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2024 Toyota Tacoma First Drive: All-New But Is It Good Enough?

More trim levels than you'll know what to do with

2024 Toyota Tacoma Limited front 3/4
  • New turbocharged four-cylinder engines handily outperform previous engines.
  • An all-new chassis delivers greatly improved on-road drivability.
  • Off-road capability is enhanced with a 360-degree camera system.
  • The upgraded interior also greatly improves the driving position.

This is undoubtedly the year of the midsize pickup, with new versions of the Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado all debuting in 2023. Add the 2024 Toyota Tacoma to that list, which will arrive at dealer showrooms by year's end. The changes to the Tacoma are dramatic. Gone is the bouncy, noisy, jiggly ride and sluggish acceleration. Instead, it’s smoother, quieter, far more high-tech, and much more responsive when you mash the gas pedal. We have a whole video comparing the new Tacoma to its sales-juggernaut predecessor, so check it out.

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But we get ahead of ourselves. For now, just know that the new Tacoma has a beefy, Tundra-inspired exterior design and a modern interior with lots of standard tech features, and it introduces a number of different trim levels, including the return of the PreRunner. Whether your primary use case is for rock-crawling, mall-crawling or overlanding, there's a Tacoma to fit your needs. Especially if you want one with a vigorous hybrid powertrain.

Gah! Getting ahead of ourselves again. But it's hard not to get excited — the new Tacoma looks (TRD) pro.

What's under the Tacoma's hood?

Gone are the anemic naturally aspirated inline-four and industrial V6. Instead, most Tacomas are powered by a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder borrowed from a number of newer Toyota and Lexus products. In the wallet-friendly SR base trim, the engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic and makes a modest 228 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque. This engine tune won't set a dragstrip on fire, but there's a lot more juice under the hood than the old four-cylinder's 159 hp and 180 lb-ft. It comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Most of the Tacoma's other trims come with a more powerful version of this engine. It generates 278 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque when paired with the eight-speed automatic. Power drops slightly to 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque when paired with the six-speed manual transmission. This is about the same horsepower as the Tacoma's old V6 generated but there's a lot more torque. Downsizing the number of cylinders also improves fuel economy, which is up a couple mpg across the board depending on the trim. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma manual transmission

If you really want the best fuel economy possible — or even the speediest Taco available — there's good news! The new i-Force Max powertrain offers both. It pairs the turbocharged engine with a hybrid battery pack and an electric motor integrated with the eight-speed transmission. That's right — for the first time in its history, the Tacoma is going hybrid. The extra electric motor increases output to a lofty 326 hp and 465 lb-ft. 

What about the Tacoma's new chassis?

Of course, trucks just aren't about the grunt underhood — they have to deal with the challenges of daily living, too. One of the biggest upgrades to the 2024 Tacoma is the new multilink rear suspension. While the SR, SR5 XtraCab and TRD PreRunner (more on that in a minute) still make do with the leaf springs of the previous Tacoma, all others get more sophisticated coil springs, which pays dividends when it comes to on-road comfort. 

Dampers and tuning are also highly differentiated across the board. The TRD Off-Road, for instance, equips the Tacoma with monotube Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, while the TRD Pro is outfitted with Fox QS3 three-way adjustable internal bypass shocks. The Trailhunter utilizes an Old Man Emu suspension by ARB, while the Limited rides on adaptive dampers.

2024 Toyota Tacoma shock absorber detail

The Tacoma now gets disc brakes all around, with TRD, Limited and Trailhunter models specifically getting larger front brakes. Selecting the hybrid powertrain adds bigger rear brakes as well. 

How does the Tacoma drive?

We’ll have to withhold judgment on the new hybrid drivetrains, which won’t be available to drive until spring 2024. But the non-hybrid engines are a huge step forward from what was previously offered in the Tacoma. Even with the base SR's engine, the latest Tacoma has no problem getting up to speed or zipping through traffic. Part of the credit goes to the eight-speed automatic, which is more responsive than the old truck’s six-speed automatic. However, the four-cylinder isn't particularly quiet, or even all that pleasant to hear. 

Models with the manual transmission have slightly lower horsepower and peak torque but we’re happy to see that Toyota is continuing to offer one. Most rival midsize trucks don't offer a manual transmission at all. The shifter has long throws, and the clutch engagement is high up in the pedal's motion range, so smooth takeoffs require some practice. But again, hey, just be happy there's an available manual, OK? 

What about off-roading?

The good news is that the Tacoma’s reputation as a mechanical billy goat remains intact. With the TRD Off-Road trim you can get multiple cameras around the truck, serving as a virtual “spotter” for off-road excursions. An under-truck camera uses a delayed image from the nose cam to show what’s under the truck, letting you know if a boulder is going to test your skidplates or not. The TRD Pro and Trailhunter models will expand on this capability with more power, more ground clearance and additional specialized equipment. 

We got to put a TRD Off-Road trim with a manual transmission through its off-road paces on a short course Toyota had set up. Low-range gearing is accessed with a turn of a dial on the center console. Leaving the transmission in first made short (but slow) work of the course. The 360-degree camera display on the 14-inch screen basically results in an “invisible” hood, making it easier to climb steep sections where your only view out the windshield is the sky. 

