From daily commuter to desert hauler, our long-term Tacoma continues to excel
The last time we checked in with our long-term Tacoma (March '06), we had just passed the 12,000-mile mark and were still waxing enthusiastic over our tester's versatile nature. Now, nine months and hundreds of off-pavement miles later, we're still pleased with our Toyota's unbeatable combination of on-road refinement, good trail manners, and overall user-friendliness. And we are definitely true believers in the TRD Off-Road package, which gives you skidplates and tow hooks, a rear locking diff, a Class IV hitch, 115V bed-mounted power point, Bilstein shocks, and P265 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires on 16-inch alloys. The option adds $3,700 to the sticker, but if you're looking to optimize this truck's performance straight from the factory, it's worth every cent in our book.
Gripes over the Tacoma are few and far between, and mostly focus on hard-to-find shift gates on the six-speed, slightly spongy (and cramped) clutch engagement, and a relatively low ride height-to-hood height proportioning which some testers feel inhibits forward visibility. One gripe not heard--and likely never to be heard--concerns overall build integrity. Toyota trucks haven't developed their industry-leading reputation for stoutness and reliability by accident, and our test truck has been no exception. Save three routine dealer services, our Tacoma has stayed as tightly buttoned down as it was when we first took possession, despite our best attempts to loosen every bolt and bushing on repeated flogs over rocky trails, desert dry washes, and those pesky highway expansion joints.
We've piled up fewer miles on our Tacoma in the most recent test period, putting it through more daily-driver paces than trail duty of late. This helps to explain the slight uptick in mileage we've noticed since our last report. Still, with overall mileage below 16 mpg for the term, we have to say that we'd like to see Toyota offer a hybrid option for this truck in the near future. And yes, we know that hybrids aren't really feasible for four-wheeling for a variety of reasons, mostly revolving around the current state (pun intended) of battery technology and its ability--or lack of same, more accurately--to deliver usable low-end torque to the rear wheels for extended periods of time. But for those Tacoma owners--a majority, we suspect--who will seldom if ever venture off-pavement, and who will likely never subject their trucks to any harder use than hauling a few hundred pounds of garden supplies once or twice a month, we think a hybrid option would be a great fit for this truck. We'll conclude our long-term evaluation in a couple of months.
Previous reports: Nov. '05, March '06
Base price: $23,870
Price as tested: $29,450
Four-wheel-drive system: VF2A electronic part-time two-speed
Miles to date: 15,929
Miles since last report: 3,166
Average mpg (this report): 15.71
Test Best tank (mpg): 18.8
Test Worst tank (mpg): 12.4 (towing)
15,000-mile service: Oil change and tire rotation
Problem areas: None
Hot: Crisp acceleration; quiet and rattle-free interior; good trail gearing; rear locker; TRD package with BFGs and Bilsteins
Not: Vague-shifting transmission with stubborn Reverse gear; claustrophobic clutch layout; slightly mushy road feel; so-so mileage
* "17,000 miles and still tight--no squeaks or rattles."
* "Love the seats and materials; hate the tranny shifter."
* "Good crawl ratio. Went down some steep trails and felt very controlled."
* "Suspension is rock solid--in a good way."
* "Shifter feels like a broomstick in a watermelon."
* "Some people think it's a Tundra!"