2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive Review: It’s Really Good

The biggest problem with the old Toyota Tacoma? It had no low-end torque. Just 265 pound-feet at 4,600 rpm. While the new standard turbocharged four-cylinder makes a big difference—317 pound-feet at 1,700 rpm—the optional hybrid system makes the Taco feel like it’s got a V-8.

Going hybrid also unlocks the most hardcore Tacoma trims: The desert-ready TRD Pro and the go-anywhere-overlander Trailhunter. Out near the Mexican border, southeast of San Diego, we got to sample those models in the dirt and sand, as well as the Tacoma Limited hybrid on the mountain roads nearby.

The Tacoma gets Toyota’s i-Force Max hybrid system, with an electric motor sandwiched between a turbocharged internal-combustion engine and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The system is powered by a 1.9-kilowatt-hour Nickel-Metal-Hydride battery mounted under the rear seats. In total, you get 326 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same system that’s optional on the new 4Runner and standard on the Land Cruiser. All hybrid Tacomas are four-wheel drive, with the Limited getting a full-time system.

In short, the hybrid system transforms the Tacoma. It doesn’t bring an enormous boost in fuel economy—around 3 mpg in the city, 1 mpg on the highway per the EPA—but the effortless, instant torque makes the Tacoma much nicer to drive. Plus, the TRD Pro and Trailhunter are both damn good fun.

Trailhunter

2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive

Quick Specs2024 Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter
Output326 Horsepower / 465 Pound-Feet
Approach / Departure / Breakover Angles35.2 / 22.3 / 24.0 Degrees
Fuel Economy22 City / 24 Highway / 23 Combined MPG
Base Price$64,395

This is the only new trim for the 2024 Tacoma, effectively a factory-prepped overlanding rig. The Trailhunter is headlined by standard 33-inch Goodyear rough-terrain tires, Old Man Emu remote-reservoir shocks, rock rails, skid plates, a steel rear bumper developed with ARB, a sport bar, and optional full-bed-length racks for mounting rooftop tents and the like.

There’s a choice of either a five- or six-foot bed, and naturally, the Trailhunter comes standard with all the Tacoma’s off-road goodies like 360-degree cameras, anti-roll-bar disconnect, and center and rear locking differentials. Additionally, Toyota increased ride height by 2.0 inches at the front, and 1.5 inches at the back.

Toyota set us up on a dusty course at a ranch not too far from the border town of Tecate. There were a couple of challenges—rocky hills, moguls, and a few tight obstacles to navigate. But ultimately, the course wasn’t even much of a workout for the new Trailhunter. Riding on its 33s made every obstacle a cakewalk.

Put it in 4-Low and the hybrid powertrain provides enormous torque. Sheldon Brown, chief engineer for the new Tacoma, actually tells us it was a challenge to manage the prodigious output. You don’t want the thing launching forward the moment you release the brake, and thankfully it doesn’t. The calibration is so smooth, you almost forget an electric motor is helping you out in the first place.

2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive 2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive 2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive

In the Land Cruiser, driven along the same trail, we locked the rear differential to maximize traction for its road-oriented tires, but in the Tacoma Trailhunter, that step wasn’t necessary. Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) system is standard here, and it does a great job of dealing with whatever terrain you throw at it. The anti-roll-bar disconnect is a nice feature, too, increasing articulation over challenging obstacles, and making things more comfortable for those inside. It wasn’t necessary for easygoing desert paths, but on long overlanding trips with challenging terrain, it’ll be a boon.

The Trailhunter is a savvy move from Toyota. Overlanding is huge right now—maybe not quite as huge as during the height of the pandemic—so there’s a huge appetite for huge off-road capability with a factory warranty that broadcasts the right messages at the trailhead (or Home Depot). There are other off-road mid-size pickups, but none that cater so specifically to the overland set. And while we weren’t able to get close to this truck’s limits, we have no doubt that it should be a faithful companion for long trips off the grid.

