After years of playing second fiddle to their full-size cousins, midsize pickups are getting their moment in the sun as drivers increasingly gravitate towards this sensible segment. Sales have more than doubled since 2013, with midsize pickups now representing 4.4% of US vehicle sales; that trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with S&P Global Mobility forecasting a 4.6% market share by 2026. Automakers have certainly taken notice, introducing a raft of new models to meet the demand. Ten years ago, there were only three midsize pickups on the market, but that number has now grown to seven, with almost every major automaker rolling out some sort of midsize offering.
While we’ve been impressed with some of the new midsize options from the likes of Honda, Jeep, and Nissan, it’s still hard to match the reputation or value of some of the segment’s long-standing models. The Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma serve as perfect examples. While neither model started out as a midsize pickup, these two have come to dominate the segment, providing drivers with an ideal blend of performance, comfort, and value that’s made them undisputed leaders in their category. Endlessly innovating, Ford and Toyota are both preparing to roll out a new generation of their best-selling midsize pickups, so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at these two trailblazing models. So, who wins in the battle of the 2024 Ford Ranger vs 2024 Toyota Tacoma? Let’s find out…
We’ll start our comparison under the hood, where Ford has made some major upgrades as it rolls out the second generation of its T6-based Ranger. Drivers of the first-generation Ranger had to settle for a single engine option in a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder; while it offered a respectable 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, the lack of options could prove a bit underwhelming. That all changes for 2024 as Ford graces its midsize truck with a newly available twin-turbo V6, which ups the power by a considerable margin, giving drivers 315 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque to play around with. It’s a thoughtful upgrade that allows the Ranger to better compete with the increasing competition and is probably one of the most notable additions to the 2024 model. No matter which engine you choose, it’ll come mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission and offered in either rear- or four-wheel drive.
All that power is nice, but what does it mean in real-world terms? Given their reputation as a hard-working vehicle, pickups are always going to be judged by their ability to tow and haul, and the Ranger is no slouch in that department. No matter which trim you choose, you’ll enjoy 7,500 lbs of towing capacity for both the two- and four-wheel drive models. The story is a bit different when it comes to hauling, with two-wheel-drive models outperforming the four-wheel drive version by around 100 lbs (1,805 to 1,711, respectively). The Ranger Raptor brings up the rear with a 1,411-lb hauling capacity and 5,510 lbs of towing, but this model gets a pass thanks to its considerable off-road chops.
Toyota has taken an odd approach to the Tacoma’s engine lineup, limiting drivers to a 2.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that comes in a few different guises. The base offering, found only in the entry-level SR trim, is relatively underpowered at 228 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, but upgrading to the SR5 or higher brings a new i-FORCE variation of this engine. With 278 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, the 2.4L i-FORCE is more in line with Ford’s base offering, but it does have one neat trick up its sleeve…
While the midsize category has gone almost entirely automatic in recent years, Toyota is aiming to be a bit of an iconoclast by pairing the i-FORCE with either an automatic or manual transmission. The six-speed manual version of the i-FORCE does see a slight reduction in power—270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque—but the ability to govern your gear should go a long way in injecting a little classic truck-iness into this pickup.
Toyota has been a little tight-lipped about the towing and hauling capacity of the 2024 Tacoma, but we’ll share what we know so far. While there’s no public information about the relative might of the base 2.4L engine, we do know that the i-FORCE version can tow up to 6,500 lbs. The i-FORCE MAX hybrid trails behind by a quarter-ton with a 6,000-lb towing capacity, and this is the only version we have a reliable payload capacity for at 1,709 lbs. These numbers might be a little lackluster compared to the Ranger, but they’re still decent figures for the midsize segment.
If there’s a trend that can rival the recent rise of the midsize pickup, it would have to be the growth in off-road models. According to a report from Market Research Future, the off-road segment will grow by almost 6% by the end of the decade, making it a force to be reckoned with in an ever-evolving market. Ford and Toyota are right on top of the trend in their midsize offerings, introducing several enticing off-road-focused trims in recent years.
