Toyota Tacoma Generations: Through the Years

Since it replaced the Toyota Pickup, the Toyota Tacoma name has stuck. Learn all about the evolution and the generations of this Toyota success story.

The Need for the Tacoma

2024 Toyota Tacoma -

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The Toyota Tacoma wasn’t a brand-new concept. It was more of a rebrand. Toyota has offered U.S. customers some form of pickup truck since 1964. Originally, there was the Toyota Stout and the Hi-Lux. Those names went away as Toyota simply called their truck the ‘Toyota Pickup.’

The shift away (and back) towards the light pickup truck is an interesting one. As more size, space and power became more routinely expected by customers, the demand for compact trucks changed. By the mid-90s, though, compact trucks were so popular that Toyota saw the need for a properly named compact pickup truck. That’s where the idea for the Toyota Tacoma first came from.

In 1995 the Toyota Pickup became the Toyota Tacoma. Roughly translated as ‘snow-covered mountain,’ Tacoma was the Coast Salish Peoples’ name for Mount Rainier, the 14,411-foot peak that overshadows the Seattle area. It’s an appropriate enough choice given the Tacoma’s ability to weather the elements and navigate various kinds of terrain.

The fourth-generation Tacoma is still going strong. In fact, we just published our full review of the all-new, freshly redesigned 2024 Toyota Tacoma. We’re starting further back though. So, go on. Take a look at the photos, read about the specs, and learn about the evolution of the Toyota Tacoma.

First Generation Toyota Tacoma (1995–2004)

1995 Toyota Tacoma -

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  • Initial designs for the newly named Toyota Tacoma were developed at Toyota’s California design center. The first Toyota Tacoma generation lasted nearly 10 years.
  • A 1995 Tacoma was equipped with a 142-horsepower 2.4L four-cylinder, a 150 horsepower 2.7L four-cylinder, and a 3.4L V6 that developed 190 horsepower. It could either be ordered with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission.
  • Two-wheel drive (2WD) ‘95 Tacomas were available with the 2.4L or 3.4L automatic and manual transmissions. Four-wheel drive (4WD) and PreRunner Tacoma trucks were available with the 2.7L and 3.4L engines.
  • PreRunner and Double Cab models came only with an automatic transmission for the first generation. At the same time, buyers of the regular cab and Xtracab four-wheel drive could choose from a manual or automatic transmission.
  • Beyond a more stylish exterior, more comfortable interior, and improved ride quality over the old Toyota Pickup, the new 1955 Toyota Tacoma also featured improved safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes.
  • From 1997 on, the 2.4L or 2.7L four-cylinder engines were available with the standard cab.
1998 Toyota Tacoma -
1998 Toyota Tacoma -
  • A TRD Off-Road package was introduced in 1998, which added a locking rear differential, among other off-roading goodies. The package was only available on PreRunner and four-wheel-drive models equipped with a V6.
  • Toyota added a new crew cab model to the lineup in October 2000. The crew cab, officially called the Double Cab, featured four doors.
  • A few new colors were added to the 2000 Tacoma, and the models were given an enhanced gear ratio for better performance.
  • Upgrades on 2003 Toyota Tacoma models included standard antilock brakes on all models and some safety in the form of child restraint system lower anchors being added to several of the seats.

Second Generation Toyota Tacoma (2005–2015)

