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Toyota Tacoma's two-step plan to match Chevy's 2015 Colorado

The Tacoma does need updating, but the path to continued success by the Tacoma is not as hard as it might seem.

The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado could be the best thing that ever happened to the Toyota Tacoma. Visit any Tacoma forum or blog and you will see that although the pickup has a tremendously loyal following, those fans know that it can be better. Chevy is not pulling punches with the Colorado. It intends to be the top-selling vehicle in the mid-size pickup market, and the Colorado has the potential to steal away market share from the long-in-the-tooth Tacoma.

Some suspect the Tacoma will emerge in 2015 as a Colorado-beater. We think not. The 2015 model year is now, not later. If Toyota was planning to meet the Colorado’s challenge head on from the first moment it arrived, we would have already seen the new Tacoma at shows, and we would have learned some details. For example, the Lexus NX 200t is going to be a 2015 model and we already know pretty much every detail on that vehicle. No, Toyota is going to sit back at least one year and see what the Colorado actually brings, then Toyota is going to adjust its game (and product) and come back with a solid update capable to sustaining its 140,000 trucks per year sales pace.

Tacoma Update Step One – Engines
If there is one area that is already a problem for the 2014 Tacoma versus the 2015 Colorado it is engines. In our previous story we explained that the base engine may be fine for some, but by comparison to what the Colorado will offer, it is way too weak as an affordable truck. We still think the main parry by Toyota will be to place the new 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbocharged engine in the Tacoma. In the upcoming Lexus NX 200t the new turbo will produce 235 horsepower and about 260 ft-lbs of torque. After the Tacoma’s next redesign, this will be the engine most frequently selected by individual buyers. It matches the output of the current V6 almost exactly. Toyota may retain the inexpensive base 2.7 liter four cylinder engine, but it will be for commercial 2wd delivery vehicles and for fleet sales.

We cannot rule out a new V6 engine for the Tacoma, but given the 2.0 turbo’s ability to carry 70% of the truck’s sales, with the base 2.7 handling maybe 20% of the production slated for fleets and bare-bones value trucks, the current 3.5 liter V6 now used only by Lexus may make an appearance. This engine is more expensive than necessary for the Tacoma, and its torque is nothing special, but that isn’t the point. Toyota needs a V6 with a high horsepower number to offer “homeowner buyers” that plan to drive the Tacoma as if it were a car most of the time, but occasionally need the bed and basic towing ability a few times per year. The 3.5 liter, direct and fuel injected V6, with over 300 horsepower is already in widespread production. Why re-invent the wheel?

Toyota Tacoma plan – Step 2 Features
Look closely at the Colorado’s marketing and we see three themes. First, fuel economy. Toyota will have no problem matching Chevy there. The current Tacoma is already lighter than the Colorado and the new turbo will improve the overall fuel economy numbers for the Tacoma family. No new carbon fiber or aluminum alloy panels needed to catch up. Second, Chevy is talking about making the Colorado a full size pickup in the minds of buyers crazy enough to think that. Toyota will ignore this angle because its larger Tundra is already selling amazingly well. Conversely, the full size Chevy Silverado has been shrinking in sales. Third, Chevy is making the Colorado seem modern and fun. Modern “confotainment” options and lots of fun outdoor gear are a big part of the Colorado marketing blitz.

Toyota will add more sophistication to the Tacoma inside. This pickup truck will need to have optional navigation, entertainment, and connectivity the equal of anything in the Toyota line, including some Lexus models. Again, we stress optional. With little difficulty Toyota can also offer new and improved kayak, tenting, motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile and other outdoors-related gear for Tacoma buyers to see in photos and then either buy or not buy. Much of this type of stuff is simply “wish-book” marketing.

Those hoping to see a completely new platform for the Tacoma in 2015, or even anytime soon may be disappointed. Toyota’s goal is not to keep Colorado from succeeding. It can’t. Rather, this author believes the mid-size pickup market will expand overall, and regardless of the sales of the Colorado, Toyota will update its truck and continue to make its Tacoma a high-volume, profitable, and much-loved pickup truck. Fans of Toyota Tacoma should cheer the arrival of the Colorado.


Cory (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 4:09AM

I agree that the new competition will encourage improved innovation in the segment and Toyota shouldn't have a problem beating the colorado in most categories. I think the 4.0 still has a possibility to be competitive at least in the short term if it was updated to direct injection and dual vvti based off of the current 4 runner numbers. I wouldn't complain with a small displacement forced induction motor as long as it's output was competitive with the colorado and it had some headroom for upgrades like they've done in the past with the TRD accessories.

The most interesting comparison won't be with the 2015 v6 though, it will be running up against the new baby duramax which will drive the best in class MPG's and towing ratings and will help chevy's re-sale values against the Tacoma. Hopefully a V-6 (comparable output) tacoma will fit nicely between the v-6 and diesel colorado, i'm crossing my fingers for ~300hp/trq with a 7000 lb. tow rating.

