The popular Toyota Tacoma is the bestselling midsize truck in the U.S. market, but that’s not to say it’s without flaws. The current Tacoma’s dated infotainment and uncomfortable driving position reveal it to be a half-generation behind its competitors, but luckily for Toyota customers, that’s going to change for 2020.
Revealed today at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, the 2020 Tacoma gets a useful list of equipment updates and styling changes, helping it stay fresh amid the launch of an all-new Ford Ranger and the excellent Chevrolet Colorado. The feature we’re most excited for is a new 10-way power driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar, which will be standard on all Tacomas except the base SR. Replacing an antiquated 4-way manual seat, the 10-way seat adds height adjustments and greater adjustability, allowing a wider range of body types to get comfortable in the Tacoma’s stylish interior.
Furthermore, every Tacoma will receive a new touchscreen audio system—7 inches on the SR and 8 inches on SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro. This infotainment display will incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Amazon Alexa. These features should help the Tacoma compare well to the Ranger’s excellent SYNC 3 infotainment, and the device compatibility should make it more attractive to the Taco’s younger, more adventurous purchasers.
The 2020 Tacoma’s most off-road–capable trim level is again the TRD Pro, but it has been updated with new features and revised styling. LED headlamps and taillights with black inserts. Rigid Industries foglights make a return for 2020, and this year’s TRD Pro–exclusive color will be Army Green, replacing Voodoo Blue. Inside, the TRD Pro gets the same 10-way power driver’s seat and 8-inch infotainment display as its less capable siblings.
However, the truck will be updated with significantly more high-tech off-road assistance. A new Panoramic View Monitor + Multi Terrain Monitor allows the driver to select front, rear, or side-view camera modes, and there’s also a terrain-view mode that shows what’s under the truck.
Mechanically, the suspension of the TRD Pro has been retuned slightly to take advantage of new, lighter 16-inch wheels. Each roller is more than 4 pounds lighter than its predecessor, which should provide significantly improved handling dynamics on and off-road, further bolstered by new tuning for the Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks and TRD-specific front and rear springs. Hopefully, the lighter wheels and revised shocks will help quiet the truck’s pogo-stick rear axle when traveling off-road at high speeds.
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma will get a few cosmetic updates to keep its muscular, attractive styling current. Nearly every trim level receives a new grille design, and the SR5, TRD Sport, and Limited receive new wheel designs. The SR and SR5 get taillights with dark housings, while TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited get taillights with chrome trim. TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road get optional LED headlights, which are standard on the Limited.
Sterling Reputation, but Is It Enough?
Each of the above updates should only improve the 2020 Tacoma’s appeal for most customers, but one of our biggest complaints about the truck has yet to be rectified—its torque-poor 3.5L V-6. As before, it produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft, the latter of which at a peaky 4,600 rpm. And it’s still mated to a six-speed automatic, one which we hope has been retuned for smoother, more frequent downshifts (the current truck upshifts early and often, leaving the engine out of its powerband).
In the Tacoma’s favor, powertrain-wise, is variety. The standard engine is a twin-cam 2.7L I-4 that produces a perfectly acceptable 159 hp and 180 lb-ft, perfect for garden-truck duty. And certain grades of the V-6 can be had with a DIY six-speed manual transmission, suiting the truck’s playful attitude perfectly. Getting the manny tranny would also circumvent the auto gearbox’s unfortunate tuning.
Nevertheless, amid a field of ever-improving competition, will the fun-to-drive Tacoma be able to hang onto its sales crown for another year? The Ford Ranger’s excellent turbocharged powertrain and the Colorado’s pleasant on-road dynamics present the strongest cases against picking a Toyota. However, there’s something so charming about the Tacoma, and we welcome its interior and functional updates with open arms.