With all the press about trucks becoming more car-like, it's easy to forget their truck-like personalities. Compact pickups are indeed much bigger and more luxurious than they used to be. They ride nicer, steer easier and have a full complement of car-like features.
But they're still trucks, something that definitely applies to this Toyota Tacoma 4X4 Xtracab. It doesn't ride like a luxury car nor does it handle or accelerate like a sports car. It's designed to haul stuff and to be driven off the pavement. If you're considering a vehicle that will see all-purpose use, and a pickup seems appealing, keep in mind that you will become a truck driver. Of course, folks who love trucks wouldn't have it any other way.
Toyota has a history of building solid, dependable trucks. Its four-wheel-drive trucks have always been standouts for tough duty, with rugged suspensions, rigid bodies and powerful engines. The Tacoma builds on that tradition--particularly when it's equipped with the V6 engine.
Toyota trucks don't come cheap, particularly top-of-the-line models. A Tacoma 4x4 Xtracab V6 prepared for off-road duty retails for more than $24,000. What you can expect for your investment is top-drawer off-road performance and many years of reliable service. It's a high-quality product, which is a benefit when it's time to sell.
The Tacoma is a stylish, handsome truck with flared fenders and rounded edges. The two-wheel-drive models have been streamlined for 1997 with a new grille and headlight assemblies. The 4x4 models look particularly rugged with their high ground clearance and optional 31-inch all-terrain tires.
Introduced in February 1995, the Tacoma line stretches from a $12,618 2WD errand runner with a frugal four-cylinder engine to a 4WD V6 bruiser that costs nearly twice as much. An extensive combination of options allows buyers to order trucks that excel at hauling, towing, off-roading or economy.
All Tacomas come with the same six-foot bed (74.5 inches long inside), fitted with four inner tie-down points.
Two cabs are available. Overall, a Tacoma Xtracab is 18.5 inches longer than a standard cab model. Its wheelbase is 18.6 inches longer, which provides better ride quality on the highway but reduces maneuverability in tight parking lots and extreme off-road situations. Though it's roomier than some, the standard cab seems best suited for parts stores or other commercial errandrunning, or for those who want maximum off-road capability.
Buyers of the base model get a 2WD regular cab pickup powered by a 2.4-liter engine that gets 28 mpg on the highway. Opting for the $750 value edition package adds air conditioning, power steering, chrome bumpers, a radio and floor mats; the resulting $13,368 Tacoma will haul up to 1684 pounds of stuff, pull a 3500-pound trailer and provide reliable transportation for many years. Four-wheel antilock brakes are a $590 option and an XtraCab body is available.
Four-wheel-drive models are equipped with a more powerful 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. The 4WD regular cab with a five-speed manual can haul up to 1914 pounds of cargo--more than any other Tacoma. But fuel economy drops to 23 mpg on the highway--no better than the V6--and the towing capacity remains at 3500 pounds.
Those who take long trips, pull trailers or go off road will find the optional V6 smoother, quieter, more powerful and more refined than the four-cylinder engines, particularly the basic 2.4-liter four. A V6 Tacoma with four-wheel drive is capable of exhibiting prowess at an offroad jamboree. A V6 Tacoma with two-wheel drive and an automatic is a tow vehicle that's easy to get into and doesn't spill as much coffee on the way to work.
The 3.4-liter V6 produces 220 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. That's enough power to pull a 5000-pound trailer, yet it still gets 23 mpg on the highway. Maximum payload is 1859 pounds in a 4WD regular cab with five-speed manual. Automatic transmissions and, in particular, extended cabs reduce payload, but not towing capacities.
All three engines burn 87 octane unleaded and all are available with either the standard five-speed manual or the four-speed electronically controlled automatic. Four-wheel-drive models come with manual locking front hubs, which means you must climb out and go to the front wheels to engage them, which can be a hassle.
An optional shift-on-the-fly system permits shifting to and from 4WD at speeds below 50 mph. A push-button switch for four-wheel drive is an option for the SR5 models. A control lever is used to shift into low-range four-wheel drive. An optional locking rear differential provides additional traction at low speeds in mud, snow and sand; by pressing a button after 4WD Low is selected, the rear differential can be locked, forcing both rear wheels to turn in unison.
