Toyota knows what compact truck buyers want, and its Tacoma pickup delivers the goods. Toyota Tacoma boasts a heritage of solid service as a work truck along with a hard-earned reputation as a winning off-road race truck.
Toyota makes a Tacoma to fit almost any work-related or recreational pursuit. The Tacoma line starts with a simple two-wheel-drive work truck loaded with nothing but quality, durability and reliability. The line tops out with fancy four-wheel-drive models that offer features comparable to a compact sedan.
Changes for 2003 emphasize safety. All Tacoma models now stop with anti-lock brakes (ABS); while child restraint system (CRS) anchors have been added to the front passenger seats of standard Cab and Xtracab models, and to the outboard rear seats in Double Cabs.
Your experience in the Toyota Tacoma depends largely on the model and optional equipment. They drive quite a bit differently, but all do a good job in the roles for which they are designed.
The two-wheel-drive work truck rides smoothly and handles reasonably well. Off-road versions offer impressive handling and capability in the rough stuff. And for street rodders, the S-Runner is fun to drive.
Two four-cylinder engines are available. The base Tacoma 4x2 uses a 142-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which compares favorably with competing four-cylinder models from Nissan, Ford and Mazda. The Toyota 2.4-liter is economical to run, with an EPA-estimated city/highway mileage of 22/25 mpg when matched with a five-speed manual transmission. For 4X4 models, Toyota offers a 150-horsepower 2.7-liter inline-4 that rates 18/21 mpg in the EPA cycle.
The V6 is available for 4x2 and 4x4 models. It delivers 190 horsepower at 4800 rpm, with 220 pounds-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. Even at that it's still reasonably economical, with an EPA city/highway mileage rating of 18/22 for a 4x2 with a five-speed manual.
The five-speed manual transmission shifts smoothly and makes the Tacoma more fun to drive. It makes accelerating into traffic a joy.
The optional four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission is a good match for the 3.4-liter V6. This combination offers good acceleration for passing slow-moving semi trucks on two-lane stretches of highway.
The TRD suspension developed by Toyota and its off-road racing teams does a good job of smoothing out rough ground. A Toyota Tacoma 4x4 equipped with the TRD treatment offers impressive handling on rough, primitive roads, as we found out near Big Sky, Montana. The Tacoma feels like it would go anywhere, and get there in a big hurry. The TRD suspension is fantastic, whether going slow or hauling. Even deep, bounding ruts failed to upset the handling in medium-speed corners. Handling on dirt roads is much better balanced in four-wheel drive than in the two-wheel-drive mode. The TRD Tacoma rides reasonably well, though it's stiff at low speeds. That stiffness pays off at higher speeds, however. Like all pickups, it feels much smoother with a little weight in the bed. At moderate speed over desert moguls, the Tacoma suspension keeps the tires on the terrain for good grip without jarring the occupant's internal organs loose.
Auto-locking hubs and a 4WD-High button let you shift on the fly at speeds less than 50 mph. That's a convenience when a good road goes bad. The available push-button locking differential forces the rear wheels to turn at the same speed. This enables the Tacoma to walk out of ankle-deep sand with absolutely no trouble. The locking rear differential is indispensable for driving in an area prone to mud and snow.
On dry pavement, the Tacoma 4X4 holds corners surprisingly well. Given its high center of gravity you don't want to try anything too radical, but this truck really hangs on in decreasing-radius freeway ramps and in other moderate maneuvers.
The 2WD S-Runner offers responsive handling. Cruising down your favorite twisty road with the S-Runner will never fail to brighten your day. Its 190-horsepower 3.4-liter V6 produces a deep-sounding (but not obnoxious) exhaust note. The sport-tuned suspension setup includes Tokico gas shock absorbers, increased-rate springs, and front and rear stabilizer bars. Ride height is reduced by one inch from the standard 4x2. Though a little jouncy when empty, the ride never felt harsh, and handling was superb. As long as the weather doesn't get too slippery, the S-Runner is as entertaining as anything we've recently driven. It is so much fun that we kept searching for reasons to go for a spin.
We used an S-Runner to move some furniture from Maryland to Virginia and, like all pickups, it rode better when loaded down. The lower ride height of the S-Runner is a real benefit when it's time to do some wo
You can't beat Toyota pickups for quality, durability and reliability. So look no further if those benefits are at the top of your list. Overall, the Tacoma is an impressive package.
There are bigger trucks and there are more powerful trucks than the Tacoma. But there are few 4x4 pickups that offer the combination of style, comfort, and rugged performance that you'll find in the Tacoma Xtracab 4X4 Limited. The Double Cab adds rear seating or some needed interior cargo space.