2005 Toyota Tacoma -
2005 Toyota Tacoma -
  • Toyota unveiled a bigger and more powerful second-generation Tacoma in early 2004 at the Chicago Auto Show, with the first models available for sale in October 2004. The research phase started much earlier than that, though. Toyota began developing the second-gen Tacoma in 2000.
  • Starting with the second generation, the Tacoma was available in Canada and Mexico. Second-generation Tacoma models were assembled in Tijuana, Mexico and Fremont, California until 2009, when Toyota relocated production from Fremont to San Antonio, Texas.
  • The new, bigger-than-before 2005 Tacoma was available in eighteen different configurations, including three cab configurations, four transmissions, two engines, and two bed lengths! Cab configurations consisted of a regular cab, access cab, and double cab. Now a mid-size pickup, the 2005 Tacoma had five feet or six feet beds.
2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner -
2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner -
  • Depending on the trim, transmissions included a four-speed automatic, five-speed automatic, five-speed manual, or six-speed manual. The base engine on a ‘05 Tacoma was an all-new 159-horsepower four-cylinder. The new 236-horsepower V6 replaced the 3.4-liter V6 and helped raise the tow rating to 6,500 lbs and the payload capacity to 1,650 lbs.
  • Toyota also introduced the X-Runner trim on the 2005 model. This replaced the S-Runner model. The X-Runner featured a V6 engine paired with the six-speed manual transmission.
  • Other enhancements on the 2005 Tacoma included 18-inch alloy wheels, chassis reinforcements, and a suspension package that lowered ride height by two inches.
  • 2006 Toyota Tacoma models remained mostly unchanged. Outside of a couple of new interior colors, so did the 2007 Tacoma.
  • In 2008, Toyota announced a 15-year, unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty for first-generation Tacomas between 1995 and 2000 model years. This was due to around 800,000 vehicles being affected by frame corrosion.
2009 Toyota Tacoma -
2009 Toyota Tacoma -
  • A 2009 facelift included a revised grille on some models, new LED taillamps, and smoked headlamp trim on the X-Runner, TRD Off-Road, and TRD Sport models.
  • Another change for the 2009 Tacoma: it adopted an open differential with an electronic system instead of the mechanical limited-slip differential. The new system engaged individual wheel braking to replicate the function. TRD off-road models continued to feature a locking rear differential.
  • For 2011 models, Toyota added a couple of automatic transmissions in addition to the manual transmissions. The front grille was also slightly redesigned on some trims, and air conditioning became standard across the lineup.
  • The 2012 Tacoma was updated inside and out. The refresh included a new front bumper, headlights, grille, hood, and shark fin antenna. Some new tech, like SiriusXM capability, was also added.
  • Other than a new Limited package, the 2013 Tacoma was unchanged, but it was the last year of the X-Runner. The sporty version of the Tacoma was eliminated from the 2014 offerings. Instead, a new SR appearance package was introduced. It added exclusive 16-inch alloy wheels, smoked headlights and fog lights, and mirror-mounted turn signals.
  • For the last model year of the third generation, the 2015 Toyota Tacoma eliminated the regular cab, then only offered as an extended cab and crew cab. The TRD TX Baja was also replaced by the TRD Pro package with better suspension, a more aggressive look, and cat-back exhaust.
Toyota Tacoma Concept -
Toyota Tacoma Concept -
  • In 2015, Toyota and Universal Pictures celebrated the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future with a Toyota Tacoma Concept. It was based on the upcoming 2016 Tacoma and inspired by the original Toyota HiLux pickup that was featured in the movie. This concept showed off the same black color paint trim, K.C. HiLite driving lamps, and mud flaps, among other features.

Third Generation Toyota Tacoma (2016–2023)

