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Old 02-20-2024, 04:23 PM   #1
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2nd Gen Tacoma Upgrades

I currently tow my 2023 E19 with a stock 2014 Tacoma. It's a great truck, but it didn't take long to conclude that I want a more capable TV for long term travel plans. I find the biggest weakness is the lack of power while pulling mountain grades at high elevation.

My original plan was to replace it with either a new 4th generation Tacoma or a full-size Tundra in a couple of years. However, I've been giving more thought about keeping my current truck long term (another 10 years) and instead investing in various upgrades to improve its towing capability. The 2nd and 3rd gen Tacoma are incredibly well supported by the aftermarket...making a mid-life truck "overhaul" a definite possibility.

Potential improvements would include:

- Magnuson supercharger installed on the 4.0L V6 (contingent on an extensive engine health check...the truck currently has about 110K miles/176K kms). This is the same kit that was offered as a Toyota OEM dealer-installed option back in the day.
- Upgraded clutch
- New front and rear suspension (springs/shocks/ball joints/bushings/etc), optimized for operation at near-max payload.
- Possibly upgraded brake components (though the OEM brakes seem pretty good).
- LT-rated tires
- Rust-proof frame (no rust issues on the current frame, which still under Toyota's extended corrosion warranty for two more years)
- All other wear items/known weak points assessed and replaced as necessary

The budget for these upgrades would be considerable....probably exceeding what the truck is currently worth. However, it's still only a fraction of the cost of either new TV I'm considering.

With all that preamble out of the way, does anyone have experience towing their Escape with a supercharged 4.0L Tacoma or 4Runner? If so, how significant was the improvement?
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Old 02-21-2024, 11:02 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selkirk View Post
I currently tow my 2023 E19 with a stock 2014 Tacoma. It's a great truck, but it didn't take long to conclude that I want a more capable TV for long term travel plans. I find the biggest weakness is the lack of power while pulling mountain grades at high elevation.

My original plan was to replace it with either a new 4th generation Tacoma or a full-size Tundra in a couple of years. However, I've been giving more thought about keeping my current truck long term (another 10 years) and instead investing in various upgrades to improve its towing capability. The 2nd and 3rd gen Tacoma are incredibly well supported by the aftermarket...making a mid-life truck "overhaul" a definite possibility.

Potential improvements would include:

- Magnuson supercharger installed on the 4.0L V6 (contingent on an extensive engine health check...the truck currently has about 110K miles/176K kms). This is the same kit that was offered as a Toyota OEM dealer-installed option back in the day.
- Upgraded clutch
- New front and rear suspension (springs/shocks/ball joints/bushings/etc), optimized for operation at near-max payload.
- Possibly upgraded brake components (though the OEM brakes seem pretty good).
- LT-rated tires
- Rust-proof frame (no rust issues on the current frame, which still under Toyota's extended corrosion warranty for two more years)
- All other wear items/known weak points assessed and replaced as necessary

The budget for these upgrades would be considerable....probably exceeding what the truck is currently worth. However, it's still only a fraction of the cost of either new TV I'm considering.

With all that preamble out of the way, does anyone have experience towing their Escape with a supercharged 4.0L Tacoma or 4Runner? If so, how significant was the improvement?
If the performance of our turbocharged 2.7 liter is any indication, supercharging should make a huge difference. OTOH, I shudder to think what it will do to your fuel consumption. Our Tacoma was a gas pig even without supercharging.

Faced with a decision similar to yours, we ended up going with an F150, and love it. It gets better mileage than the Tacoma, and there is no comparison in the amount of power when needed.
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Old 02-21-2024, 12:31 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by AllanEdie View Post
If the performance of our turbocharged 2.7 liter is any indication, supercharging should make a huge difference. OTOH, I shudder to think what it will do to your fuel consumption. Our Tacoma was a gas pig even without supercharging.

Faced with a decision similar to yours, we ended up going with an F150, and love it. It gets better mileage than the Tacoma, and there is no comparison in the amount of power when needed.
The 4.0L supercharger kit is relatively low-boost compared to a Ford ecoboost , raising power to about 305hp & 335lbs-ft....apparently with minimal impact to engine reliability or longevity. I think the increase will go a long way to improve towing performance. Apparently fuel economy when unladen is not that much different....and I can't imagine it will be much worse when towing.

