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Toyota Tacoma: Small Pickup, Aggressive Moves

By Sue Mead, July 12th, 2014

Toyota adds to the Tacoma small pickup a sporty new SR appearance package, plus four levels of Toyota's Entune that syncs with the user's mobile smartphone. New for the upcoming 2015 model is Toyota Racing Development's TRD Pro Off-Road package.

Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has lived by its mission "to deliver an authentic high performance experience by adding value to create passion and enthusiasm."

Starting at $18,125, the Toyota Tacoma line offers a choice between four-cylinder and V-6 engines, manual and automatic transmissions, 2WD and 4WD drivetrains, as well as numerous cab and bed styles. With seating for three to five passengers, Tacoma is designed for work or play in three trim levels.

PreRunner versions have the 4x2 drivetrain configuration, with trim details that are shared with 4x4 models. Cab configurations include Regular Cab, Access, and Double Cab.

Tacoma Access versions have rear doors that swing open 80 degrees for easier entry and exit; bold overfenders distinguish PreRunner and 4x4 models. PreRunner models combine the 4x2 drivetrain with the 4x4's raised ride height and styling. Double Cab models offer a roof rack system with crossbars that deploy from the roof rails.

The truck's composite inner bed is made from a sheet-molded composite deck and its tough, durable walls are 10 percent lighter than steel. The bed deck is designed for two-tier loading, with an integrated deck-rail utility that has four standard adjustable tie-down cleats. The rails are compatible with Genuine Toyota Accessories, such as cargo bed cross bars, a fork-mount bike rack, and diamond-plate storage boxes.

The SR Package, available for the Tacoma PreRunner and 4x4 Access Cab and Double Cab base grade models, brings a sporty look adding a color-keyed exterior appearance upgrade, overfenders, door handles, bumpers, grille surround and mirrors with turn signals, plus smoked headlight lenses and black finish 16-inch Baja-style wheels. Models with the V-6 engine also get fog lights with the SR package.

Tacoma can be powered by a choice of two engines: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque or a 4.0-liter V-6 that provides 236 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque; both use variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to enhance low-end and mid-range torque.

The V-6 can be paired with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. Four-cylinder models offer a choice between a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic. When equipped with a V-6 Tow Package, Access Cab models boast a maximum tow capacity of up to 6,500 pounds. Standard on all models is an automatic limited-slip differential that uses brake intervention to help reduce tire slippage at the back.

A TRD Off-Road Package engineered to balance off-road performance and on-road handling is available for 4x4 V-6 automatic models. Chassis modifications include an electronic locking rear differential, progressive-rate front springs, specially tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, a 28-mm front stabilizer bar, BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, and fog lamps. Also onboard is a locking rear differential that can be activated by a switch in the cab. An electronic rear differential is available on 4x4 models and the PreRunner.

Meantime, the more road-focused TRD Sport Package is set up with specific suspension tuning and lower-profile tires on 17-inch alloy wheels. Fog lamps, hood scoop, TRD graphics, and color-keyed rear bumper, mirrors, grille surround, and door handles add a sporty look. Both the TRD Off-Road Package and TRD Sport Package offer a 400W/115V power point in the bed as well as sport seats with adjustable lumbar support and unique fabric.

We recently drove the Tacoma with the new-for-2015 TRD Pro Off-Road package in Nevada. We motored the Tacoma TRD Pro on a route that included both the city streets and freeways of Las Vegas to off-road desert trails to assess this package designed for extreme off-roading enthusiasts.

Outside, the front end has carved hoodline, a unique front grille with "TOYOTA" badging that pays tribute to early iconic Toyotas, and a black TRD Pro badge that gives the truck a wide "I-won't-be-ignored" grin, especially in the new Inferno paint color.

Specialized parts include TRD Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, TRD-tuned front springs with 2 inches of additional lift in front, black 16-inch beadlock wheels wrapped by BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires, a TRD exhaust, and a skid plate underneath.

Inside the sporty cabin are TRD floor mats and TRD shift knobs. We were impressed with every part of the package that amps performance and comfort both on- and off-road.

Toyota and TRD's focus over the last 35 years has led to numerous motorsports victories in an array of racing series, including Indy Car, USAC, desert off road, NASCAR (Camping World Truck, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup), and IMSA and Grand Am sports car racing.


Base price $26,905 (as tested: $)
Curb weight 4,220 lbs.
Displacement 4.0-liter
Epa mileage rating 16 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 21.1 gal.
Horsepower (net) 236 at 5200 rpm
Motor type 24-valve V-6 w/EFI
Overall length 208.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 266 at 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger 4x4 double cab pickup
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