5 Fixes for the 2020 Toyota Tacoma

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The mid-size Toyota Tacoma has been the top-selling pickup truck in its class for about 15 years. During that time, the Tacoma has gone through one significant platform overhaul and several interior and exterior design "freshenings" to keep it updated.

Related: More 2019 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

During the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota revealed yet another freshened version of the Tacoma for the 2020 model year. Each trim level gets minor exterior design changes, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and a bigger multimedia screen. Those are definitely necessary upgrades, but they may not enough to keep the all-new 2019 Ford Ranger and 2020 Jeep Gladiator at bay.

We believe the Tacoma has needed some upgrades for quite a while now, as do our colleagues at Cars.com, who offered a "recipe" for changes to the popular mid-size truck. We'll build on their list of what we'd like to see for the 2020 Toyota Tacoma.

 

1. Drum Brakes in 2020? Really?

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How Toyota can continue to stick with the old-school drum brakes when everyone else has moved to more powerful and tunable disc brakes doesn't make sense to us. We understand that using drum brakes cuts the production costs of 250,000-plus pickups each year, but at some point the truck will need to enter the 21st century.

 

2. Tighten the Transmission

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The Tacoma's automatic transmission does not make good use of all the horsepower the engine delivers. When climbing a hill with payload in the bed, there can be a horribly wide dead spot in the rpm range that can bog the truck down and have you quickly slapping the gear shifter to manual mode to downshift in a hurry. It is critical to use the power button for the electronically controlled transmission to make the shifts quicker and hold the gears longer in just about every driving circumstance.

 

3. Offer More Special Editions

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Toyota has had great success with its TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trim levels. But you'd think a truck that's this popular — and one that typically lands at the top of best-retained-value lists — could stretch a little and offer some special-edition models. Toyota could keep the special editions within the TRD franchise. Think TRD Tow, TRD Snow or even TRD San Antonio (where the truck is built). This stuff almost writes itself.

 

4. Improve Crawl Control

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When the Tacoma's Crawl Control multiterrain management system debuted, the idea of using all the pre-existing anti-lock braking system and traction control sensors to improve traction while off-roading made perfect sense. It's only when you sit in the Tacoma and engage Crawl Control that it seems robotic and analog-like with all groaning and vibrating the chassis does. No doubt it's doing exactly what the computers have been programmed to do, but it pales in comparison to competitors' more refined systems.

 

5. Do Something Distinctive

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Offer something no other mid-size pickup has, maybe something designed to help buyers do more of what they bought the truck for in the first place. Maybe unique access to the bed, self-deflating tires for better road/trail grip, a smart Tow/Haul mode that lets you know how much weight you're pulling. Just show us you want to give us more, so we can do more.

More From PickupTrucks.com

Cars.com photos by Christian Lantry

 

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Comments

This article might hurt some people's feelings. Seems fair to say a good truck isn't a perfect truck though ..

The Tacoma is a good truck, but it would never work for me. They are made for small people. People say to buy a midsize if you don't need the capability of a full size but its not the capability that is mosed missed it is the interior room. I sat in a new Ranger at the auto show and it was terrible. Knees Jambed against the dash. I the GM midsizers are acceptable at least my knees aren't jambed into the dash with the seat all the way back.

Good luck getting MS convinced it needs improvement!

5 fixes, 1 answer
Chevy Colorado

Of course Toyotas need improvement,

But that fact only exacerbates the need for the other brands to improve even more than Toyotas.

And we all know why, unless you have some kind of emotional problem concerning your Tundra.

This is really classic Toyota (also Ford to a certain extent). Take a popular idea and run it into the ground. Show me a Ford Taurus that wasn't just beat to death by the time the next one came out. Ditto the old Expedition circa 2015. Or the old Ranger.

Toyota may have invented that approach, at least they've signed their name to it. The simple changes outlined in this story are a great place to start but it might be too late for the Tacoma. Ford, GM, RAM/Jeep are filling up their rearview mirror.

Does the tacoma still have that stupid pull cane ebrake. That is the most awkward ebrake lever ever.

Other than that, a stronger drivetrain will do just fine.

1 All new platform
2 All new platform
3 All new platform
4 All new platform
5 All new platform

I thought I read on here they were going to make changes to the hp and torque curves of the motor for this year?

Guess not, just cosmetic stuff?

