Pros-Muscular look. Shines off pavement. Potent V-6. Rugged overall. Easy controls. Part-time four-wheel drive. Sit high. Safety features. Good reputation.
Cons-Tall step-up. Tight rear seat. Very firm ride. Heavy steering. Wide turning circle.
Bottom Line- Tough go-anywhere truck.
One glance at Toyota's 2019 Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 Double Cab pickup shows it means business. It has a raised body, big tires on 17-inch machined alloy wheels and a hood scoop. The "TRD" (Toyota Racing Division) bodyside labeling enhances the effect.
The mid-size four-door Tacoma long has been a hot seller and comes in enough configurations to satisfy just about everyone, with Limited, SR, SR5, TRD Off Road and TRD Sport versions and different cab and bed sizes. Prices are all over the place, ranging from $25,700 to $45,515.
I tested one of the top-line models-the TRD Sport Double Cab V-6 with part-time four-wheel drive with a two-speed electronically controlled transfer case and an automatic limited-slip differential. Its list price was $36,465, but extra items such as a $2,890 TRD Premium Sport Package and $1,045 delivery and processing charge upped the bottom line to $42,825.
Powering my test Tacoma was a 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 with 265 pound-feet of torque and an engine oil cooler. It worked with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature. The transmission sometimes seemed a tad slow because of economy shift programming, but mostly was responsive and had a manual-shift feature. Incidentally, you can a Tacoma with a six-speed manual transmission with the base 2.7-liter 159-horsepower four-cylinder. The manual is said to shift smoothly.
Acceleration was strong, and Toyota says the truck has a 6,800-pound towing capacity and can haul a 1,276-pound payload. The composite bed has a 120-volt power outlet. And the tailgate is lockable and removable.
The Tacoma could use wider running boards for those with larger-size shoes because getting in calls for a tall step up into the 70.6-inch high vehicle. Once inside, though, visibility is quite good, although the extra-large power outside rearview mirrors with turn signal indicators partly blocked my vision during turns in town. The color-keyed hood scoop, however, looked sexy from the driver's seat.
The purposeful looking, generally quiet interior has lots of hard plastic, but doesn't look cheap. However the rear seat will be comfortable only for shorter folks. There's a push-button start and digital speedometer to go with the large, clearly marked speedometer and tachometer. The tach only registers about 2,000 r.p.m. at 70 m.p.h. and only reads about 1,800 r.pm. at 65 m.p.h.
Estimated fuel economy is 18 miles per gallon the city and 22 on highways, although a dash gauge of my test Tacoma registered a few more miles per gallon during steady 65-70 m.p.h. Only 87-octane fuel is called for, although Toyota says higher grade fuel can be used. Fuel tank capacity is 21.1 gallons.
But fuel economy isn't a major consideration for Tacoma buyers. They want a rugged go-anywhere truck that has a proven reputation of shining during off-pavement driving. Under the raised body of my Test Tacoma was a coil-spring double-wishbone front suspension and leaf spring rear suspension with sport-tuned shock absorbers.
One penalty for the tough suspension, though, was a ride that caused even moderate bumps to be felt. The ride wasn't punishing, but it's just firm enough to make a long-distance drive only moderately comfortable-at least for those accustomed to a car-like ride. A dial near the steering wheel makes it easy to switch from rear- to 4WD.
Helping make my test Tacoma feel user-friendly, though, were such features as a push-button start, leather-trimmed thick steering wheel with audio controls, handy dashboard control buttons ( especially large ones for for climate control), AM/FM CD, USB media port, many storage areas, easily used 7-inch touchscreen and several charging ports. There are power windows and door locks, and also a power horizontal rear window with privacy glass.
My test Tacoma had the $2,890 Premium Sport Package, which contained heated leather-trimmed supportive front seats, automatic climate control, premium audio system and a moonroof.
The power steering, which has a cooler, is precise, with no on-center slop. But it's heavy and has little road feel. Also, the turning circle is quite wide, which can make the 225-inch-long (long-bed) Tacomaversion awkward to maneuver in some areas.. Handling is very good for such a fairly large, tall pickup. I found that sweeping through freeway on- and off-ramps at extra-legal speeds was no problem. The brakes bite early and surely without an overly sensitive pedal.
The many useful safety items include a pre-collision system with pedestrian protection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with a sway warning system, rear backup camera, advanced air bag system, side curtain air bags.
The Toyota Tacoma has been a top-seller but now has competition from such new midsize pickups as the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger and GMC Canyon. But what the others don't have is the Tacoma's long-proven track record.