I certainly hope to see an increase in options for the interior, i personally like the brushed aluminum trim and heated leather seat additions on mine, it shouldn't be hard to beat the materials for the colorado...that plastic in the photo's looks terrible, hopefully the interior refresh draws from the 4 runner styling. There are definitely a few small things that would go a long way i think, such as cargo options in the bed, bed lighting, parking assist, interior control lighting, better defrost for the windows, heated side mirrors.

DrLou (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 4:26AM

The addition of a 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbocharged engine and more features would be a good start but that is not enough for Toyota to stay viable. Toyota also needs to improve the Toyota's crash rating, and add rear disc brakes. Perhaps the mileage the turbocharged 2.0 liter gets may be a sufficient MPG improvement over the existing offerings but I think hybrid and diesel engine options may be necessary to achieve 35+ MPG. I would also like Toyota to produce the A-BAT concept AWD hybrid based on the RAV-4 as a lifestyle pickup truck. I think the A-BAT would be a great daily driver for those that have only occasional light hauling and towing needs.

MR. Z (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 11:09AM

I own a 2009 Tacoma Double Cab. I have not seen great deals on the Tacoma, especially for the past couple of years at least. I think Toyota, because of lack of Competition, has been milking profits on this vehicle. I believe that Toyota will offer sweet deals on the existing Tacoma once the new Colorado arrives on the market. Tacoma will use price to force the Colorado to lower their prices and profit margins, and Toyota will sell as many of the current models as they can while a new Tacoma is revamped.

Mcapps (not verified)    May 31, 2014 - 1:48PM

In reply to by MR. Z (not verified)

That is the whole philosophy of every Japanese Company! Provide cheap, well made goods to grab the most market share. They have been doing it for a long time. Hopefully the colorado comes in and kills it but with gm's track record recently I have found myself looking into a tacoma as well. (downgrade from my 5.7l hemi.) Kinda of hoping that either dodge or ford brings their compact truck back.

Somebody (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 3:18PM

In the end of the day, colorado is still a GM.
I.e., Toyota needs only sit back and do nothing to remain ahead in every conceivable way.

As far as needing engine changes... nonsense. 2.7 for everybody with a brain. 4.0 to satisfy all the morons.

Brett (not verified)    July 1, 2014 - 11:10PM

In reply to by Somebody (not verified)

Totally agree, as far as small trucks go... The things that I am looking for are simplicity, reliability, economy. Yeah u can put turbos and crap on small engines but how long will it last and what's the cost to replace. I'll buy something that I'm pretty sure will not need some kind of dumb maintenance issues before 200k. All my yotas are 4bangers, change the oil and keep going.

Bob Reed (not verified)    September 29, 2014 - 3:15PM

In reply to by Somebody (not verified)

I bought a Tacoma and I got it with the 4.0L. It is a TRD Off Road model with towing package - and I plan to use that towing package to pull a camping trailer. I guess this qualifies me as a moron - in your mind.

dean (not verified)    September 29, 2014 - 4:46PM

In reply to by Bob Reed (not verified)

I never called anyone a moron??? All I said was that the new Colorado would have the 300 hp as their opt. engine. I also own a 07 Tacoma 2.7 reg cab, now with over 100k miles, great truck for the money.

Dan (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 5:45PM

My 2005 Tundra is just about done (220k miles). The new Tundra is too big for me. I hope the Colorado has an optional V8 and is similar in size to my 05 Tundra. I'll be taking a serious look at it.

Robert (not verified)    June 3, 2014 - 11:59AM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

There's no V8 coming for the Colorado. It's a nice dream, but with everyone pretty much abandoning the big block V8s, even GM wouldn't make such a move.

There's a reason Ford is offering the 2.7 "lifestyle" ecoboost in the new F150. They know even cowboy Cadillacs don't need all that power.

John Goreham    June 3, 2014 - 1:12PM

In reply to by Robert (not verified)

I agree with you. This week I had a chance to listen in person to Pete Reyes, the chief engineer of the new Ford F-150. He was so enthusiastic about the new, smaller 2.7 EcoBoost it was infectious. He basically said exactly what you did above, but he said it very respectfully. He made it clear that for most truck owners that do not tow daily, the 2.7 turbo is going to exceed their needs and expectations.

Ken Walker (not verified)    July 10, 2014 - 12:07AM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

Yeah I loved my T -100 by far the best vehicle I have owed and the early tundras were great the new are big and driving it is like a dump truck in size they should have a mid or enlarge a Tacoma to fit 6ft and over

Feng (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 6:50PM

I think the most important thing is the truck's structure, we already saw the 4 runner scored marginal in small overlap crash test, and plus Tacoma's bad roof strength, Toyota really should have done something on structures. the 2015 colorado will definitely better in terms of safety structure.

Shawn (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 8:03PM

I have a hard time understanding someone who says in one sentence 'My 2005 Tundra is just about done (220k miles).' and then in the next say the would take a serious look at a Chevy. I have never seen a Colorado with over 150,000 miles and if it had anything over 80000 it was 'just about done'. There is something to be said for a manufacturers lineup of vehicles that most make it well over 200,000 before the end of their lifecycle.

