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July 26, 2011 > Auto Review: Toyota Tacoma: King of the Midsize Trucks

Auto Review: Toyota Tacoma: King of the Midsize Trucks

By Steve Schaefer

When you've got the best-selling compact pickup in the U.S. for the last six years, you don't need to do a whole lot to keep things rolling. So, the Tacoma gets minor changes this year, such as a new grille and standard air conditioning on all models. Toyota also is introducing a couple of new packages based on a concept truck from the 2009 SEMA show. And, with environmental and fuel cost concerns on folks' minds, there are more four-cylinder models.

Tacoma offers an array of configurations. Do you want a Regular Cab (two doors) or Double Cab (full four doors) or the Access Cab that splits the difference? Long or short bed? Two- or four-wheel drive? Four or six cylinder power? And, which of the numerous option packages would you like to add?

That's a huge range, from the regular cab, four-cylinder, two-wheel-drive worker bee to the long, loaded double-cab model with V6, four-wheel drive and long bed-like my Speedway Blue Metallic tester. Vehicle curb weights vary from 3,250 pounds to 4,190 based on these choices.

My tester featured the 4.0-liter, dual-overhead-cam 236-horsepower V6, with 266 lb.-ft of torque. The standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder, available in five models, generates 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines use Toyota's variable valve timing for maximum power at a wide range or rpm.

The V6 offers a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic; the four-cylinder comes with one cog less-five speed manual or four-speed automatic.

The EPA gave my V6 model ratings of 16 City, 20 Highway (18 average). The Green Vehicle numbers are 5 for Air Pollution, 3 for Greenhouse Gas. The base 4-cylinder truck with manual earns 21 City, 25 Highway (and 5/5 on the Green scores).

There's something cool about riding high and strong along America's highways-it's kind of infectious. The Tacoma's interior is handsome, as is the outside, but there' little padding there, so you feel tough already.

Having that bed behind you is an invitation to do some heavy lifting. The standard payload is about 1,300 pounds. My truck had the optional 73.5" long bed, which is standard on most models. However, on Double Cabs, the shorter five-foot bed is standard, and it might even be desirable with the already stretched platform for parking considerations.

Both Tacoma beds are lined with a composite of tough sheet-molded compound (SMC). It's ten percent lighter than steel and won't rust. The beds feature two-tier loading and an integrated deck rail utility and four tie-downs. My truck had the optional fold-out bed extender, which lets you carry cargo with the tailgate down.

On the Standard Cab, Access Cab and Double Cab models, you can order a PreRunner version, which has the look and feel of the four-wheel-drive model but with two-wheel drive underneath. The X-Runner is a sport model. It features the "X-Brace tuned suspension," special 18-inch wheels and tires, and a striking body kit. It comes only as an Access Cab with a manual transmission. You can go from zero to 60 in less than 7 seconds, and it really sticks to the road with lateral acceleration scores (more than 0.9g) in the vicinity of some sports cars.

Toyota's new specialty models this year include the T|X and T|X pro, which use the special off-road package from Toyota Racing Development (TRD) to make eye-catching and potent vehicles. The T|X adds black alloy wheels, rugged-looking tires, black tube side steps, a stainless steel exhaust tip and special exterior graphics. The T|X Pro has is the higher performance version with a more thrilling engine roar. TRD also offers a supercharger for any V6 model, which brings the engine up to 304 horsepower and 334 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Tacoma is no "mini-truck" like the first small Japanese pickups. These trucks have either a 109.6 or 127.4-inch wheelbase and can stretch to as much as 221.3 inches (nearly 19 feet) long. At a full six-feet wide, the cabin is roomy-and I could even (barely) accommodate an upright bass in the passenger seat of my Double Cab. You can haul from 3,500 to 6,500 pounds, depending on model and towing package.

Prices start at $16,365 for the Standard Cab four-cylinder with two-wheel drive and work up from there. My top-of-the line model listed at $27,525; when you added in the SR5 Extra Value Package (lots and lots of welcome extras), the V6 Tow Package, and things like the Hood Protector ($119), it came to $32,704.

Between the different body configurations, two engine and transmission selections, a four-wheel-drive option, numerous equipment packages, colors and long list of standalone options, you can pretty much spec out the exact Tacoma you desire.

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