Much like its global sibling, the Hilux, the Toyota Tacoma is developing a reputation for toughness – a go anywhere die hard attitude that does a better rendition of ‘yippee-ki-yay’ than Bruce Willis. The new Tacoma, released in 2015, packs that competence and aggression into a rugged looking package, but beneath the veneer of aggression Toyota has quietly upped the levels of luxury for the mid-size pickup segment tremendously. Available with 2 bed lengths, 3 cab styles, and a choice of 4x2 or 4x4 drives, there’s a combination ready to suit most buyers.
This is arguably the classiest Tacoma interior to date – but if this is supposed to last another decade and a bit, then it needs to be high quality. Softer touch materials are scattered everywhere, and all feel solidly put together. Fabric seats are standard, but on all but base specification SR models you’ll get a leather steering wheel with steering mounted audio controls. Audio is taken care of by an Entune system, standard with a 6.1-inch touch screen that incorporates Bluetooth connectivity and an integrated reverse camera display.
Space inside is commodious for driver and front passenger – but taller drivers will struggle with an awkward seating position, fixed seat height, and minimal steering adjustment. Even in double cab body style, rear passengers are more cramped than those in a GMC Canyon or Honda Ridgeline would be while the Access Cab is best left to those who don’t intend to have many rear passengers.
The Tacoma feels awkward out on the road thanks to artificially heavy steering that has too much sticky play just off centre. Instead of shrinking the truck around you, it makes it feel big and clumsy. It doesn’t handle or feel car-like as its competitors do, instead making it known that this is a truck, with no pretensions otherwise. The Tacoma rides firmly, though Limited models favour on-road comfort better than others. There’s a hint of body flex, which helps keep all wheels on terra firma, but additional rigidity wouldn’t be amiss with softer dampers. Body lean in cornering is pronounced, thanks to a high ride height, and this translates into slight nose-dive under braking. The TRD Pro model gets stiffer dampers to tackle off-road tasks and provides better bump absorption than standard, though the refinement of a Colorado is still far superior.
Two engine options await potential buyers, both gasoline powered – a 2.7-liter with variable valve timing and 159 horsepower with 180 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.5-liter V6 with 278hp and 265 lb-ft that runs on the Atkinson cycle. In most trims, the default transmission is a 6-speed auto-box, but erratic gear-hunting around 4th-6th will make you opt for the 6-speed manual where you can. Both options can be had in 4x2 or 4x4 guises. With the V6, towing capacity is a not-too-shabby 6600 lbs, though many rivals best that. City/highway MPG ratings are about the same on both engines at around 19/23.
The Tacoma has had to plan for a long future, and comes with a wide range of impressive kit. Available dual zone climate control, cruise control and even wireless mobile charging add extra convenience, and with the availability of short or long bed, spec level depending, there’s plenty space out back. But its safety features are what impresses most. A full array of airbags is complemented by optional blind-spot monitors, rear cross traffic alert, rear park sensors, and automatic high beams. The NHTSA rates the Tacoma at 4 stars while the IIHS gives ‘good’ ratings.
The Tacoma makes no attempts to disguise what it is, a truck. Rugged and capable, there’s a level of refinement – interior space aside – Toyota hasn’t offered before, but it doesn’t come at the cost of losing out on outright ability. Options are plentiful, but so too is the price range, from $24 575 right through to $41 215.