New Tacoma’s threat to Gladiator, future Dakota

Jeep has staked out a unique niche in the midsize pickup market, good enough for a #3 share in 2022—with 77,855 sales, most likely exceeding Jeep’s original expectations. That is not likely to remain Mopar’s only midsize pickup , though; a new Dakota or Ram 1200 has long been rumored to be under active development for global sale.

The new pickup would most likely replace the Mitsubishi L200-based Ram 1200, which was never sold in the United States or Canada. As such, its primary competition in North America would likely be the Toyota Tacoma, which had 237,323 sales in 2022—absolutely dominating the market, with the #2 Chevrolet Colorado only reaching 89,197 sales (adding  the GMC Canyon version brings that to 117,016, which is still less than half the Tacoma).

toyota tacoma

One can see why there has been no Dodge Dakota until now; competing head to head against the Tacoma would be a fool’s game, without some unique differentiators or global markets. Toyota is not making it easy for Stellantis, either.

The Tacoma remains body-on-frame. The standard engine is now a 2.4 liter four-cylinder which produces 278 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, which is roughly comparable to Chrysler’s Pentastar V6. A hybrid version comes in with 326 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque; in both cases, the gasoline engine is turbocharged. The standard transmission on all but the base model is an eight-speed automatic, which would likely be Ram’s choice as well; Toyota also has a six-speed manual transmission for the base models (power is limited to 270 hp and 310 lb-ft with this transmission).

While Ram has made a niche for itself with its multilink rear suspension, the only one available for a Ram 2500-class truck, Toyota has matched that with an optional multi-link rear suspension on some trim levels. Leaf springs will be standard on three trim groups. Toyota has also made four-wheel disc brakes, an electronically controlled parking brake, and electric power steering standard.

Jeep Gladiator in Earl paint

The Gladiator itself gets a little competition from the Tacoma TRD PreRunner trim line, which is optimized for off-road use and comes with monotube Bilstein remote reservoir shock absorbers. The TRD Pro comes with Fox’s QS3 three-way adjustable internal bypass shocks with remote reservoirs and internal floating piston rear bump stops.

The Trailhunter trim level, which seems to echo Jeep’s TrailHawk, has aftermarket accessories from outside vendors pre-installed, including a custom-designed ARB 4×4 suspension and high-output air compressor in the bed for reinflating large-diameter tires. Towing has been increased to 6,500 pounds (SR5, TRD PreRunner XtraCab), with payload maxing out at 1,709 lb on TRD Off-Road.

Towing is eased with a trailer brake controller, backup guide, and digital display mirror; Straight Path Assist is designed to help the truck and trailer back up in a straight line, with 360 degree cameras showing hard to see areas around the truck and trailer. As with Jeeps, the blind spot monitor can be altered to recognize blind spots for some trailers.

Convenience features include an optional 400W AC inverter in the bed and cab, and a 2400W AC inverter on hybrids. 12V power is also available in bed and cabin.

All Tacomas will have an automatic limited slip differential; four wheel drive comes with a two-speed transfer case. An electronic locking rear differential is standard on TRD and Trailhunter. Limited has full time four wheel drive with a center locking differential. Toyota followed Jeep in adding an electrically disconnecting front stabilizer bar—which is compatible with Toyota approved lift kits.

The TRD Pro has up to 33.8° approach, 23.5° breakover, and 25.7° departure angles, without the tow package; running ground clearance on this model is up to 11 inches. This compares to Gladiator’s 43.6° approach, 20.3° breakover, and 26° departure angles, and 11.1 inches of ground clearance.

The interior has a 14 inch touch-screen which can show front camera input. The truck has multi-terrain selection in both 4WD high and 4WD low, with a new crawl control function.

The gasoline-only versions will be on sale late in 2023, while the hybrid will show up in early 2024; this is before the expected Dodge Dakota replacement.

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