The suspension on all models is independent double wishbones with coil springs up front and a live axle and leaf springs in back. The 4WD Xtracab V6 models benefit from gas-filled shocks.
With their high ground clearance, it is not easy to get in and out of the 4WD models. Once inside, the driver finds a nice interior with dual armrests, dual cupholders and a driver-side foot rest. The instruments and switch gear are laid out well and have a nice feel. Air conditioning, radio, power windows, mirrors and locks are all optional and drive the price up quickly.
The regular cab seats two in comfort. Three can sit--barely--on the standard bench seat. The five-passenger XtraCab models add a 60/40 split front bench seat and rear jump seats with a special restraint system designed for children. XtraCabs can carry four people in relative comfort, but the primary practical benefit of the extended cab is to provide security and shelter for smaller items. It also adds another inch of front legroom. The XtraCab comes with tilt-out quarter windows and a folding table with cup holders.
We found the 60/40 split cloth bench seat in our Tacoma XtraCab comfortable, though we prefer the buckets in the SR5 version. XtraCab SR5 models also include map lights, tilt wheel, full instrumentation, a digital clock, AM/FM/cassette audio, variable intermittent wipers, a sliding rear window, chrome trim, and aluminum alloy wheels.
Our 4WD Tacoma seemed to be happiest when bouncing down muddy two-tracks, slogging through snow or bounding over major moguls. The suspension has plenty of travel to deal with these hazards and the 4WD system pulled it through situations where a 2WD probably would have gotten stuck.
If we weren't expecting to bounce, slog or bound very often, though, we'd think about ordering the 2WD model. The 4WD truck feels a little out of its element around town with its relatively choppy ride. And like almost any pickup, a load in the bed improves the ride quality and handling considerably.
Also like most pickups, the performance and ride of a Tacoma will vary considerably from model to model. The four-cylinder engine on our test vehicle provided adequate acceleration and the five-speed gearbox shifted well. The basic 2.4-liter engine isn't as smooth as the 2.7-liter engine. And the V6 is smoother still.
With its broad array of engine and chassis choices, the Tacoma can be tailored to suit a broad variety of pickup duties. And with careful shopping, you can keep costs under control.
Regardless of equipment, these are high-quality trucks that will provide years of reliable service. The more work an owner can shovel at them, the more they pay off with first-class truck performance.
And even though the pricing tends toward premium, you can expect a better return when it's time to trade or sell.
That's the basic beauty of the Tacoma: You get what you pay for.
Build and price your dream Toyota Tacoma in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2013 Toyota Tacoma$17,991 | 15,248 mi
2013 Toyota Tacoma$27,699 | 10,403 mi
2013 Toyota Tacoma$27,884 | 16,850 mi
2013 Toyota Tacoma$27,980 | 13,155 mi
2013 Toyota Tacoma$28,550 | 12,365 mi
2013 Toyota Tacoma$29,000 | 31,190 mi
2013 TOYOTA TACOMA$30,676 | 24,658 mi
2013 Toyota Tacoma$31,450 | 16,412 mi
2012 TOYOTA TACOMA$23,720 | 59,400 mi
2011 Toyota Tacoma$22,955 | 57,571 mi
2011 Toyota Tacoma$24,794 | 60,071 mi
2011 Toyota Tacoma$25,599 | 39,279 mi
2011 Toyota Tacoma$26,970 | 31,052 mi
2011 TOYOTA TACOMA$26,992 | 38,777 mi
2010 Toyota Tacoma$20,998 | 17,033 mi
2010 Toyota Tacoma$22,455 | 74,042 mi
2010 Toyota Tacoma$24,250 | 70,431 mi
2010 Toyota Tacoma$24,709 | 37,885 mi
2010 Toyota Tacoma$25,570 | 27,670 mi
2009 Toyota Tacoma$20,500 | 40,718 mi
2008 Toyota Tacoma$16,255 | 101,664 mi
2008 Toyota Tacoma$16,801 | 98,153 mi
2007 Toyota Tacoma$16,000 | 102,353 mi
2007 TOYOTA TACOMA$20,500 | 44,972 mi
2007 Toyota Tacoma$21,671 | 80,382 mi
2004 Toyota Tacoma$13,295 | 149,307 mi
2002 Toyota Tacoma$15,990 | 86,365 mi
1999 Toyota Tacoma$10,251 | 153,279 mi