Our test truck didn’t have crawl control — we just left it in first gear — but the new system is reworked to be quieter and easier to use. One thing our truck did have was the Tacoma's new front stabilizer bar disconnect feature. Disconnecting the bar allows the front wheels to have more independent articulation when driving over very bumpy or challenging off-road terrain. We pressed a button to detach the front stabilizer halfway through the suspension articulation test, but the course was too short to fully appreciate the added suspension travel. Although the tight course necessitated a couple of three-point turns, the TRD Off-Road's substantial 11.5 inches of ground clearance was never challenged. 

How comfortable is the Tacoma? 

One of the most modern-feeling and biggest improvements in the 2024 Tacoma is the improved and more comfortable driving position. Before, it could feel like you were sitting too low on the floor of the truck. There's a lot more range available for the steering wheel's tilt and telescoping adjustments now, and the driver's seat can be adjusted for more height than before too. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma interior

The seats themselves are bigger and better padded, and even though numbers for headroom and legroom aren’t much different than before, the cabin feels roomier up front. In back, you can fit a set of 6-footers in the Tacoma's cabin — if they're the agreeable sort. The Honda Ridgeline and Jeep Gladiator still have more rear legroom. 

The new suspension deserves a shoutout as well. The revised chassis eliminates much of the shake and wobble of the old truck, and the whole thing feels more solidly built than before. It’s no surprise that models with the multilink coil-spring rear suspension have the best ride quality, but even lower-grade models with leaf springs are surprisingly competent and easily better than the best of the old truck. We don’t want to oversell the ride quality; it’s still a body-on-frame truck, so there’s occasional bed shake. But it’s vastly improved over previous Tacomas, on par with the newest Chevy Colorado, but falling short of the fully independent suspension on the Honda Ridgeline.

How's the Tacoma's interior? 

The Tacoma's cabin looks like a scaled-down version of the Tundra's interior. The primary focal point is the touchscreen perched atop the center stack. It measures 8 inches on most models, with the primo Limited, TRD Pro and Trailhunter variants getting an eye-catching 14-inch screen. Below that is the climate control array — it's nice to see that Toyota has retained physical knobs and toggles, bucking the current trend of hiding these controls in touchscreen menus. A big, chunky shifter and vehicle system buttons form the base of the center stack, and all are large enough that they should be easy to press and twist if you're wearing work gloves. 

How's the Tacoma's tech? 

Even though Toyota is leaning into the pickup's off-road performance with this generation, the reality is that this truck has to remain usable day to day. And that means the new Tacoma is loaded with plenty of tech and safety features. The aforementioned touchscreen is loaded with the same user interface that debuted on the Tundra, which we think is far more intuitive than the current Tacoma's system. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma dashboard

Two sizes are available, with lower-end trucks getting an 8-inch screen, with a 14-inch screen available on TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road Trims and standard on Limited. Curiously, the two screens offer the same functionality, which includes standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with a wireless Qi charging pad available on upper trims. The bigger screen is just … bigger. That pays dividends in visibility, though, and the extra screen real estate is put to good use with the off-road camera system on the TRD Off-Road Premium package. Also on the options list are ventilated seats, a head-up display and a 10-speaker JBL audio system (with a removable and portable center speaker).

All Tacomas will come with the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite of advanced driving aids. That means everything from the base SR up will have adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, road sign recognition, lane departure alert and lane centering assistance. New to TSS is Proactive Driving Assist, which lowers the adaptive cruise control speed to slow for upcoming curves. Enhancements to TSS include motorcyclist detection for the forward collision system and a steering assist system when lane departure warning detects you drifting into another lane or off the road.

How's the Tacoma's towing and hauling?

The 2024 Tacoma's maximum towing capacity is 6,500 pounds — marginally less than the current Tacoma's 6,800-pound limit — based on the SR5 and TRD PreRunner trims with the two-seat configuration. The hybrid is rated to tow up to 6,000 pounds. 

But as Toyota taketh, it also giveth. The 2024 Tacoma's max payload increases from 1,685 pounds to a current maximum of 1,705 pounds. That might not seem like much on paper, but the former figure is based on the current four-cylinder extended cab, while the latter is based on the new hybrid powertrain (the only payload figure that Toyota has disclosed so far). Put another way, the old Tacoma's best payload figure is based on the most utilitarian configuration possible, while the new Tacoma's higher figure is based on a heavier and more loaded configuration. We expect that more attainable versions of the new Tacoma could have even higher payload ratings. 

The 2024 Tacoma is available in the following configurations: single cab/6-foot bed, crew cab/5-foot bed and crew cab/6-foot bed. The automaker cites a 7% increase in bed volume due to taller bed sides. One neat feature worth noting is the aluminum tailgate's power open-and-close function. You can even trigger the tailgate closing by gently lifting it an inch or so; the power portion brings it up the rest of the way.

Edmunds says

While the 2024 Toyota Tacoma is a vast improvement over its predecessor, the reality is that saying better than a 20-year-old chassis is faint praise. More importantly, the Tacoma is now a much more compelling truck from nearly every metric and more competitive with the new crop of midsize trucks it faces. Tacoma has long been the best-seller in the midsize truck segment thanks to its reputation and legions of loyal fans, and there’s little reason to see that changing. It’s just that now, it’ll be based more on merit than momentum.