Toyota regularly puts buttons in cars that quite literally do not make any sense at all.  I spent a few years of my career leading the User Experience Team for a large retail company.  I have to tell you.  Toyota designs and builds a fantastic truck.  In fact, I think it might make the best trucks on the road.  But when it comes to designing the buttons and controls, they are sorely in need of a user experience person (or a new one) to help them come up with better names for some of the features and controls they put on their vehicles.

I just recently traded in my 2010 Toyota Tundra Crew Max 4×4 for a new 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4×4.  This truck has the Premium Technology Package and not only looks cool on the outside, but its like a space shuttle on the inside.  But after driving it for almost a week I kept staring at this ECT PWR button on the dash with not a clue in the world what it does.  I finally decided to figure it out.

NOTE: If you are having problems with your Toyota Tacoma transmission not shifting smoothly, check out my article on the Delayed-Engagement transmission problem.

What is the Toyota ECT PWR button?

ECT PWR - Toyota Tacoma 2016 02

ECT PWR Button

If you look at the dash of your 3rd Generation Toyota Tacoma, you’ll see an ECT PWR button right under the navigation system and between the Blind Spot Monitor (BSM button) and the Parking Assist Sensors (P button).

The ECT PWR button stands for Electronically Controlled Transmission Power. If you did the same thing I did, you just said “WTF does that even mean?” Remember what I said earlier Toyota needed a user experience person to help them with the design of their controls?  Yeah.  You got it.  What the acronyms stand for is just as confusing as what it actually means written out!

And it gets worse.  Digging out the Toyota Manual doesn’t help much more that just guessing at what it actually does.

ECT PWR in the Toyota Manual

I opened my 2016 Tacoma’s manual and flipped through it until I landed on this page:



Selecting Power Mode

Use when high levels of response and feeling are desirable, such as when driving in mountainous regions or when pulling a trailer.

Press the “ECT PWR” button to select power mode.
The “ECT PWR” indicator comes on.
Press the button again to cancel power mode.

I thought for sure the manual would make it clear, but alas, it was vague and less than helpful.

What the ECT PWR Button ACTUALLY Does


2016 Tacoma ECT PWR

The ECT PWR button is not a turbo boost button.  In fact, it doesn’t actually increase the power of your vehicle at all.  It’s nothing more than a tow-haul mode button that can be used when pulling a trailer, carrying a heavy load, or when traveling over hilly areas of land like in the mountains.  What that actually means is that it raises slightly the shift points of the transmission so that the engine will rev to a slightly higher RPM before shifting to the next gear.  This ensures that when under stress the truck will not lug as the next gear engages.

I called my dealership and Toyota looking to get the actual RPM values, but alas they could not give them to me at the time of this writing.  The customer service person at Toyota did say that some people use the ECT PWR button when they need to accelerate quickly, such as when entering the highway from the frontage road ramps, or when legally racing the vehicle.  However, I timed my 2016 Tacoma (TRD Off-Road 4×4) using my iPhone stop-watch from 0 to 60, with and without ECT PWR turned on.  The difference was actually slower by 1/2 second.

One thing we can be sure of is that this ECT PWR mode will reduce your gas mileage.  How much is unknown, but I suspect a couple of miles per gallon wouldn’t be too far off.  So I wouldn’t recommend running it in ECT PWR mode all the time.

If you have anymore insight into the under the hood operations of ECT PWR mode, please leave it in the comments below!