2011 Toyota Tacoma 4X4Posted on January 5th, 2012
V-6 engine tows up to 6500 pounds
By Nina Russin
The Tacoma’s roots are in Toyota’s compact pickup trucks of the 1970s and 80s. Today, the Tacoma is a significantly larger vehicle, lining up behind the full-sized Tundra. New six-cylinder engine technology enables engineers to produce equivalent performance to what V-8 engines yielded a decade back. As a result, the V-6 Tacoma with 266 foot-pounds of torque qualifies as a real work horse, with the ability to carry heavy cargo.
The advantage of the V-6 as compared to the eight cylinder engine is fuel economy. The Tacoma access cab 4X4 averages 20 miles-per-gallon on the highway, which is good for a two-ton truck. Out of the box, the Tacoma tows up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV standard. A towing prep package which adds a class 4 hitch, heavy duty battery, transmission and oil coolers boosts towing capacity to 6500 pounds, making the Tacoma capable of hauling large trailers.
The access cab includes a small rear passenger space which can also be used for cargo. Dealerships can deactivate the front passenger airbag for child seats, since they won’t fit in back.
Base price for the test car is $25,925 excluding the $810 delivery charge. A discounted TRD off-road package adds a locking rear differential, off-road suspension, Bilstein shocks, special wheels, tires and skid plates under the chassis, as well as a host of comfort and convenience features inside the car ($3085). Other options include daytime running lamps ($40), the towing prep package ($650), carpeted floor mats ($179), tie down loops ($40), special wheels, tires and performance exhaust ($1699), bringing the price as tested to $33,168.
Appeals to buyers with active lifestyles
Buyers with active lifestyles find midsized pickup trucks appealing for their versatility. Off-road capability not only gives outdoor enthusiasts better access to remote trails; it also adds ground clearance for deep snow and extra traction on icy roads. The plastic bedliner resists scratching, and can be a good place to stash mountain bikes with the appropriate racks. The access cab adds storage space inside the cabin for smaller items such as duffle bags and wetsuits. The rear seat bottoms flip up to reveal covered storage bins. There is also a covered bin between the two back seats: slightly smaller than the center console.
My personal bias for Toyota pickups comes from their ironclad reliability. The Tacoma might not be the most high tech truck on the market, but it comes through where it counts: a subzero night in Chicago is a good example. When I went to mechanic’s school, most of my classmates owned Toyota pickup trucks for that very reason. Buyers who like to adventure off the grid will sleep better knowing that.
The four-liter V-6 engine has an aluminum block to minimize weight under the hood. Direct injection delivers fuel directly into the cylinders as opposed to through the valves. This enhances throttle response and improves gas mileage. The five-speed automatic transmission has one low gear for times when the driver needs to slow the truck down without switching into four-wheel drive. Controls for the four-wheel drive and optional locking rear differential are on the instrument panel.
The Tacoma’s dimensions makes it better suited for the suburbs than the city. The 4X4 access cab model measures just under 17-1/2 feet end to end, and is too tall to fit in some garages. On the flip side, the truck is surprisingly maneuverable considering its size. A 40-foot turning circle makes U-turns possible on some wider four-lane roads.
Peak torque of 266 foot pounds is available at 4000 rpm, giving the Tacoma excellent acceleration in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto highways. Acceleration off the line isn’t exceptional, but is more-than-adequate for keeping up with traffic.
A rearview camera projects an image in the rearview mirror when the driver shifts into reverse. For some reason, the camera’s positioning seems to pick up sunlight, which made the image difficult to see right after sunrise or before sunset. Otherwise, it’s handy for picking up obstacles which lie below the driver’s sightline.
The rear doors for the access cab are hinged to the rear pillars to create a larger opening. The latch to open the doors is inside the B pillar. The B pillars are therefore thick, which limits the driver’s visibility over the left shoulder. Monitoring traffic to the right isn’t a problem. Large side mirrors do a good job of minimizing blind spots to the rear.
The Tacoma has an independent wishbone suspension up front and live axle in the rear. The live axle makes the truck better suited for towing. I found the ride quite comfortable around town. Live axles can produce a lot of hop on the highway, but this one doesn’t.
Brakes consist of ventilated discs up front and drums in the rear. Braking on dry pavement is firm and linear. I didn’t have the opportunity to drive the truck in the rain, but would prefer rear discs which don’t retain moisture the way drums can. Drums are also more difficult to service because they tend to rust.
Designers made good use of the limited space inside the passenger cabin. Front seats are quite roomy, and both rows of passengers have plenty of access to cupholders, bottle holders and storage bins.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view. Redundant audio controls which come as part of the TRD option package minimize driver distraction.
Both the glovebox and center console bin are on the large size. The console bin is big enough to hold a tablet computer or small pack. Small open bins on either side of the steering wheel are handy storage spots for cell phones. The overhead console includes the optional compass and ambient temperature indicator as well as storage for sunglasses or a garage door holder.
Manual seat adjustments work quite well. Front seats have adequate lower lumbar support.
The cargo bed has plenty of tie-down hooks for large cargo. A 115-volt power outlet which comes with the TRD package is handy for camping.
The Tacoma comes with Toyota’s star safety system which integrates antilock braking, traction and stability control in a manner which is invisible to the driver. Other standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags and tire pressure monitoring system. A smart safety feature automatically slows down the vehicle if the driver inadvertently depresses the accelerator and brake pedals at the same time.
Toyota builds the Tacoma at its assembly plant in San Antonio, Texas.
Likes: A durable, versatile pickup truck with the off-road and towing capability to appeal to buyers with active lifestyles.
Dislike: Sunlight obscures the rearview camera image when the sun is low in the sky.
Model: Tacoma 4X4 Access Cab V-6
Base price: $25,925
As tested: $33,168
Horsepower: 236 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 266 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/20 mpg city/highway
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