Engine: 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle with dual VVT-I
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Torque: 265 lb.-ft.
EPA ratings: 18/city, 22/highway, 20/combined
Base price: $41,860
As tested: $45,183
Overview: Once upon a time, the Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup had only one competitor — Nissan’s rugged Frontier. Now there’s rivals from Ford, Chevy, GMC and a Honda wannabe. But the Tacoma, with its off-road capability, safety technology and resale value, still rules the roost. The Tacoma lineup features eight models — the SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, TRD Pro — and the new Trail Special and Nightshade editions. Our test driver was the Nightshade, and this review will focus on only that.
Walkaround: Styling hasn’t changed much in 20 years — except perhaps the bold grille that’s grown over time and been framed by LED running lights. The crew cab versions get a standard 5-foot bed with optional 6-footer. The Nightshade edition features 18-inch dark-smoke wheels with black lug nuts and locks, exhaust tip, mirror caps foglight bezels and badging.
Interior: The no-nonsense styling carries over into the old-school, all-business cabin that features car-like instrumentation. An 8-inch touchscreen sits high over climate control knobs and a row of switches. The Nightshade’s interior is functional and sturdy, featuring dark leather-trimmed seats. The formerly stationary driver’s seat — with no up or down adjustments — is finally power adjustable. The crew cab has four doors and a real back seat, but it’s upright with limited legroom.
Behind the Wheel: The Tacoma delivers a firm ride thanks to being built on a ladder frame with a solid rear axle, leaf springs and independent front suspension. It handles just as you expect. Road-tripping over Snoqualmie Pass, it rode well, but was buffeted by some strong winds. The available four-wheel-drive system works using a simple knob. It includes a locking rear differential, a crawl control system that carries the truck along at walking speeds, hill-descent control and five off-road traction control modes. The six-speed automatic is smooth and upshifts enthusiastically for better fuel economy. The Tacoma is rated to tow up to 6,800 pounds when properly equipped — good for a midsize pickup.
Bottom Line: It’s difficult to find any midsize truck with the off-road chops of the Toyota Tacoma. Its legendary reliability and resale value make it easy to look past the rough ride and tall price tag.