Nate (not verified)    October 27, 2014 - 2:33PM

In reply to by Shawn (not verified)

My 2004 GMC Canyon CC 4WD (3.5L I5) has 163K miles and runs just fine. Head over to or and you'll find more like me.

As for GM reliability, there are several I know that have the 4.3L or 5.7L engines with high mileage and all they did was the normal mainenance.

dean (not verified)    October 27, 2014 - 9:48PM

In reply to by Nate (not verified)

Nate, I also had a great running and low maint . 97 chevy half ton short box.....had plenty of power with the 350 and auto but the thing is , that chevy averaged about 14 to 17 mpg. which is the reason I now own a 2007 Tacoma , and with the 4 cyl I average 23 to 25 mpg.

Tony (not verified)    April 29, 2014 - 9:12PM

I agree with much of the article, however, I do disagree than merely updating the tacoma for the next few years to come is the way to go. Chevrolet is not pulling punches with the Colorado. The Colorado will steal quite a few sales from the Toyota, because it is new, because it is american and because the engine sounds like it's going to be a game changer, especially when the diesel hits. Sticking with the update game plan could potentially blow up in Toyota's face. There is no doubt that sales are slowly declining. Keeping with the updating theme is what killed the Ford Ranger. Like the Taco, the Ranger had a cult like fan base and was a strong fleet seller. Updates can only go so far among the fickle compact/midsize pickup crowd.

Adam (not verified)    April 30, 2014 - 9:31AM

I own a 1998 Tacoma, and since the regrettable 'upgrade' to the current generation, have seen nothing that interests me. If Toyota really wants to create a Colorado fighter, what they need to do is return to their roots in the segment...affordability, durability, and fuel economy are more important to compact/midsize truck buyers than go-fast cosmetics and 'wishbook' accessories. Go out and look on the road...we're all still driving our Tacos and Rangers, and we won't replace them until one of the OEMs decides to stop insulting our intelligence.

DrLou (not verified)    April 30, 2014 - 2:53PM

In reply to by Adam (not verified)

Adam: I couldn't agree with you more. I own a 1986 Nissan 720 King Cab. It's a 28 years old that I've owned for 22 years. It has met all my needs, has been very reliable, and gets fairly good MPG. I've been looking for something to replace it with, but the OEMs haven't produced anything that would met my needs better. The only reason I'm looking to replace it is because these old pickups are not very safe. I wish and OEM would build a true compact RWD/AWD pickup that gets great MPGs, performs well in crash tests, and could haul 4 x 8 sheets - the 2008 Toyota A-BAT comes to mind.

Brock (not verified)    October 16, 2014 - 6:24PM

In reply to by Adam (not verified)

Hi Adam,

I owned the last of your generation of Tacoma, a 2004 with almost every factory option. I bought it new. While I loved the truck, it ended up getting hit while parked by a drunk driver. I was forced to look for another truck and eventually ended up with a used 2005 Tacoma.

All I can say is I think it is a better truck in every measurable way (the only downside if you can call it that, is that it is larger.) It has a larger motor with more power and still gets higher MPG's than the old 3.4L.

Don't give up on the newer Tacomas. This is my 5th Toyota truck and by far the best one I've owned. I'm almost at 200k miles with zero mechanical problems...just routine maintenance (oh and there's no timing belt to change....only a chain which lasts much longer.)

ZERO (not verified)    May 1, 2014 - 5:02AM

Instead of giving CHEVROLET even a pat on the back, let's first note that the COLORADO is made for them by ISUZU. Secondly, check your consumer reports, etc. The COLORADO has ALWAYS had a poor reliability record. It is inferior in every way. I doubt that a cosmetic change will change the facts much.

Henry (not verified)    August 6, 2014 - 6:00PM

In reply to by ZERO (not verified)

Way behind.
These trucks are made at GM Wentzville MO. Not a fan but everyone should have accurate info. US jobs building these.

Baron (not verified)    December 7, 2014 - 7:40AM

In reply to by ZERO (not verified)

There is one very simple reason the Tacoma could continue to sell well even if Toyota did no updates whatsoever. Chevrolet reliability is absolute crap. I am a professional landscaper, we recently purchased a brand-new 3500 Chevy utility body. This truck needs a new engine after 5800 miles. How pathetic is that? This is not a chance occurrence either, it is all too common to walk around the dealership which does our service and see vehicles newer than five years old completely stripped down with engines removed.

Does not matter how pretty or how many bells and whistles a new truck may have, people like to buy Toyotas because they know that they will run 200,000 miles with no problems.

DrLou (not verified)    May 1, 2014 - 10:16PM

The current Colorado and Canyon do not perform well in crash tests, was a marginal rating for design, performance, and quality, and an average rating for reliability. Needless to say, GM's new mid-size pickups have a lot of negative stigma to overcome. Having said that, GM has just spent a billion dollars resigning and manufacturing the upcoming 2015 Colorado and Canyon pickups. My view is let's take "a wait and see attitude"and see what it can do. This new version may be better than it's predecessors. I'm hoping these trucks produce better crash test results than the new redesigned Ram 1500 and Silverado. There is no excuse any more for their poor crash test ratings.