2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (2023)

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (1)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

AfterMichaela Theo Van Runkle'a/Updated: May 23, 2023 at 10:33 AM EST

Toyotaunveiled the next-generation Tacoma last weekwith a list of delayed and long-awaited updates that will help the iconic pickup compete in an increasingly crowded and competitive market segment. The bold new exterior styling of the fourth generation truck is something of an expected step forward, but the significant development of powertrain and technology inside and out represents a much more critical evolutionary leap.

Similar toLatest TundraThe 2024 Tacoma now receives additional hybrid assistance with a new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, five-link coil-spring rear suspension, multiple off-road amenities and, for the first time, disc brakes on all four corners. Still, Toyota has made sure to retain many of the old-school details that enthusiasts crave, including the promised six-speed manual transmission, as well as a simple interior that offers solid functionality despite significant ergonomic and connectivity upgrades. The revamped TRD PreRunner even keeps the leaf springs in the kit!

Up close and personal with the new Taco

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (2)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

The extensive press release leaked ahead of the official unveiling covers all the basic stats and specs for a total of eight (8!) trim levels available, but Toyota has also invited select media to come and see the new project in person at the Kona Coffee & Tea Farm on the Big Island of Hawaii. After seeing all the "leaks" and teaser photos, I came very curious to see the new Tacoma up close, as the photos usually never match the real proportions. Even from a distance, the new generation still retains the distinctive lines and profile of the previous truck, now enhanced by the aggressive angles ubiquitous in the market, such as the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and Nissan Frontier.

Some might say the fender flares and grille finish are a bit uneven, but the changes come with the fast-growing truck market – expanding not only in terms of new entrants, but also in terms of size. A quick jump in time shows that the new Tacoma's two optional wheelbases are actually longer than the two- and four-door versions of the first-generation Tundra. Specifically, Toyota will offer three different configurations: the 3,350 millimeter long frame allows for a four-door double cab with a five-foot high bed, or an optional two-door cab with a six-foot high bed. The four-door double cab with a six-foot bed requires a longer wheelbase of 3,685 millimeters.

The current buzz around the air dam

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (3)

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Toyota will not offer a two-door model with a 7- or 8-foot wheelbase bed, which will be inconvenient for the growing off-road and off-road community that continues to push for a similar setup in a Jeep, Ford, Chevy midsize truck, or Nissan. . But the biggest fuss right after the first photos of the Tacoma hit the web was about something much more mundane: massive air dams under the front grille. This air dam was also at the center of one of the first questions I asked Sheldon Brown, Tacoma's chief engineer, who was made available by Toyota for questions at Kona Coffee.

"Honestly, I wish I could have shortened them or gotten rid of them entirely," Brown admitted about air dams. "But they are significant. And I mean you can get seven to 11 points of aerodynamic improvement, which is quite significant in terms of fuel economy."

Unlike the Tundra, which uses an electronically actuated air dam to improve MPG at speed, the Tacoma's tighter package (90mm shorter overhang to be exact) made this an option unfeasible. Plus, reliability is always an issue, Brown told me.

"Believe me, we talked long and hard," he said. “People are very active in these trucks. And you know, if they get out and smash it against a rock, it's not a cheap fix."

Fortunately, only nine bolts hold the air dams in place, so buyers who value cosmetics more than performance can easily undo Toyota's necessary concession to the average fleet.

Four engine powers with two gearbox options

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (4)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

Nowadays, these medium-sized fleets dictate a lot of powertrain and aerodynamic considerations on the part of the major manufacturers. But the Tacoma undoubtedly needed a major engine and transmission updatekeep up with the competition, probably more than any other vehicle on the market. The new turbocharged four-cylinder engine with additional hybrid assistance brings Toyota back to reality in terms of fuel consumption and power, as well as an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The driveline selection covers a total of four specifications across all eight trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD PreRunner, TRD Sport, TRD Off Road, Limited, TRD Pro and Trailhunter. In basic SR form, the engine produces 228 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque. All others equipped with an eight-speed automatic produce 278 hp and 317 lb-ft. The hybrid system pushes those numbers to 326 hp and a whopping 465 lb-ft, but the six-speed manual transmission is only available with the gas engine, which produces 270 hp and 310 lb-ft.

Given the enormous amount of torque for a relatively small 2.4-liter engine, I asked Brown about the hybrid system. Turns out the specs should look a bit familiar as the exact same battery and electric motor have already made their way to the Tundra. And unlike other more business-oriented Toyotas, the Tacoma hybrid will still use a traditional transmission instead of a CVT.

