For a long time now Toyota has had the small truck market all to itself with its excellent Tacoma. Each year that Chevy, Ford, and Ram sat out this market, Toyota sold over a hundred thousand of the pickups. Last year it sold 160,000 Tacomas. In case you need a gauge of how many vehicles that is, it about the number of Suburbans, Corvettes, and Camaros that Chevy sold last year - if you added them all up together. Still think the Tacoma is just some sort of joke? Life was good for the Toyo Taco, but things are about to get more difficult. Chevrolet is bringing back the Colorado small pickup, and the Canyon from GMC will of course be its shadow. Time for a big-time improvement in the Tacoma if Toyota wants to keep enjoying those huge sales numbers.
We think Toyota will offer an all-new 2.0 liter turbo in the Tacoma that will make more horsepower than the top engine does now. That engine being the aging 4.0 liter V6 with 236 horsepower. The current four cylinder and six cylinder Tacoma engines both have 21 MPG highway ratings, and to put it mildly, that is going to be uncompetitive going forward in this segment. Chevy is already focusing on MPG in its marketing literature and planning a diesel, partly so that it can have a big MPG number to put at the top of adverts that shout “Best in class MPG!” As our recent article discussed, Chevy is all about stretching the truth. In this case it won’t even have to.
Although Toyota has not commented to us about this, we are pretty good at looking at the crystal ball. We nailed the Lexus RC and RC F models including the engine specs before anyone else, and have some other recent accurate predictions making us all kinds of cocky.
A new 2.0 liter turbo is for sure coming to Toyota crossovers, appearing this fall in the new Lexus NX 250T, a high power, luxury version of the Toyota RAV 4. This is not speculation, but fact from Lexus corporate communications. Toyota has also confirmed the engine will migrate through the Toyota family. Toyota will season the Taco with this spicy mill, the only question is what model year? We suspect it will be announced next year as a 2016 model and be on sale early fall of 2015. The new Colorado won’t be in full sales swing until later this year.
Frankly, this author is no fan of small turbocharged motors. However, that is the trend since it makes the most of the EPA test cycle. The Toyota 2.0 turbo will not match the power or smoothness of the Chevy 3.6 liter V6, which is just a gem of an engine, but it will allow Toyota to have an acceptable motor in the segment with decent mileage. That leads us to our next wild guess.
We also expect that Toyota will build a limited number of Tacomas with the Toyota hybrid drivetrain now found in the Avalon. It is usually designated “300h” when a Lexus motor, for example in the Lexus ES 300h. It is a four cylinder, but with its electric motor assist it generates acceptable power in big vehicles not dramatically heavier than the Tacoma. Chevy has nothing practical it could use that could match the MPG of this drivetrain. Imagine a Tacoma with 36 MPG city and 31 Highway. It would be unique. It would not sell to anyone who wants a real truck. That would not be the point. Toyota sells a LOT of hybrids to municipalities and other fleets. It could leverage this vehicle. The only challenge in this for Toyota is adopting the front wheel drive hybrid configuration to the rear-drive Tacoma platform.
The new Colorado looks great, it is going to be offered with an awesome engine, and Chevy knows a lot about trucks and how to sell them. If Toyota wants to keep the Tacoma relevant it better have some test mules running around someplace with blown four-bangers right now.