There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2024 Toyota Tacoma. The new generation midsize pickup is destined to keep heads turning, and to burn up the sales charts as it has done for many years. But there is a lot of competition in the midsize space, especially when you consider how certain trucks continue to evolve and improve in key areas. This keeps them ahead of their nearest rivals in certain categories, such as towing for the off-road focused machines. Whether you’re heading off-road with some vehicles in tow such as ATVs or snowmobiles, or bringing gear with you to a your favorite off-road spot, towing is an important capability for off-road trucks.
You can make the argument that midsize trucks aren’t really designed to do towing all that well, especially these newest off-road focused trucks. You could also make an argument that if you’re looking to get into towing, you’re better off choosing a dually or a full-size pickup. But people still love to use their midsize enthusiast trucks to tow all sorts of things, and that’s not going to change, even for the midsize segment. When it comes to the new generation Tacoma, how does it fare against one of its nearest rivals, the Ford Ranger? If you look at the raw numbers and some of the past performance of both vehicles, it paints a fairly clear picture of what the towing capabilities are between the 2024 Ford Ranger vs 2024 Toyota Tacoma.
Glimpsing the Specs: 2024 Ford Ranger
The all-new fifth generation 2024 Ford Ranger is a bold new direction for the blue oval’s brand of midsize pickups. It also stands distinctly apart from Ford’s other midsize offering, the wildly popular bare-bones yet quite modular Ford Maverick. The highlight of the Ranger, however, is that if you want a practical, off-road ready truck, you can get that in the Ranger.
The base 2024 Ranger has an all new powertrain line-up that goes beyond the outgoing generation’s 2.3L turbocharged I-4. This engine returns for 2024, making a respectable 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. New for 2024, however, is the option of a much more capable 2.7L EcoBoost turbocharged V6, making an outstanding 315 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Both of these engines are married to the quite reliable ten-speed automatic transmission.
The real meat and potatoes here is that the lightweight, high-strength steel frame and reinforced structure gives the Ranger an impressive leg up when it comes to towing. Combined with a proper suspension setup and wheel configuration, the Ranger has a maximum towing capacity of up to 7,500 lbs. The 1,805 lb payload capacity is impressive as well.
It’s worth mentioning the Ranger Raptor, as well. We’ll go into more detail later about its off-road prowess, which is its main purpose in life. If you’re primarily interested in towing capabilities, though, the Raptor may not be the best choice for you. What it gains in off-road capabilities, it gives up in towing capacity, which is down to 5,500 lbs, as well as payload capacity, down to 1,411 lbs. While the Raptor is the best option when it comes to hauling butt, it’s the weakest when it comes to hauling cargo.
Glimpsing the Specs: 2024 Toyota Tacoma
A new generation Tacoma means new performance specs, new capabilities, and new competitive rankings, right? Yes, and no. The Tacoma by no means is a slouch when it comes to improving its overall specs for the fourth generation outing. An extremely bold new design is married to an equally bold new powertrain line-up. In fact, the entire previous generation’s powertrain configurations have been totally tossed out.
Much like how Chevy standardized the powertrain for the newest Colorado, Toyota took a similar approach for the new generation Tacoma. What that translates into is a series of three different configurations of a 2.4L i-FORCE Turbo I-4. Yes, the Tacoma for 2024 no longer rocks a V6 like the outgoing model year, or like the Ranger. This includes two different combustion options and a hybrid option with different horsepower and torque ratings. The standard engine puts out 228 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque. Higher trim levels gain access to a more highly tuned version of this engine, making from 270 to 278 horsepower and 310 to 317 lb-ft of torque. Believe it or not, the hybrid version is the powerhouse option, generating 326 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, an impressive figure for a midsize truck.
Where does that leave the Tacoma in the towing department? The payload has increased for the 2024 Toyota Tacoma by 1.5%, up to 1,709 lbs from 1,685 lbs in the outgoing model. Unfortunately, the overall towing capacity has actually shrunk by approximately 4.5%, down to 6,500 lbs as opposed to the outgoing generation’s 6,800 lbs. What’s interesting, however, is that the 6,500 lb limit was actually the common figure for the off-road TRD iterations of the Tacoma, so it will be interesting to see if the other TRD trims for the Tacoma also come up just shy of the max trailering limit for the 2024 model. None of these figures match what the Ranger offers.