"We're basically using the same 48-horsepower motor," Brown said, "and the exact same 1.87 kilowatt-hour nickel-metal hydride batteries in the rear. They are placed between the engine and transmission, so you can shift gears. All you do is use that motor to turn torque. "

All things related to Trailhunter

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (5)

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At the top of the new Tacoma range is a new level of equipment,called Trailhunterand designed exactly to compete with similar onesFord Ranger Raptorand Chevy's Colorado ZR2. In Hawaii, Toyota perfectly configured the Trailhunter to demonstrate just how much flexibility the new five-link suspension and special upgrades for the standard 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler R/T tires provide. As a top model, the Trailhunter will unfortunately only be available as a hybrid without a manual option, but hopefully a catalog of four-wheel focused upgrades will make up for such a disappointment.

Highlights include a set of adjustable ARB Old Man Emu shocks with rear mounts, detachable front swingarm, locking center and rear differentials, steel fenders, recovery points, and every molle mount and plate imaginable.

Given how hardcore the Trailhunter looks - and how hardcore the top-end Ranger and Colorado are - I asked Brown why he decided to ditch the glove box. It turns out that the bean counters dictated this decision. But in fact, he asked me, how often does anyone really use the front locker? Plus, the detachable anti-roll bar allows for such improved articulation that the rear locker becomes more efficient, and now throws in a Multi-Terrain A-trac that brakes the front wheels, Brown said, and you basically have what he calls a "pseudo front locker." . That way you get a little more mechanical sympathy."

Restore RWD TRD PreRunner

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (6)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

Locking front differentials put a lot more strain on the steering and drivetrain than any other four-wheel drive feature, but such worries will disappear for buyers who want the highest level of Tacoma two-door equipment: the reborn TRD PreRunner, which will debut later this week at the Overland Expo near Arizona Flagstaff. Toyota sent a select group of media to OE to watch the show and see what is arguably the best looking of all the new Tacoma trims.

Those flared fenders and aggressive lines are no doubt best suited to a short cabin and longer bed, and the PreRunner can also be equipped with a manual transmission in addition to rear-wheel drive, a rear locker and leaf springs. Sure, I left dreaming of a two-door long bed with a manual hybrid and four-wheel drive, but right now the PreRunner harkens back to the days of simple, small pickups. And given the weight savings of this streamlined package, the 317-pound peppy Four should do the trick anyway.

Modern interior technology and ergonomics

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (7)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

All Tacoms benefit from a revamped interior that clearly prioritizes cost savings for touchless materials, but loses much of the spartan aesthetic that made the 2022 Tacoms feel more appropriate for the 2010 model year. Now an optional 14-inch screen the infotainment allows for an acceptable resolution when using wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although the lower versions have an eight-inch display that Toyota has yet to boast of. The matte digital instrument cluster behind the wheel extends to 12.3 inches on higher trims, compared to 7 inches on less expensive trucks.

Perhaps equally important, I immediately noticed how much the redesigned switchgear contributed to improved ergonomics. Gone are the random off-road buttons on the ceiling - everything is now centered on the driver's right hand. Still, the overall design isn't as neat as the Tundra's expansive piano keys and clean center console that Brown mentioned during our conversation.

"We actually looked at what Tundra did, and we just didn't have the space Tundra had to show some of that stuff," he explained. “There's a lot of technology in this truck. We wanted it to be natural and intuitive, right? So I wanted you to be able to say:Hey, if I need to control the propulsion system, I look here, it's there' Secondly, let's be honest, we don't have a lot of room in a compact truck.'

Eye-catching TRD Pro with new IsoDynamic seats

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (8)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

While most Tacomas feature relatively subdued dashboard and upholstery color combinations, that's not the case with the eye-catching TRD Pro. But as bold as the bright red leather and accents, a set of ridiculously fancy seats also debuted in Hawaii. Toyota calls them IsoDynamic Performance Seats, and while the units installed in the show car were pre-production (so I wasn't allowed to take pictures), they looked decidedly non-Toyota to my eyes. But Brown disagreed.

"It isolates itself but is completely dynamic and can move up, down and around," he told me. "And so as you go down, instead of feeling all those big hits, we can knock the edges down for a lot of smaller ascents. We can basically insulate you from it. And that means that on average it can take about 7% of the stimuli that go into your body, we can suppress all that. That means less driver fatigue, less passenger fatigue, fewer cases of your partner or the person in the passenger seat bouncing their head off the window.”

