Toyota finally gave the Tacoma pickup truck a glow-up in its fourth generation after eight years, including an important powertrain update: the Tacoma is available as a hybrid for the first time.
First introduced for model year 1995, the Tacoma was equipped with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission matched with three gas engine options (four or six cylinders). The Tacoma was 199 inches long and could tow between 3,500 and 5,000 pounds.
The 2024 Tacoma is 14 inches longer from stem to stern than the 1995 truck. It’s built on the same global truck platform as the Tundra (all new for 2022), Sequoia (which launched its third generation for model year 2023) and the redesigned Land Cruiser, unveiled earlier this year.
And Toyota says the Tacoma’s new i-Force Max hybrid powertrain, offered as an option on the TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited trims and standard on TRD Pro and Trailhunter variants, is the most powerful powertrain ever offered on a Tacoma.
Take a look at the no-longer-secret recipe behind the 2024 Tacoma, including the new engine/motor combination.
More torque, better off-road capability
The new Tacoma’s hybrid setup starts with the same 2.4-liter engine found in the gas-only trims. In the i-Force Max versions, a 48-horsepower electric motor sits between the engine and eight-speed transmission. If that configuration sounds familiar, it’s because Toyota equipped its Grand Highlander (launched earlier this year) with a 2.4-liter hybrid powertrain, too. The Grand Highlander Hybrid Max is the fastest and quickest in the lineup, providing 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque in the SUV.
In the new Tacoma, the hybrid setup produces 326 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than double what the original V6 could provide in the 1995 Tacoma; even more impressively, it’s significantly more than the 265 pound-feet in the outgoing 2023 model with a V6. Great torque numbers are essential for effortless off-roading, as the rotation helps the vehicle power up and over hills and boulders.
Some trims of the 2024 Tacoma are available with a multi-link rear coil suspension, replacing the leaf springs from the previous generation. Leaf springs are sturdy and preferred for more heavy-duty hauling, but the coil springs offer more flexibility and cushion for the ride. They’re a bit more expensive, which is why they’re an option on the higher grades. The three least expensive trims (SR, SR5 XtraCab and TRD PreRunner) will still come standard with leaf springs.
Tacoma fans know that the compact truck was already quite capable off-road, climbing rocks and hills like a mountain goat. However, after driving a 2021 model back to back with the new 2024 hybrid version, I can attest that the additional torque makes a noticeable difference. On an off-road course near Malibu, California, I scaled steep ascents and crawled over rock piles, and it’s clear that chief engineer Sheldon Brown and his team have smoothed out the edges.
And it’s quieter, too
A smoothed-out ride is even more clear on the asphalt. Tackling the twisty curves of Mulholland Drive, the interior of the Tacoma Limited was hushed, and Brown says technologies like active noise cancellation ensure a quiet cabin. This technology reduces the overall noise, vibration, and harshness, commonly referred to as an acronym: NVH. The study and adjustment of noise and vibration characteristics has become an art form, and Toyota put extra time and money into improving the in-cabin experience in the upper trims of the Tacoma.
“We’re also using electronic sound enhancement, or ESE, to supplement what we’re hearing through the exhaust system,” Brown says. “We use specialized software that is paired with the exhaust type: the standard OE exhaust or you might choose our performance exhaust, which is an option. So it not only sounds good, but it cancels out any of those noises and vibrations that otherwise might make their way in.”
Some industry analysts have accused Toyota of taking too much time to get into the electrification stream, but the fact is that the Japanese company has been pumping out successful hybrid powertrains for decades. Now that the Tundra, Sequoia, and Tacoma are all available with an engine/motor combination, the 4Runner and Land Cruiser can’t be far behind.