Tacoma’s Off-Roading Options
One of the biggest differences between the two midsize pickups is in their off-road offerings, and how they scale is quite interesting. The 2024 Tacoma has multiple off-road trims, including the TRD PreRunner, TRD Off-Road, TRD Pro, and the all new Trailhunter. The TRD iterations of the Tacoma have FOX-tuned suspension via QS3 internal bypass shocks situated inside of 2.5-inch aluminum housings. Remote reservoirs for electronically controlled damping on the rear axle, and 33-inch Goodyear Territory rugged-terrain tires help give the truck stability and control across all manner of different terrain. There’s also the stability offered inside the cabin with the IsoDynamic performance seats, to reduce bounce and jounce when traveling off-road.
The 2024 Tacoma’s specialized off-road trim is the Tacoma Trailhunter. It forgoes the TRD nomenclature and dives head-first into attempting to separate itself from the competition. It does a mighty fine job of it based on looks alone. The Trailhunter has an overlanding exterior overhaul with signature colors, a custom ARB sports bar in the bed, a distinctive roof rack, and a custom air intake. The Tacoma replaces the FOX internal bypass shocks with a custom Old Man Emu suspension kit, featuring monotube shock absorbers with remote reservoirs and 33-inch Goodyear Territory rugged-terrain tires on 18-inch wheels. Rock rails, multiple skid plates, and ARB steel bumpers help round out its features. It’s designed to be a rugged overlander, and it has the equipment and specs to back it up.
Ranger Raises the Off-Road Bar With the Raptor
The standard 2024 Ranger is only available in three trims, which include the XL, XLT, and Lariat. The base Ranger doesn’t include an off-road specific model, but it does come with the optional FX4 package for the four-wheel drive versions of the Ranger. This includes an electronically locking rear differential, off-road rear shocks, all-terrain tires, multiple skid plates to protect the undercarriage, terrain management, Trail Control for one-pedal driving, and of course the FX4 decals. The FX4 package has been a long-standing option for Ford’s midsize and full-size pickup trucks. The optional upgrade is good enough for those looking for something basic to tackle off-road trails, dirt pathways, or muddy routes. If you need the standard Ranger’s superior towing and payload capabilities as well as basic off-road capabilities, the FX4 is the choice for you.
But what happens when you want something even more rugged? To compete with the Tacoma’s Trailhunter, Ford has the ace up their sleeve that they typically roll out when they meet stiff competition in the off-road sector: The Raptor.
Unlike the 2024 Tacoma TRD series or even the Trailhunter, the 2024 Ranger Raptor features a Watts-link rear suspension with four-corner FOX live-valve shocks. This means it’s not just the rear suspension that gets electronically controlled damping, but every wheel. This makes a huge difference when performing off-road activities like extreme rock climbing, or either uphill or downhill crawling. The one-pedal Trail Control really comes in handy for maximizing features like the electronically controlled damping across each of the four wheels, so you can focus more on the adventure rather than fighting to maintain control of the truck.
There’s the added bonus of 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO3 tires with 18-inch wheels tucked inside, multiple skid plates, and the massive power of the Raptor-exclusive twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 that outputs 406 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. This gives the 2024 Ranger Raptor a significant leg up in power, performance, and capabilities over the 2024 Tacoma Trailhunter. Combine that with the infotainment off-road profiles you can customize with the MyMode feature, and you have yourself one of the very best midsize pickups to tackle off-road challenges.
Off-Road and Towing Capable
The short round of the debate is that the Tacoma and Ranger are both highly capable, midsize trucks with some inviting off-road features. The 2024 models are fine tuned to accommodate the more performance-driven truck shoppers looking for great off-road capabilities. However, the Tacoma, while going strong with a great look and a more performance tuned powertrain line-up in its standard models (The Ranger Raptor is in a league of its own), forfeits some of its trailering capabilities coming off the previous model year. It loses a small bit of its total towing capacity, and that could hurt it in the eyes of those looking for a midsize truck that’s both off-road capable and towing capable. The Ranger, meanwhile, boasts some great off-road qualities with special models like the Ranger Raptor, while the standard Ranger is the best choice when it comes to towing capabilities. Unlike the Tacoma, the Ranger maintains its tow rating from the outgoing model, which is something to keep in mind if you want a midsize truck that does more than just jump dunes and crawl rocks.