2009 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 V-6 SR5 TRD

The Tacoma's size is perfect for driving and parking in the city, yet it still packs appreciable utility with a payload capacity of 1295 pounds and maximum towing weight of 6500 pounds in our particular tester. However, at $33,000, this Tacoma isn't that appealing to me. By contrast, the Tundra Double Cab that we drove in a few weeks ago came in at less than $31,000 and could pull 8300 pounds or carry an extra 220 pounds in the bed. That Tundra didn't have the off-road equipment of this Tacoma, but it did include essentials like keyless entry, towing hardware, and decent audio along with the 4.6-liter V-8.

To keep things fair, I went over to Toyota's Web site to spec out a Tacoma without the TRD off-road equipment. Sticking with the Double Cab and four-wheel drive, I opted for the cheapest package that delivered keyless entry and cruise control. Out-the-door price: $29,539. That's just $1395 less than the Tundra we drove and it doesn't include Bluetooth, satellite radio, V-8 power, or the additional towing capacity. I'd spend the extra money for the Tundra.

That being said, if the Tacoma is the truck you want, you won't be disappointed. It actually drives very nicely for a truck, with comfortable steering effort and above-par feel, decent power, and surprisingly relaxed ride. The low dash, tall seating position, and tidy dimensions of the Tacoma also inspire confidence as you can actually sense where the vehicle's corners are - a rarity in driving larger pickups.

Along with the unusable and in-the-way running boards on the Tacoma, I was a bit confused by the 115-volt household power outlet being located in the bed of the truck. I'm sure some marketing person loved the thought of a brochure or commercial showing a burly American man slicing through 2x4s on the Tacoma's tailgate, but the truth is this outlet doesn't have the power output to support anything with a motor. Instead, it's perfect for charging a laptop, cell phone, iPod, or batteries for a cordless power tool. I'd rather charge all of those items inside the truck and not worry about theft or weather consuming my belongings. Even if this outlet were being used at some kind of worksite, I'd prefer to run an extension cord out of the cabin while the vehicle's parked rather than deal with a cord hanging out the truck's window at 70 mph so my passengers can power a laptop.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

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