TOYOTA has launched its mid-size Tacoma ute for the US market, showcasing new tech and an all-new chassis that points directly at what the next Hilux — due in 2025 — will be like for the Australian market.
The Tacoma has been Toyota’s mid-size ‘truck’ for almost 20 years. Much of the previous generations rely on a common spec level of ladder fame and four-cylinder petrol engine.
For 2024, the fourth-generation of the ute gets major changes with a TNGA-F chassis — the same as the Land Cruiser 300 and large-size Tundra — adopted for substantial upgrades to suspension characteristics, plus turbocharged engines across the board.
It also gets extra gear thanks to Australian companies Old Man Emu and ARB that supply aftermarket and chassis components.
The ute’s design was undertaken at Toyota’s CALTY Design Research centre in California with design president Kevin Hunter saying that the primary design goal “was to be authentic to the way our customers use their trucks for rugged outdoor fun.”
“We looked at our truck DNA and the Toyota Baja race trucks for inspiration to capture the extreme spirit of off-road adventure. High lift, big tyres, slim body, and a powerful athletic stance define the iconic Tacoma look, referred to as ‘Tacoma-ness’.” CALTY said it focused on the theme of a “Badass Adventure Machine” when designing the Tacoma.
Tacoma’s latest generation has a 207kW/430Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Optional is a 243kW/630Nm version of the same engine with the addition of a 36kW electric motor to create a hybrid drive.
These outputs are for the eight-speed torque-convertor automatic versions. The available six-speed manual transmission versions get reduced engine outputs of 201kW/420Nm.
For the first time, the Tacoma gets all-wheel disc brakes and electric power steering.
Much of the cabin features of the bigger Tundra are carried over to the new Tacoma. These include the a minimalistic, military-look of the interior and the 14-inch infotainment centre-screen.
The Tacoma also gets a comprehensive safety inventory which is similar to today’s Hilux, but has the option of the Tundra’s adaptive variable suspension.
There are different variants of the Tacoma, from the entry-level with leaf springs at the rear (SR, SR5 XtraCab, and TRD PreRunner) through to the coil springs of the more upmarket versions.
Toyota also offers the Tacoma in two serious off-road versions, the Trailhunter and TRD Pro.
Both have increased ground clearance (up to 279mm) over the standard Tacoma, heavy-duty suspension , and improved approach and departure angles — now up to 33.8-degree approach, 25.7-degree departure and 23.5-degree ramp-over.
The Trailhunter has Australian-developed Old Man Emu 2.5-inch forged monotube dampers with remote reservoirs.
This model’s tyres are 33-inch Goodyear Territory R/T units that add up to 50mm to the height.
Australia’s ARB supplied the steel rear bumper, recovery points and the ute bed with removable panels. The bed rack can take accessories such as a rooftop tent.
Extra protection underneath is provided by skid plates and rock rails.
The Trailhunter also has a 2400W AC inverter that helps power the ARB fridge-freezer unit.
Unlike the Trailhunter, the TRD-Pro has FOX suspension’s new QS3 three-way adjustable internal bypass shocks with remote reservoirs for improved high speed off-road performance and FOX Internal Floating Piston (IFP) rear bump stops to improve bottom out feel.
The TRD-Pro also gets Toyota’s new IsoDynamic Performance Seat that it says “helps provide a smooth, confidence-inspiring ride for those in the driver and front passenger seats.”
The seat is designed to stabilise the driver’s field of vision “to improve focus, comfort, and reduce fatigue while on rugged trails.”
It uses an air-over-oil shock absorber system allowing for vertical and lateral seat movement simultaneously to dampen body movement and stabilise the head and neck to keep alignment with the spine.
“This dampening effect is tuneable based on body mass and occupant preference and can be bypassed, if desired, via levers on the seat backs,” Toyota said.
Some features of the Tacoma are expected to trickle down to the next generation Hilux. Stay tuned for more details from Toyota Australia.
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