It needs more HP/TQ for sure

Needs to reconfigure the cab so someone over 6 ft tall can comfortably ride/drive it

Maybe Toyota will need to look at its current formula with pickups. Using proven tech and selling at the highest margin could be coming to an end.

Even the Hilux is being challenged in Australia as more and more buy pickups as daily family hacks the are looking for more in the form of technology.

Like Australia 75% of pickups sold are not work trucks. Toyota in the 80s capitalised on this, but have yet to change the formula 30 years on.

It needs more HP/TQ for sure
Needs to reconfigure the cab so someone over 6 ft tall can comfortably ride/drive it
Posted by: TNTGMC | Feb 19, 2019 12:11:50 PM

nothing is as powerful as your truck

nothing is as comfortable as your truck

nothing was bought cheaper when new as your truck

oh I could go on but that is your job

so have at it

LOL @ U

I disagree with 3 and 5 is just vague silliness.

The rest is spot on. ESPECIALLY #1.

I would also add work on that interior (just don't use chevy as a guide think like well, just about anyone else at this point).

I would also recommend a diesel. They have a large portion of this pretend truck market and make excellent small diesels for outside NA. It wouldn't be hard for Toy to make a good small light truck/car diesel that's in compliance for the NA market. It seems like good low hanging fruit for Toy.

A man step would be a good move. Modern materials, suspension innovation, turbos... all good ideas that would help to set them apart but not necessarily necessary if they address the other stuff.

uh huh...

Love the hand pull E-brake. Was GREAT with a manual tranny off road when stopped on an incline or decline. You could feather the clutch until it caught they release the e brake by hand while using the throttle. Granted there was also the clutch start safety kill button but if you weren't stalled the ebrake was nice for such situations.

Diesel? Nope... Here on PUTC, everyone talks about how if any manufacture comes out with diesel in a halfton or midsize, people would line up for it. So far, nope. I think toyota made the right decision to not offer a diesel in snowflake class trucks. Leave it in the HD trucks.

@ Yard sale

Again, add something to the comment section

No change ever!! So pathetically sad!

If you really care then you need to contact Toyota personally, if not just sthu

I had a '17 Off Road. Sold it after a year. The motor is completely unsuited for truck duty. NVH is horrible. Mileage towing was barely better than my lifted and armored V8 2000 Land Cruiser. Change out the crappy Goodyear Wranglers to a real A/T tire and you'll knock 4mpg off the mileage. And why the hell do I have to buy a $3500 tech package (with a SUNROOF) to get a homelink garage door opener? Lousy option choices, bad ride, bad motor, drum brakes, crappy stereo. I traded it with 17K on the odo and I don't miss it at all. Not one bit. Went back to my Land Cruiser to tow stuff with.

Went back to my Land Cruiser to tow stuff with...Posted by: gatormark91 | Feb 19, 2019

You bought an Off-Road trimmed midsize V6 pickup to tow with? BTW I agree with your observations about the Tacoma but the towing part really caught my eye --- not in a good way.

I have a 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 and my husband is
6’2” he fits in there fine, no complaints about leg room. We have the 4 door and that may make a difference in the leg room. For me my truck is absolutely perfect. This is by far the best vehicle I’ve ever had, and I’ve had lots of them. It’s also my favorite. It’s Toyota Tacoma for me from here on out.

Totally agree with this. I'm a 2018 Tacoma owner and I'm worried Toyota has gone full Apple iPhone on us. Abusing the faith of loyal customers with minor upgrades that done really add anything to the truck. Another thing I'd love to see added along with the things mentioned above is front locking diff as well as rear. It's a truck, make it better as a truck not a daily driver

I've watched some videos of crawl control and related systems. I have a hard time believing even 1/10th of owners would ever use it. You really need cruise control when climbing or descending a steep hill? And how many people really take their truck on that kind of road anyways? I do a lot of hunting and fishing in some of the nastiest terrain in Idaho and never had the need for more than 4wd, halfway decent tires, and a locker of some type. So many gimmicky features on vehicles these days. No wonder they are so expensive.

Front seats!!!!!! And mileage. Seriously. Or I'll buy a danged Ridgeline next.

I like the new grill and agree many of the suggestions do make sense. Toyota is probably not going to redesign the Tacoma anytime soon. It will take losing a substantial number of sales for a completely new Tacoma

Toyota already has the best fix possible.

And that’s not being GM.