I realize the most straightforward path would be to upgrade to a full-size truck. However, if at all possible, I really want to stick with a mid-size truck, with a manual transmission, and 6' bed.
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Old 02-21-2024, 06:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Selkirk View Post
The 4.0L supercharger kit is relatively low-boost compared to a Ford ecoboost , raising power to about 305hp & 335lbs-ft....apparently with minimal impact to engine reliability or longevity. I think the increase will go a long way to improve towing performance. Apparently fuel economy when unladen is not that much different....and I can't imagine it will be much worse when towing.

I realize the most straightforward path would be to upgrade to a full-size truck. However, if at all possible, I really want to stick with a mid-size truck, with a manual transmission, and 6' bed.
The biggest issue for us with the Tacoma was the low end torque. The engine had lots of horsepower, but only at high rpms. We found when towing the 21 that we could get trapped in second gear if anything slowed us down too far on a long climb. Once in second gear on something steep, it was impossible to get into third and stay there because the gear ratio change to third was large, and the torque once we were in third was insufficient to climb in that gear at a speed reachable easily in second. This didn't happen that often, but when it did, it was a nuisance. Long climbs at 4000 rpm got old pretty quickly. The improvement in performance with a ten speed transmission and the turbo'ed 2.7 was breathtaking. The combination of great low end torque and a ten speed transmission makes towing a whole different experience. I loved our Tacoma, but I would not go back for towing trailers the size of the 19 and 21. I have owned several Tacomas and one Nissan equivalent, and loved them all. The 19 and 21 are well within the towing capacity of a Tacoma, but that does not change the fact that a Tacoma has to work a lot harder, and louder, to do the job.

As to your question, I think there are two factors that will determine how happy you are with the upgrade you describe. First, there is nothing that you can do about the transmission, and it will be a liability no matter how much power you persuade out of the engine. Bottom line is that the five speed is not the best idea when towing in mountainous terrain.

Second, if, given the transmission, the supercharger setup does not improve low end torque enough, you may have spent a serious pile of money and ended up with not a lot of improvement in at least one of the major limitations of the original Tacoma powertrain for towing. Without knowing ahead of time how this will sort out, your plan could prove to be a bit of an expensive crap shoot. There was at time when I might have considered going with your alternative due to my long term affection for a mid sized truck, but no more. The F150 2.7 liter is a far better tool, and I consider myself lucky that I made the move. I really did not know how huge the difference would be - had I known, I would have made the move earlier. Were I in your boots, I would more likely sell the Tacoma, and put the proceeds toward the best 10 speed 2.7 F150 that I could afford, used if necessary, or new if doable.

The only reason I mention all of this is that I just went through the same decision. I expect that I loved my Taco as much as you love yours, I have pretty much worn out three of them in my career so far. The wife was even harder to convince, but she got there, now loves the larger truck, and I could not be happier that we made the decision that we did.

Good luck with your decision, and happy travels.
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Old 02-21-2024, 07:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by AllanEdie View Post
The biggest issue for us with the Tacoma was the low end torque. The engine had lots of horsepower, but only at high rpms. We found when towing the 21 that we could get trapped in second gear if anything slowed us down too far on a long climb. Once in second gear on something steep, it was impossible to get into third and stay there because the gear ratio change to third was large, and the torque once we were in third was insufficient to climb in that gear at a speed reachable easily in second. This didn't happen that often, but when it did, it was a nuisance. Long climbs at 4000 rpm got old pretty quickly. The improvement in performance with a ten speed transmission and the turbo'ed 2.7 was breathtaking. The combination of great low end torque and a ten speed transmission makes towing a whole different experience. I loved our Tacoma, but I would not go back for towing trailers the size of the 19 and 21. I have owned several Tacomas and one Nissan equivalent, and loved them all. The 19 and 21 are well within the towing capacity of a Tacoma, but that does not change the fact that a Tacoma has to work a lot harder, and louder, to do the job.

As to your question, I think there are two factors that will determine how happy you are with the upgrade you describe. First, there is nothing that you can do about the transmission, and it will be a liability no matter how much power you persuade out of the engine. Bottom line is that the five speed is not the best idea when towing in mountainous terrain.

Second, if, given the transmission, the supercharger setup does not improve low end torque enough, you may have spent a serious pile of money and ended up with not a lot of improvement in at least one of the major limitations of the original Tacoma powertrain for towing. Without knowing ahead of time how this will sort out, your plan could prove to be a bit of an expensive crap shoot. There was at time when I might have considered going with your alternative due to my long term affection for a mid sized truck, but no more. The F150 2.7 liter is a far better tool, and I consider myself lucky that I made the move. I really did not know how huge the difference would be - had I known, I would have made the move earlier. Were I in your boots, I would more likely sell the Tacoma, and put the proceeds toward the best 10 speed 2.7 F150 that I could afford, used if necessary, or new if doable.

