Test Drive: Toyota Tacoma Is Truly A 'Badass Adventure Machine'

The redesign of the 2024 Toyota Tacoma is highly anticipated and likely not to disappoint. 

I had the opportunity to test drive the new pickup ahead of the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. It was as comfortable as it was capable, both on pavement and off-road. 

For this new generation of Tacoma, Toyota says its engineers focused on the truck’s rich history of quality, durability and reliability – while incorporating modern tech, rugged styling and go-anywhere capability.

Toyota’s Michigan-based engineering team had a simple mantra for the all-new Tacoma: “Badass adventure machine.” This theme set the tone for the design, features, and capability of what is now the 2024 Tacoma.

One leap forward is a fully redesigned coil spring multi-link rear suspension. Available on most grades, this new suspension improves overall ride and handling for a new Tacoma for excellent on- or off-road manners. 

An all-new available front stabilizer bar disconnect system increases suspension flex at the push of a button. With the front stabilizer bar disconnected, Tacoma’s articulation increases significantly compared to the current model of the truck.

Hands-free tailgate closing is also possible, thanks to the auto-close function activated by simply pushing up the tailgate with your knee.

All 2024 Tacoma models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, Toyota’s suite of active safety and convenience systems.

On the interior, there’s now an available 14-inch touchscreen, the largest in class (the 8-inch touchscreen comes standard). The system supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster with four different styles is standard on higher grades, while a 7-inch gauge cluster is standard on lower grades.

Tacoma now offers a premium 10 speaker JBL audio upgrade, including a new externally coupled subwoofer for improved output and a JBL Flex portable Bluetooth speaker for use outside of the truck. When undocked, the speaker can play music for up to six hours from a Bluetooth device.

The vehicle, with a starting MSRP of $31,500, is arriving at dealerships now, and marketing breaks in February, says Mike Tripp, group vice president, Toyota Division marketing.

“Our marketing campaign will target customers who are younger, more diverse and adventure-focused,” Tripp says. “We’re calling them ‘spontaneous adventurers.’ They don't spend their time pre-rationalizing what they ought to do, they simply do it. And we'll be capturing these spontaneous adventures by asking them to ‘Be Dareful Out There,’ which is the creative direction guiding our new marketing campaign.”

Toyota has a long history in the midsize truck segment, dating back to the 1960s, and Tacoma has been a dominant force since it “burst onto the scene” in 1995, he says.

“Tacoma has been the undisputed leader of the segment for the last 18 years, and since the introduction, we've sold nearly 5 million Tacomas right here in the United States,” Tripp says. "While most other automakers backed out of the segment at some point in time, we stayed true to our commitment to deliver an exceptional product and ownership experience for our customers.”

You might not expect a pickup truck to hug corners, but this one did, both up and down the canyon roads near Malibu, California doing my test drive.

My co-driver,  Stephanie Brinley, associate director,  AutoIntelligence, S&P Global Mobility, says the truck’s updates will keep it competitive and will help it to hold its position as segment sales leader. The hybrid (coming next year) will introduce electrification to the traditional body-on-frame midsize truck segment, she adds.

“Overall, the Tacoma is everything it needs to be for the segment today, including being more refined while still maintaining its truck attitude,” Brinley says. “Keeping the manual transmission around for specific trims is a nod to the enthusiasm around the truck, though its limited availability reflects that the overall light-vehicle market has stepped away from manual transmissions. At least until later this decade when battery electric solutions come to this segment, there is a proven and revered formula that Tacoma does not stray from.”

The truck's campaign will target "spontaneous adventurers" who are younger, more diverse and adventure-focused, says Toyota's Mike Tripp.

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