2016 Toyota Tacoma –

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  • Toyota presented the third-generation 2016 Toyota Tacoma at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2015 before putting it up for sale in September of 2015.
  • The third generation Tacoma truck’s styling, based mostly on the 2014 4Runner SUV and the 2014 model year Tundra pickup, featured a more aggressive appearance with a larger grille and projector-beam headlamps. The tailgate and bed were also redesigned with a debossed Tacoma logo.
  • It didn’t just look different, though. New design elements also reduced drag and generated increased fuel economy. Toyota constructed the new frame from high-strength steel, increasing the frame’s rigidity and lowered its weight. The body was also built using high-strength steel through a new hot stamping process, which reduced weight.
  • The Tacoma was offered in Access Cab and Double Cab configurations with short or long beds, but the Regular Cab model was discontinued. Other updates on the 2016 Tacoma included the suspensions, rear differentials, and rear axle to improve the truck’s road manners while maintaining its off-road capabilities.
  • The interior was upgraded with soft-touch materials, replacing the previous generation’s hard plastics. Also, a leather option was added. A larger touchscreen display was mounted in an all-new instrument panel. For the first time, Toyota offered dual climate control in the third-generation Tacoma.
2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited -
2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited -
  • The 2016 Tacoma was initially available in six distinct trims: base S.R., mid-level SR5, TRD Off Road, TRD Sport, Limited, and the range-topping TRD Pro. The TRD Off Road trim models featured an all-new terrain select mode, allowing drivers to choose between terrain like loose rock, mud, and sand. A CRAWL mode enabled drivers to steer in challenging terrain while the truck’s computer managed braking and acceleration at the same time.
  • For 2017 Tacomas, the TRD Pro was given even greater off-road capability thanks to FOX Internal Bypass shocks, a TRD Pro cat-back exhaust, a special skid plate, and LED fog lights. It was also given a retro ‘TOYOTA’ grille.
  • A Toyota Safety Sense package became standard equipment on the 2018 Toyota Tacoma. That included forward-collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD -
2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD -
  • An available high-mounted snorkel air intake was one unique element added to the 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. It’s the most off-road ready of all the 2019 trim levels thanks to Fox internal bypass shocks, a thick front skid plate, all-terrain tires, and an extra inch of clearance.
  • For the 2020 model year, the Tacoma received an exterior refresh, but inside is where most of the changes happened. Some cabins were updated with a panoramic 360-degree camera, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa capability.
  • The Tacoma was really hitting its stride by 2021. 252,490 trucks manufactured and sold in 2021 alone. Those are Toyota’s best numbers for the Tacoma ever. Those numbers didn’t decrease much in 2022 and 2023 either.
  • 2023 models only had a few small changes, like new appearance packages for the SR5 trim, adding black or chrome features to it.

Fourth Generation Toyota Tacoma (2024–Present)

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro -

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  • They say not to fix what’s not broken, but you also need to stay up to date with technology and features. That’s exactly what Toyota is doing with the 2024 Tacoma. Toyota reimagined the Tacoma. It’s still a mid-sized truck, but it’s got plenty of options and some new amenities. Options include eight trims across the lineup, a RWD or 4WD configuration, and one of three engines.
  • First, we talked about Toyota teasing a hybrid powertrain with the 2024 Tacoma, and we were right. Toyota is partnering a hybrid battery pack and electric motor with a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. That’s a first for the Tacoma. The combined output is 326 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • The Tacoma still has gasoline-powered options, too, however. The old V6 was dropped in favor of the new 2.4-liter turbo. It puts out an updated 228 horsepower and 243 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s an improvement from the 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque on the 2023 Tacoma. A more powerful version puts out 278 horsepower and 317 lb.-ft. of torque.
  • These engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission.
  • In terms of trim levels, the Tacoma is offered as a SR, SR5, TRD PreRunner, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, TRD Pro, or a Trailhunter. More and more tech is added with each trim level. Some of that includes wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging, keyless entry on all doors, a wireless trailer camera, household-style power outlets in the cab and bed, a 14-inch touchscreen, and a 10-speaker JBL sound system with a removable center speaker that’s equipped with Bluetooth.
2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport -
2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport -
  • The off-roading Prerunner has locking rear differential, lifted front suspension, and underbody fuel tank protection. The TRD Sport adds coil-spring rear suspension as well as suspension dampers. Meanwhile, the TRD Off-Road has skid plates for the engine, fuel tank, and transfer case. That’s in addition to remote-reservoir suspension dampers.
2024 Toyota Tacoma -

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University. No stranger to newsgathering and reporting, Jesse spent 13 years in TV news. 10 of those years were spent working in Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR. A highlight of his time there was being able to take a lap around the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His interest in vehicles, starting with Matchbox cars, a Big Wheel, and the Transformers, evolved into taking photos of motocross events. Now, he puts his research skills to use on car culture, reviews, and comparisons.

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