Redesigning the Tacoma pickup is a big deal for Toyota, even if the truck itself isn’t that big. And here is that big deal; the next Tacoma.
In America, the Tacoma is at the heart of Toyota’s business. During 2021, amid all supply chain constraints, a record 252,490 of the mid-size trucklets made it onto America’s highways, byways, trails and meadows. Ford meanwhile only sold 94,755 Rangers. Nissan got 60,697 Frontiers to customers, and GM knocked out 24,125 GMC Canyons and 73,008 Chevrolet Colorados. Do the mid-size truck math and it works out to Tacoma 252,490 and Everyone Else 252,585. It likely pisses Toyota off to have lost out to Everyone Else by 95 trucks.
And no, the unconventional Honda Ridgeline doesn’t count. It’s off on its own at 41,355 units sold during 2021.
Over at TFL Trucks, Roman Mica captured some Tacoma prototypes on video in Colorado testing while wearing heavy camouflage. The wheels seem undersized, and the trucks wore bumper diapers to hide the rear suspension design, but the basics are apparent. Expect a truck that looks like a scaled down Tundra with a big, blunt nose and an oversize grille. Inside, there will be a Cinerama screen for all the tech junkies to jones over.
Also unsurprising is that the sole internal combustion engine will be a version of the new 2.4-liter turbocharged four already revealed as part of the 2023 Highlander SUV. Rated at 265-horsepower in the Highlander, it will replace the 278-horse, 3.5-liter V6 that’s been in use at Toyota for the past several eons. But the horsepower rating will be secondary to the large well of torque on offer – 309-pound feet of consistent torque from barely off-idle to somewhere-near redline. All that grunt will mean the Tacoma can pull taller gearing and keep engine revs down to save fuel. That’s critical, because gas ain’t getting a lot cheaper any time soon. In the Highlander, Toyota pairs the new engine to an eight-speed transverse transaxle. In the Tacoma, the engine will feed a longitudinally positioned transmission with at least those eight gears and maybe as many as ten.
Don’t expect there to be a non-turbo four offered in the next Tacoma. Instead, it’s likely that a hybrid system paired with the turbo four will become the more powerful option. This neatly parallels the Tundra’s offering a twin-turbo V-6 standard and the upsell being hybridization. In the Tacoma, the turbo-four and hybrid should easily clear the 300-horsepower hump and likely be rated closer to 320. That’s a thumper for a smaller truck.
Under the new Tacoma will be a version of Toyota’s TNGA-F chassis that is used under new Tundras, Land Cruisers and other body-on-frame trucks. No, the Tacoma will not have an independent rear suspension. Instead, it will use coil springs in back supporting a solid rear axle, much like the current Tundra. The all-coil sprung suspension should allow much better articulation in off-roading situations and facilitate Toyota conjuring up some new talents for top-end models like the TRD Pro.
Also, expect that regular cabs aren’t returning. And it wouldn’t be too shocking if even the extended cab version was knocked off. Crew cabs are what sell now, and Toyota may be willing to take a chance that isn’t that risky.
What will surely disappear is the current Tacoma’s oddly tall cabin floor which leaves the occupants feeling as if they’re sitting too low with a somewhat awkward driving position. That tall floor was engineered to add clearance in off-road situations, but the TNGA-F design relies on the frame rails to keep mechanical components better protected.
The next Tacoma is due sometime during 2023 and is likely to marketed as a 2024 model. Toyota has always been fearless in pricing the Tacoma at a premium to its competition and getting away with it. That’s likely to continue.
Trucks are what Americans want and the next Tacoma will have to battle with a seriously fortified fleet of Everyone Else trucks. The Nissan Frontier was new this year, prototypes for the next Ranger are also in the TFL video, and GM is known to be determined to grab market share with a redesign of its mid-size offering soon. Can Toyota remain dominant in this market? The truck soap opera is about to grow more dramatic.
No singing fat ladies are involved. At least not yet.
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