Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD
Last year the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab with the TRD package went up against some heavy competition in our 2001 Pickup Truck of the Year and came away the winner. Much praise went to the Tacoma's TRD package that included progressive coils, Bilstein shocks, and BFGoodrich tires. Of course, it possessed one of our favorite options: a push-button-actuated electric rear locking differential that, when engaged, instantly sends power to both rear wheels.
This year we received a mostly identical Toyota Tacoma Double Cab with the same TRD package but the results were much different. How can this be? Well, the outcome of a comparison test is always different when you have different vehicles. However, one simple change was a major contributor to the less than stellar results for the Tacoma this year.
Last year our Tacoma TRD came with Bilstein shocks. For some reason, this year's Tacoma TRD came equipped with Tokico shocks. They were horribly stiff, and they completely changed the character of this vehicle. Once a bump-gobbling speed demon, the Tacoma was transformed into a truck with a teeth-shattering ride on our high-speed dirt road. Last year, the Tacoma's suspension impressed us with its ability to handle high-speed blasts and low-speed crawling with equal prowess. This year, the Tacoma's stiff suspension did the best job of any of our contestants of tossing occupants around in our low-range trail sections. The stiff ride also jarred and jiggled passengers on paved surfaces.
While the extremely stiff suspension hurt the Tacoma, its push-button electric rear locker helped to salvage its off-road performance. Working in low-range and below 5 miles per hour, the locker greatly improves the Tacoma's capabilities off-road. With a simple push of a button the Tacoma could walk through the toughest trail sections--sections which would defeat some of the other contenders in this test.
The performance of the Tacoma's 3.4L V-6 provided a bit of a surprise for our judges. Producing 190 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque, the V-6 isn't a rocket, but it does supply a decent amount of power. The four-speed automatic transmission did a good job of working the engine to get the power to the ground but a five-speed manual would have been better to wring all the power possible out of the Tacoma.
The interior of the Toyota was a mixture of pros and cons. Most of our judges liked the easy-to-read gauges, but noticed that there was a bare minimum of them. The majority also liked the seats but our bigger testers felt a bit cramped in the smaller interior. While the interior got mixed reviews, all of our judges liked the solid feel of the brakes and the precise steering that the Tacoma offered.
The Tacoma Double Cab TRD is a terrific compact pickup that is plenty capable off-road. However, its ultra-stiff suspension really hampered it this year. While this would be an easy fix with some aftermarket parts, we test the vehicles as they come to us and this is why the best the Tacoma could muster was Fourth place.
Love that locking rear differential. Shift into 4-Lo, push the locker button, and away you go with nary a spin of a rear wheel. This might just be our all-time favorite factory accessory from any manufacturer.
The Tacoma's very stiff-legged ride. How the Tundra can be so plush and the Tacoma so harsh eludes us.
Check it out if...
Off-highway capability matters more to you than on-road comfort does.
Avoid it if...
You've got to haul people in the rear seat.
25 Words or Less
Just about all the 4x4 pickup most 'wheelers actually need--a bit small and stiff riding on the road, but terrific in the dirt.
The locker is cool and it's a good size. Just swap out the stiff shocks and you are good to go.
What can I say, I love this truck. The quality is outstanding, it performs superbly, and it seats four adults comfortably.
The Tacoma Double Cab is a great truck. It would be even better with the Tundra's V-8 under its hood.