Shoehorn the 4.6 V8 into the new Tacoma to wake it up. Not like Toyota owners care about fuel economy anyway, though I wouldn't be surprised if it got better economy than the 3.5.

Quite simply, the truck looks tired...

Shoehorn the 4.6 V8 into the new Tacoma to wake it up. Not like Toyota owners care about fuel economy anyway, though I wouldn't be surprised if it got better economy than the 3.5.
Posted by: BD

Not the right solution (v8). A turbo 2.7 DOHC would be the trick in these trucks. 8-speed trans, or 6-speed manual. The last thing this truck needs is a whole lot more weight over the front wheels.

This is a funny article. Number 5 really? No problem. Like lets not make a truck like dodge to where the brake pedal doesnt fall the f**ck off......Distinctive.

Since I am practically the one of a few that are actual long-term Tacoma owners, my opinion holds more weight because I drive two Tacoma's right now!

1. Rear drum brakes? WHO CARES! I have owned Toyota trucks built in the 1980's and guess what? No issues whatsoever and no braking issues. My desert racing truck had rear drums, again no issues. Rear drums are less expensive and have rather low maintenance and cost to them. Why change?


2. Transmission? I have the 2.7 liter truck engine in both of trucks, one is mated to the 5-speed manual and the other to the 6-speed auto. Both work fine. I prefer the 5-speed because it works wonders with the 4.10's in the rear. Not saying the 4.30's are bad with the auto but manual is always the better way. And with issues with loads or hills, READ THE OWNERS MANUAL and learn how to use the ECT button. It works fine to pass vehicles and carry a load. Geesh!


3. Special editions? Don't care!


4. Improve crawl control? It just came out not long ago. Learn to drive better, that is far superior than crawl control as are better tires, improved off-road angles, etc...

5. Do something distinctive? Or as it should be called, liberal femininize the truck? NOPE! Just build a truck, thank you very much!

Tacoma sales prove that you do not need such bells and whistles to sell trucks people want. Toyota has a strong loyalty base that denies what the leftist media harps about all of the time!

@oxi--Maybe you are right. You have owned Tacomas for many years and you would know more about them than most of us. Toyota at least doesn't have to close plants and sell off assets to make a profit. I believe Toyota will be in existence long after Ford and GM are gone unless the Chinese buy GM.

http://5dayweightlossplan.com

Toyota will be in existence long after Ford and GM are gone unless the Chinese buy GM...Posted by: Jeff s | Feb 19, 2019

@the FAKE Jeff

Sounds like it must be morning in Australia...

Toyota NEEDS to offer this exact combo in the USA:
2019 Tacoma TRD ACCESS CAB V6 6 SPEED MANUAL 4x4.
They build it in Canada with an available engine block heater.
Just try and import one and see what hoops you have to go through to get it here.
This is right out of Toyotas brochure.

"Available in Access Cab and Double Cab
Adds to or replaces features offered on TRD Sport
TRD Pro.3.5-Liter DOHC V6 direct-injection Atkinson-cycle with 278 hp
@ 6000 rpm; 265 lb.-ft. @ 4600 rpm: 6-speed manual transmission
or 6-speed automatic transmission."
They USED to build it here in the US. Their 2019 brochure says its available, page 23, but when you go to order it, forget about it.
This is verbatim from Toyota also.
"If you would prefer a vehicle with no or different options, contact your dealer to check for current availability or the possibility of placing a special order." Forget about this also.
What a disservice to the USA.

Toyota SHOULD be saying to its customer base, "Look what we have, you can't find this anywhere else" Step up to a vehicle you can control when and what you NEED it to do.
Toyota, get with the program.

@papajim--No morning in Japan and South Korea. You forgot that Australia no longer has an auto industry. Toyota is a profitable company that does not have to close plants and sell off assets. We will see how GM does in the next few years but if the next 5 to 10 years is more of the same then get the lifeboats out. I like companies that don't need bailouts. I would like to see a GM beyond what they are now.

It needs more cowbell.

Garbage truck drivers love disc brakes.

@papajim--No morning in Japan...Posted by: Jeff s | Feb 19, 2019

Are you a total fool? Japan's economy has been in the crapper right up to the handle since the 1990s. They're in a long term recession and they've tried everything to change it.

Japan's economy stopped being prosperous the very second American lawmakers insisted on getting equal treatment in trade deals.

Can you say Chicken Tax Jeff?

