This Toyota SUV Could Preview the New Tacoma

The Highlander dropped its 3.5-liter V6. Could the next-gen Tacoma do the same?

2023 toyota highlander parked in a show room
James Moses

The next-generation Toyota Tacoma is expected to arrive soon — potentially for the 2024 model year. Toyota has not revealed details about the new truck yet. And the camouflage on the new truck when it has been spied out testing has been extensive. But we may have received a sneak peek at changes coming for the Tacoma with the updated 2023 Highlander.

2023 toyota highlander engine bay showing new 24 liter engine
James Moses

Toyota dropped the naturally-aspirated V8 from the new Tundra and other TNGA-F-based models for a turbocharged V6. Toyota is expected to alter the Tacoma similarly, downsizing it from a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 to a turbocharged four-cylinder. Speculation has centered on the new 2.4-liter inline-four in the Lexus NX 350. That is the change Toyota just made with the 2023 Highlander.

The Highlander's new base, non-hybrid engine is Toyota's turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four. In Highlander tuning, it will put out 265 horsepower, which is a 30 hp drop from the 295 hp V6. But the engine gets a substantial increase in torque, bumping up to 309 lb-ft from 263 lb-ft and should feel quicker in everyday driving. The same engine puts out 275 hp and 317 lb-ft in the Lexus NX.

toyota tacoma
Toyota

A power and torque output somewhere around there would be reasonable and an upgrade for the Tacoma. But fuel economy — an area where Tacoma fans will be looking for improvement in the next generation — may be a concern. Switching from a naturally-aspirated V6 to the new turbocharged four-cylinder did not improve the average fuel economy for the Highlander, which will still earn about 24 mpg combined. The NX 350 with that engine achieves 25 mpg.

Currently, the Tacoma earns 20 mpg combined with the V6, the automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. Theoretically, the Tacoma would gain more efficiency than the Highlander from the transition by upgrading its dated six-speed automatic to a modern eight-speed transmission. But it still looks like it would yield more of an incremental shift than a dramatic one that would come from a potential hybrid or all-electric Tacoma.

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