically in SR5 i-FORCE and TRD PreRunner XtraCab trims.
What did get a significant upgrade was payload rating. The 2023 Taco maxed out at 1,155 at best. The 2024 Toyota Tacoma? It now maxes out at 1,709 pounds for payload.
Toyota hasn’t provided the full spread of off-road stats, but has revealed that the 2024 Tacoma TRD Pro has a 33.8-degree approach, 23.5-degree breakover, and 25.7-degree departure angles. Running ground clearance is 11 inches with the Tacoma TRD Pro.
The Tacoma is available with cameras providing a top-down 360 degree view as well as cameras providing views of the trail ahead. Combine that with off-road driving modes as well as an off-road cruise control system and you can probably make yourself look like an off-roading pro even if you’ve never left pavement before.
The manual transmission also has a feature that allows you to start the truck’s engine without depressing the clutch pedal. It’s called Clutch Start Cancel and basically, you can have it in first gear with the clutch engaged, start the truck, and the starter motor will pull it forward. Thus, you can start up a hill without rolling back. Or you could have it in Neutral and be able to start the truck without hopping in and hitting the clutch pedal, good for if you’re perhaps trying to troubleshoot something. It’s a feature that has been around for some time and makes a continuation here.
Other tech comes in the form of a standard 8-inch infotainment display with an optional 14-inch screen. The gauge cluster turns into a 12.3-inch digital display in higher trim levels. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 software.
All Tacomas will have safety tech like automatic high beams, a pre-collision warning system, a driving assist with some braking and steering capabilities, lane departure alert, radar cruise control, and more.
For those fun road trips, one optional feature is a 10-speaker JBL sound system. This system has a center speaker that detaches and doubles as a portable speaker for your campsite or tailgating party.
At launch, the 2024 Toyota Tacoma will be available in SR, SR5, TRD PreRunner, TRD Sport, TRD Off Road, Limited, TRD Pro, and Trailhunter. Prices haven’t been announced and neither has fuel economy ratings. Toyota says that these will be revealed closer to the truck’s launch.
Toyota is also targeting maker communities with the new Tacoma. A hidden pocket on the driver side of the truck has a QR code. Scan it and you’ll find yourself at Toyota’s site, where you’ll get dimensions so that you can 3D print your own gear to hang in the truck.
We will have to wait until later this year to drive the new Tacoma, but based on what I’ve seen thus far, I think Toyota has another winner on its hands.
Something I didn’t note previously is how Toyota’s engineers put a ton of thought into the people who will own these trucks. I’ll explain this in another piece, but oftentimes it seems like trucks today aren’t as user-friendly as they could be. I struggle to lift things over modern truck bedsides, can’t see over hoods, and closing those hoods is a challenge. It’s a shame because I love pickups, even if I’m apparently too short for many of them. Toyota thought about all of this and more when developing the new Tacoma into a truck for everyone. Again, you’ll read about this soon.
The Tacoma has been rebuilt from the top down, and even though the fan-favorite V6 is no longer around, the truck is bringing even more power to the table than ever before, and now there’s a hybrid. It’s certainly not perfect, but I think it’s enough to keep Toyota on top in the midsize truck arms race.
Everyone, Especially Hawai’i, Loves A Good Taco
At first, I was a bit confused about Toyota’s choice to bring literal planeloads of journalists to Hawai’i for these product debuts. My initial invite was to drive a Grand Highlander; you’ll read about later this month. Then, I was informed that alongside that crossover, I’d get to see and feel the new Tacoma. I chatted up some Toyota representatives and they told me that all of the Toyota press vehicles were delivered to the island by aircraft. If you think putting a car on a boat is expensive, flying them makes that look cheap! Apparently, it costs about $15,000 to fly a Tacoma-sized crate to Hawai’i.
When I talked to the locals, I began to understand why we were here. The Tacoma isn’t just America’s favorite midsize pickup, but the truck adored by oh so many Hawaiians. Travel down Hawai’i Island’s roads and just about every other truck will be a Tacoma. Just about every third truck will be a Tundra. I talked with a bunch of different fans of the Tacoma and through them, I learned that this truck has its own unique culture and lore here.
One person told me that the Tacoma is so popular on the island because, in the past, the mighty ‘yota outlasted its American rivals. Another told me that the Tacoma is a part of multiple modding scenes. In Hawai’i, you’ll see everything from lowered Tacos to overland builds to lifted trucks with massive chrome wheels. Another Tacoma fan told me that the trucks are so beloved in Hawai’i that there’s a joke that the Tacoma should be the official vehicle of Hawai’i. His friend went a step further and said that the Tacoma should be on the state flag.
With that in mind, it made perfect sense for Toyota to come here. Hawai’i cannot get enough Tacomas. Honestly, nobody can.
(Photo credits: Author, unless otherwise noted.)