It’s no secret Toyota trucks don’t get updated often, and when they do, it’s not always a big change. The differences between the second- and third-generation Tacoma weren’t huge, and the third-gen has been on sale since 2015 with a minor facelift last year. The mechanically related 4Runner? It’s been mostly the same since 2010. That all changes for the next generation of each, when they move to an all-new global platform shared with the legendary Toyota Hilux pickup.
While fans are perfectly happy with the 2021 toyota tacoma and generally think the 2021 Toyota 4Runner only needs a few updates, both are in line for some major changes. Industry watchers will be aware Toyota has been moving all its cars and SUVs onto various sizes of its Toyota Next Generation Architecture (TNGA) over the past decade, and now it’s time for the pickup trucks and old-school SUVs to follow suit.
Architectures or platforms are the basis on which a vehicle is built. In modern design, they’re really a set of measurements and “hard points” that can be shared by multiple vehicles to reduce cost and complexity. With things like the position of the firewall, the locations of the axles, the track width, and more fixed, engineers can easily design different cars or SUVs out of those dimensions without having to design the whole vehicle from scratch.
The Tacoma and 4Runner already share a platform, and hardcore Toyota fans will know they share a common ancestor with the Toyota Hilux. Originally mechanically related to the Toyota Pickup, the two diverged in the mid-1990s. Now, the Tacoma and 4Runner are sold in the Americas and the Hilux and Fortuner (a global 4Runner-like SUV based on the Hilux) are sold elsewhere. Now, as Toyota consolidates its various global platforms for similar vehicles, the Tacoma, 4Runner, Hilux, and Fortuner are all moving onto a new next-generation platform.
While specific details are scarce, we can take a lot of direction from the latest project in this strategy, the consolidation of the Tundra pickup and Land Cruiser SUV onto one platform. The two vehicles now share a common ladder frame, which is built in different lengths depending on the model but is otherwise the same. All share the same suspension design: control arms in front and a five-link setup with coil springs and a live axle in the rear. Under the hood are common mounting points for a shared 3.4-liter twin-turbo V-6 and 10-speed automatic transmission, and the ability to easily share other powertrains in the future.
For the Tacoma, 4Runner, Hilux, and Fortuner, the strategy will almost certainly be the same. A shared frame, shared suspension design and components, and some sharing of powertrains. The nice thing about a ladder frame is you can bolt any cab or body you want to the top of it, so each vehicle can utilize design elements specific to their markets. In other words, the Tacoma and Hilux won’t necessarily look like each other (they don’t today), but they’ll be effectively the same underneath. Same for the 4Runner and Fortuner.
Platform sharing also allows for electrical architecture sharing, meaning every vehicle on a platform can use the same tech. That goes for everything from infotainment systems to off-road driving aids and safety systems. This will be a big step forward for all the trucks involved, as none are currently running Toyota’s latest and greatest tech.
The unanswered question at this point is the fate of the Lexus GX and Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, which also use a version of the chassis found under the 4Runner and are similar in size to both the 4Runner and Fortuner. Toyota officials wouldn’t confirm if the GX and Prado will move onto the TNGA platform variant that will be used for the Tacoma/Hilux/4Runner/Fortuner. But if the GX and Prado are to survive another generation, there’s no sense in constructing a different platform for them.