EPA ratings: 18/23mpg/ 20mpg combined. 0-60mph: 7.6 seconds. Price as tested: $35,280
The Tacoma is a veritable institution. Its legacy goes back to the Toyota Hilux—simply called the “Pickup” here—whose 22R motor could easily cover 300,000-plus miles. The last version was responsible for over 70 percent of the sales in its class, and has the highest real-world residual value of any vehicle here in Colorado. The question is, how did Toyota do with its replacement—the first new “Taco” in over a decade?
The Tacoma TRD Sport looks new, with a blockier nose and more prominent creases, shapes and off-roadish accents. From the driver’s seat, the hood and its faux scoop resembles an Aztec pyramid. The cab itself is mostly a carry-over though, meaning the same high floor—making ingress and egress harder—and the same legs-splayed driving position.
That there isn’t even an option for a power driver’s seat exacerbates this, but otherwise the Tacoma’s cabin is nicely updated, with geometrically themed, chunky shapes and nice textures for the seats and trim. The latest Entune interface boasts a much richer, high-resolution screen and fast processor. It is intuitive in use, too, making it one of the nicest touch-screen systems available. Back seat room remains a bit tight, but at least this latest Toyota truck is quieter and more refined than its predecessor.
It might ride a bit better too, but it’s not up to the high standards set by the Chevrolet Colorado or the GMC Canyon—both of which have more solid frames and even coil sprung rear suspensions. In this area Toyota maybe could have moved the game on a bit further, as the Tacoma is, dynamically, old school. It shudders over typical road imperfections, and handles ponderously—though the steering, still with hydraulic assist, is pleasing in heft and loads up nicely as you approach the truck’s modest handling limits. It stops well too, in spite of drum rear brakes, thanks to carry-over four-piston front calipers.
There is something new under that hood, though. Gone is the old 4-liter engine, replaced by a direct/indirect-injected V6. Down a half liter in size, it has 42 more ponies—for a total of 278hp—and about the same torque, at 265lb-ft. It is slightly smoother and more refined, with a really nice rush of power at the top end, which is ably exploited by the new six-speed automatic (there is still a manual available too). 0-60mph is adequate, being dispatched in the mid-7s, but compared to the GM trucks’ powertrain offerings of a 305hp V6 or turbodiesel four, Toyota has some catching up to do.
But what those vehicles can’t offer is the Tacoma’s unmatched sense of toughness, which owes to its genuinely rugged underpinnings and almost unrivalled durability and longevity. There is primitive quality about the way the Tacoma goes about its business. It’s compelling in the same way that a Jeep Wrangler is: engagingly honest and absent of many of today’s contrived conveyances. And, as an ownership proposition, this Toyota is simply unbeatable.
Isaac Bouchard is owner of Bespoke Autos, an auto brokerage that helps people save time, money and hassle when buying or leasing vehicles. Since 1991 he has helped his clients save over $1 million dollars. He has written extensively about getting the best deal possible when buying or leasing a vehicle, arranging financing or trading in a car. Isaac has been a professional automotive journalist as well for over 12 years, having reviewed most all types of car, truck and SUV.