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2024 Toyota Tacoma Hybrid Review: A Lot More Power, a Little More MPG

toyota tacoma i force max limited 2024 01 exterior dynamic front angle scaled jpg 2024 Toyota Tacoma Limited | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry
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Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Cars.com Research section. Email Mike Hanley

The verdict: The new i-Force Max hybrid powertrain available in the redesigned 2024 Toyota Tacoma is another step in the truck’s evolution into a modern mid-size pickup.

Versus the competition: Once one of the older (but still popular) mid-size trucks on the market, the Tacoma is now one of the most modern, positioning it well to compete with the recently updated Chevrolet Colorado and Ford Ranger. The 2024 Tacoma also now has the distinction of being the only truck in its class with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain, which is built for performance first and modest fuel economy gains second.

The two Tacoma generations immediately prior to the truck’s 2024 redesign were similar in size and appearance, and both had a relatively utilitarian interior. But Toyota’s focus on incremental improvements rather than wholesale changes has been popular with shoppers, with the previous-generation Tacoma still selling more than 200,000 copies a year at the end of its life cycle.

Related: 2024 Toyota Tacoma: Which Trim Is Right for You?

We first reviewed the new 2024 Tacoma late last year when Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman tested many of the truck’s available trim levels, and after recently traveling to San Diego to drive hybrid-equipped Tacomas and the off-road-oriented TRD Pro and Trailhunter trims, we’ve now driven the newest members of the Tacoma’s extensive lineup. (Per Cars.com’s ethics policy, we pay for all travel and lodging at such manufacturer-sponsored events.)

Not Your Prius Powertrain

Toyota’s gas-electric hybrid systems are known for their impressive efficiency in vehicles like the Prius, Camry, RAV4 and Corolla, but the automaker has recently added hybrids to models like the Tundra pickup and Sequoia and Grand Highlander three-row SUVs that emphasize performance. That’s the route Toyota has taken with the 2024 Tacoma’s new i-Force Max powertrain, which pairs the truck’s turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine with a 48-horsepower electric motor between the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Total system output is 326 hp at 6,000 rpm and 465 pounds-feet of torque at just 1,700 rpm. Both figures are considerably higher than the 278 hp and 317 pounds-feet of torque that the gas-only turbo four-cylinder makes in most Tacomas.

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Power from the i-Force Max hybrid system is readily apparent in everyday driving; the Tacoma accelerates swiftly when you get on the gas, even with three adults aboard, and it pulls strongly up to highway speeds. It feels like there’s a much larger engine under the hood than what’s actually there thanks to the system’s abundant low-end torque.

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Not only powerful, the hybrid system is also refined. Our street drive was in a Tacoma Limited, and the gas engine and electric motor work seamlessly together, with the automatic transmission making smooth shifts as needed. The truck can operate on electric power alone at slower speeds, but on the hilly and winding roads where I drove the truck, the gas engine remained on most of the time.

And while it does still feel like a truck, the Tacoma’s driving manners are also relatively refined. The light-effort steering doesn’t offer much feedback, and brake-pedal feel is numb, but the Tacoma is easy to drive and feels manageable on narrow roads. It doesn’t feel small, mind you; like a number of other long-tenured models, the Tacoma has gotten larger over time, and its exterior dimensions now rival early versions of the Tundra full-size pickup. You look out over a long hood from the driver’s seat, but Toyota has addressed the low, legs-out driving position of prior Tacomas, and this has significantly improved front-seat comfort.

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Don’t expect the Tacoma hybrid to deliver the type of high fuel economy figures that many of Toyota’s hybrid cars — or even the Ford Maverick hybrid compact pickup — achieve. The most efficient four-wheel-drive, automatic-transmission Tacoma with the gas-only turbo four-cylinder is rated 21 mpg combined, while the most efficient Limited trim level of the Tacoma hybrid is rated 24 mpg combined. That’s good by mid-size truck standards, however, especially considering the performance offered by the hybrid powertrain.

The torquey, powerful hybrid system seems like it’d be well suited for towing duty, but its maximum towing capacity of 6,000 pounds — when properly equipped — is a bit less than the gas-only four-cylinder’s towing maximum of 6,500 pounds.

Off-Roading in the Trailhunter and TRD Pro

The i-Force Max hybrid is the exclusive powertrain of the Trailhunter and TRD Pro versions of the Tacoma, and we drove these off-road-focused trims on slow- and high-speed off-road courses. The hybrid’s low-end torque and power is also a benefit off-road, but the Tacoma’s capabilities on off-road trails are more defined by the tech of these two trim levels.

With features including 2.5-inch Old Man Emu shocks, a disconnecting front stabilizer system, 33-inch Goodyear Territory all-terrain tires on bronze 18-inch alloy wheels and Crawl Control, the Trailhunter was able to confidently creep up and down hilly, uneven trails that had the truck’s hood alternately pointed skyward and toward the dirt. The truck made it all seem easy, and with Crawl Control engaged and overseeing vehicle speed, I could focus entirely on steering the truck. Trailhunter and TRD Pro trims both come with Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Monitor that uses cameras to show what’s in front of, beside and behind the truck on the dashboard touchscreen. The system was a big help on the trails, giving you the ability to self-spot yourself when visibility was limited.

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The TRD Pro was on a separate, higher-speed off-road course, and while the power of the hybrid was appreciated here, the truck’s ability to handle the rough terrain without pummeling occupants in the process is more a reflection of its off-road hardware. Features include Fox 2.5-inch shocks, 33-inch Goodyear Territory all-terrain tires with black 18-inch alloy wheels, a front stabilizer disconnect and IsoDynamic Performance Seats that are exclusive to the TRD Pro. The IsoDynamic seats have a built-in shock-absorbing system that’s designed to reduce body movement and steady the head and neck. The truck’s soft landing following a small jump is a testament to the tech that’s at work in the TRD Pro.

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The Price of Performance

The i-Force Max hybrid powertrain adds $3,700 to the price of a TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road or Limited trim level of the 2024 Tacoma Double Cab with a 5-foot bed, and it’s standard on Trailhunter and TRD Pro trucks. The hefty upcharge along with modestly better combined gas mileage estimates means you shouldn’t expect to recoup the extra cost of the hybrid powertrain anytime soon from savings at the pump; running the math for someone who drives 10,000 miles a year and spends $4 a gallon on gas, you’re looking at 14 to nearly 16 years before you’ve made up the hybrid’s price premium. But if you’re considering the hybrid powertrain because you like the idea of a more powerful Tacoma that also gets a bit better gas mileage, then the i-Force Max hybrid is worth a look.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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