The Tacoma is bigger and better in all the important areas: it’s four inches wider and has a taller cabin and a longer wheelbase. The V-6 gains 55 horsepower for an impressive 245. A new, 164-horsepower, 2.7-liter four replaces both old four-cylinder engines. The maximum tow rating jumps to 6500 pounds. Besides the choice of engines, the menu includes three body styles (regular cab, Access Cab, and Double Cab), two special editions (the Pre-Runner and the X-Runner), two bed lengths (60.3 inches or 73.5 inches), four transmissions, and three differentials.
If muscle trucks are your thing, then you’ll want one of the 3500 TRD-evolved, rear-wheel-drive,V-6 X-Runners (six-speed manual only). A crossmember added to the frame increases torsional rigidity, and the suspension upgrades include firmer springs, Bilstein dampers, and a rear antiroll bar. On the track, the X-Runner delivers 0.9 g lateral grip.
The Tacoma was built to passenger-car safety standards, with side and curtain air bags available. ABS with brake assist is standard. You can add stability control with traction control, as well as hill-start assist to prevent rolling back from an uphill stop. The wide variety of standard and optional features (among them under-the-floor and behind-the-seat storage cubbies, rear seats that fold flat, a 400-watt outlet in the cargo bed, bed storage boxes, a bed extender, and TRD sport and off-road packages) makes the Tacoma useful both for work and for play.
We went to Alaska to play off-road. A 4×4 regular-cab Tacoma climbed fearlessly into the stark hills of the Alyeska ski resort, aced an obstacle course, and headed back downhill using optional downhill assist in first low, which pulled us from a downhill crawl to a dead stop. We actually had to juice the throttle to keep going.
With this redesign, Toyota has juiced the throttle of its compact pickup. It has created a truck that is far superior to the one it replaces, even if it’s not so compact anymore.