The only reason I mention all of this is that I just went through the same decision. I expect that I loved my Taco as much as you love yours, I have pretty much worn out three of them in my career so far. The wife was even harder to convince, but she got there, now loves the larger truck, and I could not be happier that we made the decision that we did.

Good luck with your decision, and happy travels.
Selkirk,

I just wanted to say I identify with your situation. When we bought our 21C last year, our tow vehicle was my old '07 Prerunner. I bought it barely used in '09, and I've enjoyed driving it all across N. America ever since.

However, upon towing our 21C back home from where we bought it, I had to drive over a couple mountain passes and long inclines. That was when I understood that I had finally reached my Taco's towing limitations. Sure, I hadn't maxed out the towing capability, but having to strain up those inclines at 35 to 40mph with the accelerator pushed all the way down persuaded me that it was time to get a bigger truck.

AllenEdie,

I briefly considered the F150 2.7L Ecoboost, but I couldn't get past "How can a teeny weeny 2.7 tow my trailer when the Taco's 4L struggled?" [I know. There's more to it than engine displacement.] Anyhow, I think if I had read your post above a few months ago, I would have taken a harder look at that model. I had originally planned to buy a new 2024 Tundra, but I kept bumping into the different kinks/issues that Toyota has been working out for 2+ years. That frustrated me, so I dropped that plan out of frustration and impatience. In the end, I bought a RAM 1500 Limited, and WOW! It's a huge step up from my old Taco. At just 2200 miles, I'm still getting used to it, but this vehicle is a real wake up call for me. Probably my only complaint is relatively low fuel mileage, but that isn't a surprise considering its size and power.

Back to Selkirk,

No matter which pickup you choose, going from the Tacoma to an F150, Tundra, RAM 1500, GMC Denali, etc. is a big upgrade in power and comfort. Just close your eyes when your look at the prices.
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Old 02-21-2024, 08:14 PM   #6
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I too had difficulty imagining that the 2.7 could do the job. I test drove both the 3.5 and the 2.7. In the end, I was willing to put up with a bit less power in order to get better mileage when not towing. I knew that the 2.7 would be an improvement over the 4l Tacoma, but boy, I really had no idea of the scale of improvement. IMHO, now that I have several thousand kilometers towing the 21 with the 2.7 liter, the 3.5 is overkill for a trailer like the 19 or 21. The 2.7 passes while towing our 21 almost as quickly as the Tacoma did empty. The power that engine produces when you put your foot down is remarkable, and it does it almost instantly without significant turbo lag. The biggest accomplishment is that it produces serious torque all the way from maybe 2000 rpm to 6000 or so. It is like having a diesel without the stink, maintenance, or dying torque above 2500 or so rpm. To summarize, I think that the 2.7 is a spectacular design achievement, far more than capable of comfortably towing trailers our size, while getting mileage that is matched only by a handful of diesel trucks in the 150/1500 size range. Ford was first off the mark with this twin turbo engine design in a full sized pickup, well ahead of other manufacturers, including Toyota, that have now gone with this design.

I expected good beer, I got champagne.

Oh, and by the way, I actually ordered a Tundra before I cracked and cancelled due to the various growing pains the model seems to be going though. Had I known at the time how well the 2.7 works, I would never had ordered the Tundra. For our purposes, the 2.7 is a superior solution to either of the larger v6's offered by either Ford or Toyota, at least it is if you care at all about fuel efficiency.
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Old 02-21-2024, 09:18 PM   #7
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Just thinking out loud here...
The new 2024 Tacoma with a turbo 2.4L and 8 speed might be a compromise. It just has to be an improvement over the previous generation.
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Old 02-22-2024, 01:39 PM   #8
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I sincerely appreciate everyone sharing their insight and experiences .....you've given me a lot to think about.

No argument that a full-size 1/2 ton would instantly solve any towing performance issues....be it an F150 or Tundra (my personal preference). The reasons for my reluctance follow:

- I have driven manual-transmission vehicles almost exclusively for over 25 years. I know automatics have progressed considerably in recent times....but I'm still not crazy about transitioning to one. Call me eccentric or a traditionalist , but I think a stick keeps one much more engaged in the process of driving. I also really like towing with a manual, particularly when it comes to controlling descents. The only new manual transmission TV option would be a 4th gen Tacoma. Even if it proves to be far more capable at towing than the 2nd/3rd gen trucks, the manual option is now only offered with a 5' box, which doesn't suite my needs very well.

