The Toyota Tacoma has been – like most Toyotas – a steady, reliable vehicle that has built a cult following over the years. But, given all the attention showered on Toyota’s full-size Tundra pickup, and the loudmouthed, showy nature of that segment in general, the Tacoma has labored quietly, at times anonymously.
But given the current trend towards smaller, more economical vehicles that make more sense, we thought it was time to revisit Toyota’s other truck. We found it to be just as capable as its big brother, and far more entertaining.
The Tacoma is obviously much lighter than the Tundra, and with 236 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 266 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm on tap from its 4.0L V6, it’s got plenty of spunk. If that’s not enough, there is always the TRD supercharger, available through Toyota dealerships, which will bump your six-cylinder Tacoma up to 304 horsepower and a massive 334 pound-feet of torque.
Our double-cab 4×4 V6 test truck was loaded, with the bigger motor (there’s also a 2.7-liter four with 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque) and a 5-speed automatic. We also got the $3,355 “TRD Sport Extra Value Package,” which is an absolute must.
The package (which was the only major option to speak of) endows the Tacoma with a sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, fog lamps, a sliding rear window with privacy glass, and totally different seats (sport seats with driver’s lumbar support and sport fabric trim replace the standard bucket seats).
Our truck also got a backup camera, better sun visors, an overhead console with a compass and temperature gauge, and a host of visual upgrades to give it a much more menacing appearance (hood scoop and color-keyed grill surround, bumpers, mirrors, door handles and overfenders, smoked headlight trim, and TRD Sport graphics).
There was also a $650 towing package, which beefs up the Tacoma’s towing capacity to 6,500 lbs. Tube steps added $439, and floor mats and door sill protectors added $199.
The starting MSRP of our test truck was an easy $26,575. All of the options beefed the price up to $30,013, including a $950 discount for the value package. And that (excepting a $4500 TRD supercharger) is probably the most you’re going to spend on a Tacoma. Consider that for a moment. A loaded Tundra will cost you upwards of $40K. And if you’re not using all of the bigger truck’s manly utility, the Tacoma is probably a better choice. It still hauls 6500 lbs, which is enough for most people, and it is rated at 16 city mpg and 20 highway mpg, bettering even the more fuel-efficient (and much slower) V6 Tundra by 1 mpg in each category.
The bigger, V8-powered Tundra may be your hard-hat fantasy truck, but we live in different times now. People don’t look as kindly on excess as they used to, and the Tacoma is a better real-world truck for most of us. It is the best-selling truck in its segment, with a crushing lead over the former champ, the Ford Ranger. It’s also the safest, being the only truck in its class to achieve a “good” rating in the IIHS test of small trucks due to its side airbag system. In 2009, the Tacoma earned IIHS’s “Top Safety Pick” award. It scored four out of five stars on the rollover tests, and five out of five on each of the other front and side tests.
The Tacoma is brawny, practical, and quick. What more does a civilian pickup truck buyer really need? The Tacoma’s bulletproof reliability makes it the best work truck in its class.
|Price As Tested:||$31,013|
|Date Available:||2005 – Current|
|Body Style:||Double Cab (4 Door) Truck|
|Engine & Torque:||236 hp @ 5200 rpm, 266 lb-ft @ 3,800 rpm, 4.0 Liter DOHC EFI V6, 24-valve aluminum block & heads with VVT-i|
|Transmission:||5-Speed ECT Automatic, 4×4|
|Wheels & Tires:||16 inch wheels with P245/75R16 Mud & Snow tires|
|Warranty:||3 yr. / 36,000 mile comprehensive, 5 yr / 60,000 mile powertrain|
|Towing Capacity:||6,500 lbs.|
|Fuel Economy:||16 City / 20 Highway|
|0 – 60 MPH:||7.10 seconds (estimated), Quarter mile: 15.51 seconds at 84.03 MPH|