Truck Rewind: Toyota Turbo Truck – Will the New Tacoma ever get Turbo Power?

Could they bring back the Toyota turbo truck? Back in 1985, Toyota took their popular pickup truck and added an optional turbocharger to it. It was more than a mere upgrade, it woke up the performance in the legendarily rugged 22R-E 4-cylinder which made 105 horsepower and 136 lbs-feet of torque. That engine became the 135 horsepower, turbocharged 22R-TE which made 173 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. It was produced between 1985 and 1988 and it was also available as an optional power-plant in the first generation Toyota 4Runner.

Eventually, a more powerful 3.0-liter (2,958cc) V6 usurped the need for a turbo in the lineup. While several consumers lamented the loss of the turbo, the V6 proved to be a solid, reliable replacement that had a reputation (like the 22R-E) for incredible reliability and ruggedness. In time, memory of the turbo four-cylinder faded.

Decades ago, I was fortunate enough to drive the pickup truck and 4Runner with the turbocharger and the power gains were very surprising. While neither were sports cars, they were far more responsive and passing power, something the old 22RE lacked at high elevation, was quite good.

Interestingly, while aftermarket companies build intercooler kits for the 22R-TE, it didn’t come with one from the factory. It made 5.5-6 lbs of boost and worked fairly well even when the air-conditioner was on. One noticeable detractor was a good amount of turbo-lag. Still, the overall performance gain was impressive.

Keeping this in mind, TFLtruck’s question is: will the Toyota turbo truck return?

Nearly every automaker is, or will be using advanced turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Chevrolet just announced a turbocharged, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine for their fullsize trucks. You can read about it (here). Other automakers, like Ford, are putting all of their money on turbocharging yielding positive results.

So, where is Toyota’s turbocharging?

Typical to Toyota’s pragmatic approach to just about everything, they are taking their time. While their current 3.5 Liter (2GR-FKS) V6 is selling very well, the new batch of mid-size trucks hitting the market with diesels and turbocharged four-cylinder engines look to make that powerplant outdated – rapidly. The only powertrain that’s older is Nissan’s VQ-series V6.

You may not have noticed, but Toyota is not hung up on turbocharging like other companies. They prefer naturally aspirated and hybrid power-plants. Still, there are quite a few turbocharged Toyota products headed our way. The new Toyota Supra and many Lexus vehicles have, or will have, turbocharged engines.

Does this mean there will be a return to the Toyota turbo truck? I wouldn’t hold my breath; however, at the very least, the possibility is there. We will hound Toyota for more information over the next few years/decades.

What do you think?

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.