- Other than the lack of power, the towing experience with my Tacoma has been very good. The WD/anti sway hitch works well. The whole rig feels very stable going down the road....even when tackling adverse conditions. So far, I've never once felt like the tail was wagging the dog. I know I'm running very close to max payload, but fell I can make improvements to optimize the suspension for those conditions. I just need the confidence that the supercharger would adequately address the power issues. I'm not expecting don't-notice-the-trailer-behind-you levels of power....but a 25% increase in hp and torque available at relatively low rpms that should be sustainable at higher elevations ain't too shabby.

- I like the mid-size form factor. The Tacoma is simple to maneuver/park in the city and easily fits in my condo parkade. I am a solo traveler and am fine with the space inside the access cab configuration. The 6' box with canopy offers lots of cargo space and lets me travel with my bikes under cover.

- Hopefully sooner than later, I want to take my E19 on its first extended winter trip to Mexico. The plan would be to travel from Calgary to southern costal Nayarit (an area I'm quite familiar with). I'd feel much better about taking an older beefed-up Tacoma down there than a brand-new truck. Second-gen Tacomas are pretty common in Mexico. Parts availability should be reasonable.

- I already own what is arguably one of the most reliable vehicles on the road. With a mid-life refresh, I would think it would be entirely reasonable to expect another 10 years of service with proper maintenance....provided I can keep rust issues under control. Even if I end up spending upwards of $20K on upgrades, that's still $40k-$60k less than a new truck. My truck is new enough to have features like stability/traction control....even a modern touch-screen radio. I've never been one who craves the latest/greatest tech.
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Old 02-22-2024, 03:36 PM   #9
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My question would be at what RPM do you hit those Hp and torque numbers? My Chevy hits my torque at 2800RPM, and my Ranger at 3000. I really donít like listening to 4000RPM.
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Old 02-22-2024, 05:03 PM   #10
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Here's a chassis dyno graph of the 4.0L for both normally aspirated and supercharged versions. I'm actually quite impressed how flat the torque curve is....
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dyno.jpg  
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Old 02-22-2024, 06:10 PM   #11
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Selkirk, I’d say go for the supercharger. I’d love to hear how it works for you. I don’t need it for my 4Runner but I’d like to have it anyway. The Magnuson kit is well proven. If there is a drawback in my view it’s that you need premium gas. Anyone can get a Ford, but a supercharged Tacoma with a manual transmission—that’s gold.
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Old 02-22-2024, 06:39 PM   #12
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I am not in the market anymore, but I will be watching closely to see how the new turbo Tacoma works out. I suspect that once the dust settles, it is going to be quite the improvement over the last generation, both for power and fuel efficiency.
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Old 02-22-2024, 08:54 PM   #13
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Just thinking out loud here...
The new 2024 Tacoma with a turbo 2.4L and 8 speed might be a compromise. It just has to be an improvement over the previous generation.
I SO want this to be the case. We've got a deposit on an E19. When we began hearing about the 2024 Tacomas we got excited by the torque, payload and towing numbers. We've specced out a 2024 manual and will be making our TV decision in the next few months after more real-life towing feedback.
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Old 02-23-2024, 07:04 AM   #14
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I supercharged a couple of my prior sports cars. In one of them I added a nearly identical setup, that being a roots style eaton supercharger that was integrated into a custom aluminum intake. The extra power even down low was profound. However the cost is high and the supercharger does put added stress on the engine. Although with only 5psi of boost the added stresses are somewhat lower, these engines were designed to be normally aspirated. In a towing situation you're talking about using the boost a lot and for extended periods of time. In my sports cars the boost was only used for short bursts and with nothing in tow. For a boosted engine most manufacturers will install heavier duty rods, pistons and may even bolster the engine block. They will also typically lower the compression ratio over the normally aspirated engines. All of this leads to a much longer and happier life for the boosted engine.