TRD Pro

2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive

Quick Specs2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Output326 Horsepower / 465 Pound-Feet
Approach / Departure / Breakover Angles35.7 Degrees / 25.3 Degrees / 27.4 Degrees
Fuel Economy22 MPG City / 24 MPG Highway / 23 MPG Combined
Base Price$65,395

While the Trailhunter is specialized for slow off-roading; the TRD Pro is aimed at going much, much faster. This is Toyota’s desert-basher, its Raptor/ZR-2 competitor. Toyota had us on a motocross course complete with a jump and many banked turns for kicking up sand.

As with the other TRD Pro models, the Tacoma gets Fox Racing shocks, here with three settings selected by a knob on the shock body. The first is for normal road driving, while the second and third increase compression damping for faster off-roading. The TRD Pro rides on the same 33s as the Trailhunter, albeit with different wheels, and it gets the same wider fenders and lift, too.

2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive 2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive 2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive

These shocks are the best thing about the truck. On rough terrain, the faster you drive, the smoother things get. Over a small jump—taken at a Toyota-prescribed 38 mph—the truck lands so softly that it doesn’t even feel like the wheels left the ground in the first place. Also helping out are Toyota’s truly wacky IsoDynamic Performance Seats, which have two damper struts in the seatback to smooth out side-to-side and up-and-down motions. They feel a little strange at first (and eat into the Tacoma’s little rear legroom), yet they help make you more comfortable when you’re bombing through rough terrain.

Again, the hybrid system works seamlessly, and if you turn traction control off, there’s ample power to get the Tacoma to oversteer. I wrote “goofy off-road baja jump thing” in my notes. The TRD Pro wants to play around. It’s for the hooligans among us, and alongside the Trailhunter, it shows the breadth of talent baked into the new Tacoma platform.

Limited

2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive

Quick Specs2024 Toyota Tacoma Limited
Output326 Horsepower / 465 Pound-Feet
Approach / Departure / Breakover Angles35.2 / 22.3 / 24.0 Degrees
Fuel Economy22 City / 24 Highway / 23 Combined MPG
Base Price$57,295

Fun though the off-road stuff was, time on some windy mountain roads outside the ranch in a Tacoma Limited proved far more instructive. Brown explains that the electric motor is a compliment to the turbocharger. It provides grunt as the turbo spools up, and boosts power a bit at higher engine speeds, where the turbo can’t quite keep up with the demand for increased airflow.

The effect is basically monster torque all the time. Without the hybrid system, the Tacoma felt good; with it, it feels great. This is a quick truck, never lacking oomph. The presence of the electric motor also means that the engine works less hard, too, which is good as this 2.4-liter is not the last word in refinement. What may have taken two downshifts before now takes one, and in my time with this truck, I hardly saw the tachometer crest 3,000 rpm.

Toyota Tacoma Hybrid First Drive

On top of that, the Limited is a sweet package. Brown tells Motor1 he wanted it to be a bigger step up than the prior model, so it now gets full-time four-wheel drive, adaptive dampers, and a swankier interior. The transformation doesn’t turn the Limited into a full-on luxury truck, but the new suspension makes it a far nicer drive. A Tacoma that handles? I was surprised, too. It’s a revelation. The Tacoma Limited still feels like a truck, since, well, it is, and unladen, the ride can be a bit bouncy. Yet this is almost unrecognizable as a Tacoma, in a good way.

Is The Hybrid Worth It?

You get the hybrid powertrain standard on TRD Pro and Trailhunter. Combined with their off-road goodies, both trims get quite pricey. Still, one imagines the target audience will have no qualms about spending $64,395 for the Trailhunter and $65,395 for the TRD Pro. In fact, the problem will be finding a dealer that’ll sell them at MSRP.

For other Tacoma variants—TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited—the hybrid system adds $3,700 to the price. If you drive the hybrid back-to-back with the standard Tacoma, you’ll want it. Is it necessary? No, and are the fuel savings significant? Also no. But the hybrid’s huge torque makes the Tacoma feel more complete. It transforms the truck.

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