Take the Ranger, for example. With available all-wheel drive and generous approach, breakover, and departure angles—not to mention Ford’s reputation for toughness and reliability—the Ranger pickup is more than capable of holding its own against the competition …but then there’s the Ranger Raptor. By all rights, this should really be considered its own model, but we wouldn’t be able to forgive ourselves if we didn’t take a moment to peek under the hood. Inspired by the desert-racing beast that is the F-150 Raptor, the Ranger Raptor drops a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 into the midsize pickup, increasing the horsepower to 405 along with a brawny 430 lb-ft of torque.
The Ranger Raptor also features one of Ford’s most advanced four-wheel drive systems, an electronically controlled on-demand two-speed transfer case, and a host of heavy-duty equipment that’ll have you tearing up the trail in no time. From locking front and rear differentials that give you traction when you need it most to 33-inch BFGoodrich KO3 all-terrain tires, 2.5-inch Fox internal bypass shocks, and more, the Ranger Raptor has immediately jumped into contention as one of the industry’s best midsize off-road pickups.
When it comes to its off-road trims, Toyota has also been making moves. This brand has long offered such off-road favorites as the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro, but two new glowing trims entered the mix in 2024 in the form of the TRD PreRunner and Trailhunter. The TRD PreRunner isn’t entirely new—it’s only been gone from the lineup since 2015—but it represents an intriguing option for those curious about the off-road lifestyle but not ready to fully commit.
Styled like a true off-roader, the PreRunner lacks much of the actual equipment to back up its appearance, with Toyota only bestowing the pickup with two-wheel drive. More in line with the new era of appearance-first “soft-roaders” that look the part without offering legitimate off-road components, the PreRunner seems like a cheap attempt to capitalize on the off-road pickup trend.
The same cannot be said of the new Tacoma Trailhunter, a trim inspired by the niche off-road pursuit known as overlanding. Packed with ample off-road equipment—including an electronic locking rear differential, electronic traction control, underbody protection, 33-inch tires, and an overhauled suspension featuring 2.5-inch dampers with remote reservoirs and a disconnecting front anti-roll bar—the Trailhunter is a welcomed addition to the Tacoma lineup, and that’s before we even get to its engine!
The Trailhunter has a neat trick up its sleeve in the form of the i-FORCE MAX engine. While it’s limited to an eight-speed automatic transmission and only offered standard on the Trailhunter and TRD Pro, it can’t be beat when it comes to power, producing 326 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque.
So how has Toyota managed to squeeze all that power out of the same 2.4L engine? In a word, hybridization. The automaker has paired the gas-powered engine with a 48-hp electric motor driven by a small nickel-metal hydride battery that allows the i-FORCE MAX-powered Tacoma to leave the rest of the lineup in the dust. It’s a clever move by Toyota and one that’s particularly well-suited to this pickup’s off-road trims, given the considerable increase in torque.
The Two Leading Midsize Pickups
The 2024 Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma go a long way in showing just how much the midsize segment has matured in the last decade. With so many trims and specialties to choose from, these pickups are a great option for drivers seeking a more agile—yet still powerful—version of their favorite full-size pickups. From a wide selection of hefty engines to thrilling new off-road trims that allow drivers to get a little down and dirty behind the wheel, the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma are clear front-runners in this ultra-competitive category.
The Ranger, in particular, does a great job of replicating the success of its big brother in the Ford F-150, building on the reputation that made that full-size pickup America’s best-selling vehicle for over 40 years. Upper-end trims like the Lariat transform the Ranger into a veritable luxury vehicle, while the Ranger Raptor serves as a case study of just how rugged the midsize segment can be. We expect big things from the midsize segment in the coming years, and the first models in the newest generation from Ford and Toyota have already set a high bar.