One thing that nobody has mentioned and that you should absolutely consider is final drive gearing. In fact, you should consider that BEFORE you supercharge the engine. You may find that improving your gearing (going up numerically) improves your towing experience enough that you do not need to add the supercharger. I'm assuming that your Taco is a 4x4 so you'd need to have two differential gears changed which would be more expensive. You'll also have to reflash the computer to recalibrate for the new gears. However having it done properly, with new carrier bearings, seals, and fresh lube, could be seen as a full rebuild and with 110k miles on the clock that's not a bad thing especially if you're towing a lot.

The nice thing about changing the gearing is that going up numerically by 10% is very similar to adding 10% of output torque to your engine. The difference can be dramatic. My 2WD 2014 F150 5.0L V8 came with the standard 3.31 open differential in it and before I started towing I had a helical geared limited slip diff installed and also had the gears upgraded to 3.73's. This is only an approx 12.5% increase in torque multiplication. I expected to feel a slight difference, but the extra power at low RPM's is amazing. The nice thing about this torque increase is that its available at all points in your operating band, even at 1000 rpm's you have this added torque multiplication. With the positive displacement supercharger at RPM's below 2500 your boost pressure will decrease. At RPM's down below 1500 you will have very little added boost pressure and the torque increase will be more subdued. You can see this drop off in boost pressure in the power plots that Magnusson has at their website.

The negative aspect of the gears is that you'll have an identical increase in engine RPM's. You may see a slight reduction in fuel economy when unloaded and on the highway. My truck lost less than 1mpg at highway speeds. Around town my mileage is unchanged. Where the truck used to be mostly in 5th gear at 40 - 50mph speeds it now sits in top gear (6th) at those same speeds.

You haven't mentioned, do you have stock height tires on the truck or have you installed taller tires? If taller then you've actually worsened your final drive gearing situation from a towing perspective.

Looking online it looks like the V6 Taco of that vintage came stock with 3.73 gears. It looks like a 4.10 & 4.30 gear set is available. I would be looking at installing a 4.10 gear set and if you have taller tires then 4.30's may be in order.

Just more food for thought!
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Old 02-23-2024, 08:54 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Selkirk View Post
I sincerely appreciate everyone sharing their insight and experiences .....you've given me a lot to think about.

No argument that a full-size 1/2 ton would instantly solve any towing performance issues....be it an F150 or Tundra (my personal preference). The reasons for my reluctance follow:

- I have driven manual-transmission vehicles almost exclusively for over 25 years. I know automatics have progressed considerably in recent times....but I'm still not crazy about transitioning to one. Call me eccentric or a traditionalist , but I think a stick keeps one much more engaged in the process of driving. I also really like towing with a manual, particularly when it comes to controlling descents. The only new manual transmission TV option would be a 4th gen Tacoma. Even if it proves to be far more capable at towing than the 2nd/3rd gen trucks, the manual option is now only offered with a 5' box, which doesn't suite my needs very well.

- Other than the lack of power, the towing experience with my Tacoma has been very good. The WD/anti sway hitch works well. The whole rig feels very stable going down the road....even when tackling adverse conditions. So far, I've never once felt like the tail was wagging the dog. I know I'm running very close to max payload, but fell I can make improvements to optimize the suspension for those conditions. I just need the confidence that the supercharger would adequately address the power issues. I'm not expecting don't-notice-the-trailer-behind-you levels of power....but a 25% increase in hp and torque available at relatively low rpms that should be sustainable at higher elevations ain't too shabby.

- I like the mid-size form factor. The Tacoma is simple to maneuver/park in the city and easily fits in my condo parkade. I am a solo traveler and am fine with the space inside the access cab configuration. The 6' box with canopy offers lots of cargo space and lets me travel with my bikes under cover.

- Hopefully sooner than later, I want to take my E19 on its first extended winter trip to Mexico. The plan would be to travel from Calgary to southern costal Nayarit (an area I'm quite familiar with). I'd feel much better about taking an older beefed-up Tacoma down there than a brand-new truck. Second-gen Tacomas are pretty common in Mexico. Parts availability should be reasonable.

- I already own what is arguably one of the most reliable vehicles on the road. With a mid-life refresh, I would think it would be entirely reasonable to expect another 10 years of service with proper maintenance....provided I can keep rust issues under control. Even if I end up spending upwards of $20K on upgrades, that's still $40k-$60k less than a new truck. My truck is new enough to have features like stability/traction control....even a modern touch-screen radio. I've never been one who craves the latest/greatest tech.
Two thoughts:
Get a Tundra...great truck and similar mileage to a hard working Taco towing. Yes it is bigger....I have had both.
In Mexico get a diesel HI LUX it is the size of a Taco but way better!
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