Saturday Road Test -Toyota Tacoma

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2013 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

Tough Dude in a Smaller Package

By Ron Amadon

DAMACUS, MD – Mid-sized trucks seem to be staging a bit of a comeback these days with GM announcing it will bring back the Chevy Colorado and its near twin brother, the GMC Canyon.

Production will begin next year at a plant in Missouri as the Nissan Frontier soldiers along with this weekend’s test vehicle, the Toyota Tacoma.

Like the Frontier, the Tacoma will be virtually the same truck in the 2014 model year, and that is not a bad thing based on a week behind the wheel on all kinds of road conditions, and in some cases, where there was NO road per say.

A wide variety of cabs and options are offered in the Toyota lineup, from very bare bones with a four cylinder, no A/C, and a stick shift to a top-of-the-line luxury truck – the version that seems to be catching the eye of owners these days.

The test truck was a “Double Cab” Tacoma and that is the model you should select if you hope to haul some adults in the back seat. In the double cab, two can get rather comfy back there and various folding of the seats will open up some private storage space for keeping valuable cargo out of sight.

tacoma inrerior


Unlike it’s bigger brethren, the Tacoma does not offer a big V8 as an engine option, but gets along quite nicely with a 236 horsepower 4.0 liter V6 that produces 266-lb-ft of torque and is an especially refined unit. It gets along rather nicely with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission, with the combination rated at 16-21 miles per gallon of regular gas by the EPA. I checked in at 19 mpg.

An extended off road trip in West Virginia revealed what a solid build this truck is and how convenient it is to have an easy to reach dial that allows you to quickly go four wheelin’. The automatic limited slip differential and the 9” of ground clearance, along with a tough suspension front and rear demonstrated that the Tacoma was ready for bigger challenges off road than I was able to muster along historic trails where whistles of old Western Maryland steam engines once echoed off the hills on still nights.

Inside during all this, the A/C purred away the very hot and humid weather outside, and the “SofTex” sport seats proved comfortable with just a few minor adjustments during a 300-mile drive. It was great to have three big knobs on the center stack and not on a touch screen to adjust the ventilation, the blue ringed instrument panel  was a classy touch, and, no surprise, fit and finish was excellent.

Tacoma cruised nicely at 70 on the interstates, with plenty of pep to pass slow moving semis on the somewhat steep mountain grades. Visibility was good, as it is with most pickups, but I am aware that those of shorter stature feel the seating position is too low in the Tacoma.

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Look down the price sticker of the test truck and your eye will first catch a rather major option package, totaling a wallet grabbing $7,210. The “Limited Extra Value Package” brings 18” chrome clad alloy wheels with P265/60R mud and snow tires, various trim pieces, fog lamps, leather trimmed steering wheel, outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, and steering wheel mounted audio controls, among other items.

A $650 Tow Package allows the Tacoma to handle up to 6,500 pounds. There was a mat cover and lots of D Ring tie-downs in the truck bed.

With transportation, the test truck carried a price tag of $37,157. A fair amount for a mid-sized truck but owners can check fewer options and reduce the monthly payment accordingly. It should be remembered that if you click a lot of option boxes on a full size pick up the price can hit the upper $60k region or more.

With the Tacoma you will end up with a tough, long lasting, well-built truck that is roughly 22 inches shorter than a full size pickup and therefore easier to handle when assigned to around town chores.

Toyota offers a 2-year, 25,000 complimentary maintenance plan for all normal factory scheduled service with 24/7 roadside assistance. Given the truck’s reliability, you may never use it.

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