Road Test: TRD Supercharged 2008 Toyota Tacoma
By: Mike Levine Posted: 03-10-08 03:05 PT
© 2008

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Please pardon my bluntness, but where the heck is my A-BAT?

I've just spent a week living with a mid-size supercharged 2008 Toyota Tacoma TRD Double Cab 4.0-liter V6 Long Bed 4x4. Priced at $36,586 it's the best argument yet for the return of pickups with smaller footprints, lower prices, and better fuel economy.

Granted, the truck I drove occupies the spot farthest right in the Tacoma lineup, but it’s the poster child for the dilemma facing today’s small truck buyers. Why buy a less capable, lesser equipped mid-size when you can purchase a superior full-size hauler for about the same price?

Case in point: Delete the $4,500 (yikes!) supercharger and the Tacoma was a $32,086 236-hp / 266 ft-lbs pickup. That's only $1,899 less than a $33,985 full-size Toyota Tundra SR5 Crew Max 5.7-liter iForce V8 4x4, rated at 381-hp / 401 ft-lbs. Adding the roots-type compressor back to the Tacoma nets 304-hp / 334 ft-lbs. It would only cost another $2,155 to upgrade the Tundra with a TRD Off-Road Package, for a total of $36,140 – or $486 less than our TRD Sport Package #1 optioned Tacoma.

The Tacoma's $3,340 TRD Sport Package #1 added: Bilstein shocks, 17-inch alloy wheels, a limited slip differential, hood scoop, color-keyed bumpers / grille surround / mirrors / door handles / and overfenders, a sliding rear window, fog lamps, remote keyless entry, sport seats, and a metallic trimmed instrument panel.

Compounding the high sticker price is that Toyota recommends the Tacoma's 4.0-liter V6 only drink premium unleaded (with the supercharger 91-octane is mandatory) versus a low-octane diet for the Tundra's 5.7-liter V8. Yes, the Tacoma gets better fuel economy but not that much. According to the EPA, combined city and highway fuel economy for the V6 Tacoma is 18-miles-per-gallon versus 14-mpg for the V8 Tundra.

And it has cheap seats. The pricey TRD Sport Package #1 option replaces standard cloth front buckets with fancier 'Sport Seats' that still only have cloth skins and manual adjusters. The lower trim Tundra SR5 comes standard with power adjustable seats for both the driver and front passenger.

Is this making sense yet?

I won't just pick on Toyota. I recently drove a 2008 Dodge Dakota Crew Cab 4.7-liter V8 Laramie 4x4 with a $35,545 window sticker. If I were looking to buy a new Dodge pickup, I’d look closely at Dodge Ram half-tons available in that price range instead. But at least the naturally aspirated 302-hp / 329 ft-lbs Dakota has two extra cylinders, a power driver’s seat, and an infotainment system with navigation for $1,000 less than the Tacoma. The Dakota’s 4.7-liter V8 is smooth but it’s 3-mpg less efficient in combined driving than the Tacoma.

Toyota has done a lot of things right, though.

The Tacoma has a much higher quality interior, with better ergonomics, than the Dakota. (I’m convinced the Dakota’s interior is responsible for turning Jim Press’ hair gray, after he joined Chrysler from Toyota.) But there are still plastic bits and hard surfaces everywhere you look inside the Taco. I'd gladly trade the unnecessary serpentine gated automatic shifter for power seat controls.

The Tacoma's almost four-year old exterior is also better looking than the recently freshened Dakota, but I think that Tacoma I drove would’ve looked better without the faux hood scoop. It's the automotive equivalent of calf or pec implants.

Looking at sales figures, the Tacoma dominates small pickups. Last year 173,238 Tacos were sold versus 75,716 Chevrolet Colorados, in second place, and only 50,702 Dakotas, in fifth place, behind the Ford Ranger and Nissan Frontier.

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