Truck goodness is worth waiting for, which is definitely true for the 2020 Toyota Tacoma. Originally, dealerships promised to have it on their lots by summer this year. But the word now is that Toyota will release the new Taco sometime this month.
With new rivals the Jeep Gladiator and Ford Ranger throwing long shadows, it’s not a moment too soon for the Tacoma to reassert itself as the best-selling truck in its class for the past 13 years. It helps, too, that it has a rabid following among offroad fans.
The 2020 Tacoma is a mild refresh. To learn more about what’s new we’ve checked out what reviewers from Motor1, CNET’s Road/Show, and Motor Trend had to say about their first drive of this truck. All three reviewers drove the new TRD Pro through challenging slick-rock terrain from Moab, Utah to Ouray, Colorado as part of the FJ Summit. Motor 1 and Road/Show reviewers also spent some time driving the TRD Off-Road model.
And before you test-drive the new Tacoma, we recommend that you read these reviews too. Let’s dig into some of their highlights.
The biggest changes on the Tacoma’s exterior are the new grilles and headlights, with the exception of the TRD Pro. It keeps the grille that spells out “Toyota” in big letters but has new LED headlights and sequential turn signals. LED headlights are available for the other upper trims, according to Mach Hogan of Motor 1.
This TRD Pro also comes in a new color, Army Green, and there is a nifty desert air intake snorkel as an option for this trim. For the TRD Sport trim and higher, Miguel Cortina of Motor Trend says, a smart key allowing keyless access on the front passenger side has been added to the driver’s keyless entry.
With the exception of the SR and the SR5, the Tacoma still uses the same reliable 3.5-liter V6 engine as in prior years. It delivers 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine of the SR and the SR5 makes only 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque.
Speaking of power, Roadshow’s Emme Hall talks about how the Tacoma’s payload and towing capacity falls slightly short of what its upcoming rivals offer. The Tacoma has a payload of 1,600 pounds and can tow 6,400 pounds, while the Ford Ranger hauls a maximum of 1,860 pounds and tows 7,500 pounds. The Jeep Gladiator is the same in payload but can tow 7,650 pounds. If payload and towing capacity are key priorities for you as a truck buyer, you might also look at the Ranger and the Gladiator.
Hall also reports that the engine’s Sport mode is somewhat confusing because when you shift into it, the number “4” is displayed, making it seem as if you should be in fourth gear. This number actually represents the gear limiter, because the six-speed automatic transmission shifts itself through the gears.
Cortina also points out a subtle but important update to the transmission: Toyota has fixed the truck’s lurching when you shift from Park to Drive. The flaw was present in the 2019 model.
Amenities and safety features
Probably the most significant interior update for the new Tacoma is the new 10-way power driver’s seat. It includes lumbar support, height adjustment, and thigh support, according to Cortina. Since buyers have been asking for this change for years, Toyota has added this improvement to all trims except the base model SR.
The Taco’s infotainment system has been upgraded to include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon’s Alexa. The 8.0-inch touchscreen is also new, according to Cortina.
The Toyota Safety Sense P, the automaker’s extensive driver-assistance system, has been standard on the Tacoma since 2018. But blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert features are now standard on the Limited and the TRD Pro and available on the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road models, says Hall.
Still the king of the off-road
With a low-range gearbox, rear differential locker, Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires, and short overhangs, the Tacoma met the challenges that the reviewers threw at it head-on. As an off-roader, it checked off the boxes for power delivery, good articulation, and suspension lift. Hall feels that the TRD Pro is particularly suited for the most extreme off-road conditions with Fox shocks, a 1-inch lift on the front suspension, and its 1-inch wider track.
Both the TRD Pro and TRD Off-Road Tacomas have a multi-terrain select feature that has options to provide the right amount of traction for sand, mud, rock and other off-road terrains. Another feature these models have is a five-level cruise control system for off-roading. Cortina tells us that Toyota has put lighter 16-inch alloy wheels on these trucks, which has allowed its engineers to fine-tune their shocks and springs.
For both the TRD Pro and the TRD Off-Road trims, new tech plays a key role in their off-road capabilities. The multi-terrain monitor allows you to see front and side views around the truck so that you can avoid blind obstacles. A surround-view camera is standard on the Limited, TRD Off-Road, and TRD Pro models. Hall and Cortina appreciate the usefulness of these features but both say that video resolution for these cameras could be improved.
There were a few grumbles from the reviewers about on-road performance. Hogan says it’s “less than impressive” because of its rough highway driving and sluggish shifting in both manual and automatic transmission. Hill has a similar complaint and confirms that thed automatic searches for the right gear.
But with its excellent off-road capability, time-tested reliability and quality, and solid aftermarket support, we believe that the 2020 Toyota Tacoma can probably be forgiven for its limitations on the pavement.