@papajim--I wonder how many Chinese parts the Colorado and Silverado have over what Tacoma and Tundra have. This trade dispute with China must really be hurting GM. If it lasts any longer it might be time for GM to outsource those Chinese parts to Vietnam and Cambodia.

I have a 2016 Tacoma. I can't say I love it enough. Someone posted they were built for small people. I'm 6' 2" and it fits me like a glove. I won't drive anything else. Best vehicle I have ever owned and I am way overdue for my AARP card.

Please be more discerning about the stuff you read & believe in the press. Steel's been cheaper during the last couple of months than it was a year ago.

Both Ford and GM used the "trade" beef to try and soften up their unhappy shareholders a few months ago. Don't believe everything you hear on CNN.

@papajim--You mean the tax that helps prop up GM, Ford, and FCA by protecting domestic trucks that was enacted in 1963 by President Johnson to retaliate against European tariffs on our poultry. So you actually believe that the Chicken Tax was originally enacted in response to Japanese competition. I guess you believe that the current POTUS emancipated all slaves. Which automobile manufacturer has more sales globally GM or Toyota? I know you will say GM because of US sales since the rest of the World doesn't exist. Toyota is a Global Corporation and GM is almost not a Global Corporation if you take China away. The Japanese have a much smaller country land wise and population wise but they have one the biggest auto manufacturing industries globally. Where GM fails in a market usually Toyota is very successful. Toyota might have some boring products but they are very reliable. GM at one time had some of the best and exciting vehicles but they have become boring as well. Toyotas future is bright and GM's future is questionable.

@papajim--ok I admit it was 1964 that the Chicken Tax was enacted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_tax
The Chicken Tax is a 25 percent tariff on light trucks (and originally on potato starch, dextrin, and brandy) imposed in 1964 by the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson in response to tariffs placed by France and West Germany on importation of U.S. chicken.

I still didn't see that this tax was enacted as a retaliatory measure against the Japanese manufacturers. I admit it did affect them.

@papajim--You must be very proud of the high Chinese part content in your Silvey. Make China Great Again!

@Robert Hanley--Your comments are typical of most Tacoma owners. Most seem to really like their Tacomas. I do like that Tacoma is still one of the few that offers a 6 speed manual.

We took a 2017 Tacoma 4 door TRD off-road for an extended (weekend) test drive, thanks to Milton Martin Toyota in GA.
I’m over 6’ and I couldn’t sit comfortably with 3 car seats in the back, especially since one had to be rear facing.
That was the deal breaker.

The engine power and new transmission were okay, but nothing like the 4.0 4 Runner. But we didn’t need/want another SUV.

Oxi can claim I’m a liberal or a Toyota hater, but we got a full-size, all the kids fit and Mom and Dad have comfy seats up front.
The full-size also allowed me to stop using the hunting truck or Momma’s V8 SUV for towing duties.

@ James,

Yes a liberal because you have 3 kids and I am sure demand government benefits because you decided to have 3 kids. Typical.

Why on earth would you buy a truck with 3 kids? You should by the Sienna minivan. If you need more traction, they have an AWD version. It is safer for your children, trucks are not.

You have the nerve to whine about the Tacoma yet you really should be not looking at one with your family. Geesh...

Next gen Tacoma ideas:

New 4-cylinder engine. Refined, bullet proof like the current 2.7 and the 22R series. I am thinking around 2.5 liters with about 180hp and 210 ft/lbs for torque. Nothing major because I would rather have that reliability and one tough little engine than the manhood power issues. No turbo's either.

Offer the 5-speed or I guess the 6-speed manual. Auto's are handicap and people who are lazy drivers.

Keep the larger wheel wells. It is nice that I can run 32" tires under my SR 4x4 with no mods. Try that Colorado and Ranger! Your entry 4x4 that is...

Keep the 6 foot bed option and throw a few more tow hooks and other hidden compartments. I use both of my rear compartments for the wood that I lay across to hold my sand bags in winter and water tank in summer.

Everything else is manageable because I am no feminist that seeks all of these bells and whistles, just good stuff that a truck needs and keeps cost down and ownership of cost down.

Simple, not complex for me!

@James--Get what you need. A full size truck is what you need especially if you hauling around kids. Not everyone needs the same size of truck.

@James---consider a 1 ton crew cab dually. You never know when you might need to tow 25,000 pounds; why get less than you need?



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