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Total price for the TRD package is $4405. It was the only option on our test model, besides $200 for a 6-CD changer and $130 for carpet floor mats. Combined with a $540 destination fee, total MSRP for our test truck was $27,520.

Over the years I’ve found the Tacoma is most comfortable in the desert. At least that’s where I have the most fun with it while in 4-wheel-drive. It has excellent mountain-trail ability but the current longer wheelbase and wider stance to accommodate the roomier cab makes it a little less nimble in tight spots. However, the bigger footprint gives the Tacoma increased stability in off-camber situations. It all depends on how you use it.

Letting the Tacoma stretch it legs over long pole-line roads or across dry lake beds brings out the best in the truck’s off-road package. I pulled off I-15 near Jean, Nevada, where I found an old off-road race course that parallels the freeway in spots and splits off into the eastern mountains where a dry lake bed can be found. The course can be extremely rough in spots with loose dirt and shale, or it can be quick with plenty of room to kick out the rear end in the turns.

The old Toyotas used to be too firm and harsh at low speed. The new Tacoma features a redesigned front suspension where the upper A-arms and stabilizer bar are mounted noticeably higher than the 4x2 suspension. The result is increased wheel travel and more flexibility in tuning the coil springs and shocks. The front end is now more supple and can absorb a greater variety of obstacles with more control when blasting along the roads.

I also found the interior to be quieter and more isolated from outside road shocks. Toyota seats have a well-deserved reputation for comfort in addition to being supportive for aggressive driving. I have no complaints with the new interior, including choice of fabric or quality control. The textures are top-rate but the silver plastic in the center binnacle on the SR5 trim dominates instead of complements the overall dash design. The audio/climate controls are well-placed and easy to adjust but I’m not fond of the instrument panel layout. The trim ring on the speedometer gets in the way of quick glances at the tach. Also, I appreciate full analog gauges and feel quality pickups deserve more than just fuel and temp indicators.

The most important change in the interior is the increased room. My shoulders are no longer crushed against the side glass. My knees have room. The interior dimensions are in the same range or better than the Dodge Dakota for the front passengers. The rear tumble seat is hardly accommodating for fullsize passengers but is versatile enough to handle a variety of cargo needs with an under-seat storage box. I only wish the impressive 7-speaker JBL sound system was available on the Access Cab. Toyota offers it only on the Double Cab.

I have two long-standing pet peeves with Toyota trucks. One has been fixed in the new Tacoma and the other continues to haunt me. Toyota has the wiper controls mounted on a right-side steering-column stalk. When you start hitting moguls at speed—bouncing around in the seat and trying to gain control of the steering by sliding your hands around the wheel—chances are you’ll swipe the wiper stalk. Then the wipers are going full speed while you’re trying to avoid the berms. It’s even more embarrassing when pulling off a rushed 4-point turn to make a tight parking spot and wipers start a dry run. My red face is vindicated only because I have seen this complaint from other reviewers throughout the years who feel the steering column is just too crowded for busy hands.

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