Brown says during testing, drivers unknowingly felt much more in control, using the IsoDynamic seats to accelerate to 20mph on average on the same track with calmer heads. Baja racing inspired this technology, although Mitsubishi fans may point to the 1980s and 1990s Montero, which offered optional spring seats to achieve a similar level of off-road smoothness. (Just don't ask why the Montero also came with five-link rear suspension or electronically adjustable dampers until the 1990s, the two other biggest updates to the new Tacoma nearly a quarter of a century later.)

Dedicated rear legroom in a compact pickup

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (9)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

The IsoDynamic seats look quite futuristic, but the oil-air shocks and controls seem less suited to actual adjustment while driving, which would require you to turn your elbow to fiddle with the wheels as they bounce off the ground. The seats restrict leg room for the rear passenger. Brown, of course, condones such thinking, but the polls clearly showed that the seats were worth the sacrifice.

“About 40% of our TRD Pro customers said they rarely have anyone in the back seat. And about 15% said they didNeverhave a passenger in the back seat."

Well, 100% of TRD Pro buyers can now expect IsoDynamic Performance Seats as standard equipment. At least four-legged canine friends probably won't mind the reduced space.

Strange details about the new Tacoma

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (10)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

A few other fun details about the new Tacoma also caught my attention, even in my short time with all the details. Amidst the grass and green of Hawaii, the limited's chrome rims and exhaust tips seemed completely out of place, while the body-color trim looks even worse than the industry's increasingly popular trend of matte plastic fender flares. The TRD Pro's approach, transition and departure angles decrease minimally to 33.8 degrees, 23.5 degrees and 25.7 degrees, respectively.

Of course, keyboard critics will hate exaggerated air dams, overdrawn circle lines, and angular headlights, all they want. In fact, the lack of paddle shifters on an automatic transmission seems more significant given that most 8-speed transmissions tend to over-shift when off-road, which can lead to snagging at the worst possible moment. At least Toyota offers tiptronic-style shifting with a paddle shifter - right next to the four-wheel drive controls, as noted by Brown - another way the Tacoma can better match the performance of the Ranger Raptor and differentiate itself fromChevrolet Coloradooddly small shift buttons.

Durability of a more complex system

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (11)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

A new hybrid system, small turbo engines, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and overly complicated seat suspension… Many of the Tacoma's updates also seem to evoke a semblance of reduced reliability. After all, a simple naturally aspirated V6, an antiquated six-speed automatic with slush and leaf springs from the previous generation undoubtedly confirmed the expected reliability of the Toyota, even when the long drives to stable grades were something of a nuisance.

“I know a lot of people are concerned about durability,” Brown told me. “I can assure you that these propulsion systems go through the exact same tests as we did before. In fact, even for our turbochargers, we have set requirements for trucks to meet our commercial grade specifications. That's about 30% longer charge cycle, 30% more life. As we know that people will run harder, go off the road, the duty cycle will be much higher.”

Toyota's decades of experience in hybrids have already gathered in the Tundra, so the larger-capacity Tacoma should benefit from all the experience gained from its larger sibling. And hybrid drive should theoretically translate even better into a lighter, smaller truck. I inquired about the tread depth for the hybrid system, given that not too long ago I was hesitant to cross the river with the Tundra iForce MAX. Brown responded that Toyota was unlikely to publish a declared wading depth, but recommended that the cabin door be kept closed in the water.

“Keep it under the swing,” he advised. "You'll be in good shape."

Ready to sell as alva

2024 Toyota Tacoma First Look: Proof that good things come to those who wait - SlashGear (12)

Michael Teo Van Runkle/SlashGear

Hybrid propulsion systems also mean higher prices, not just less water traffic. Suggested retail prices for many versions of the new Tacomaremain a secretbut for context, the 2023 Tundra starts at around $38,000 and the hybrid is an extra $15,000. Meanwhile, the outgoing third-generation Tacoma starts at $27,150, with the lowest-spec Chevy Colorado WT decals just under $30,000.

Anyone in their right mind should expect the new Tacoma to sell like hotcakes given the great leap into modernity. We hope that, like the current model, the fourth-generation design looks better dirty than sparkling clean, whether it's sand and dirt off-road, after a hard day's work, or everyday use. With all the off-road features, tech upgrades, and those seats, expect the popular TRD Pro and PreRunner, as well as the hybrid-only Trailhunter, to keep up with inflation as easily as they should now in its price range. against other pickups in the race for off-road capabilities and powertrain efficiency.

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