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Driving through Los Angeles and lower Oxnard Counties, I noticed many (nine over four days) late-model Tacomas pressed into service as light duty work trucks. Their composite boxes stored all sorts of equipment, from lawn mowers to ladders to lumber. The only other recently built small pickups I saw performing the same duties were two Colorados, a Ranger, and a Dakota.
I want to like the current Tacoma more than I do. I need a small truck in Southern California because it’s not practical to park a full-size at my house and I don’t need to tow 10,000-lbs.
I bought a 2002 Tacoma TRD Double Cab 3.4-liter V6 PreRunner 4x2 and fell madly in love with the truck’s simplicity, usability, and dimensions. It was priced below $26K because it was a 2WD PreRunner. Today I’d pay almost $29K for a comparable Tacoma that’s almost as large as the first-generation Tundra. Current generation Tacos were stretched almost six-inches while front and rear tracks were widened by nearly four-inches.
The raucous and whiny TRD supercharger transforms the Tacoma into a fast sprinter.
The old 3.4-liter V6 Toyota Racing Development compressor was a simple bolt-on piece of hardware but the new 4.0-liter TRD unit is sophisticated and tightly integrated with the Tacoma’s engine management and ignition systems. Plus, it adds an air-to-liquid intercooler for improved intake efficiency. The best 0 to 60 time came in at 6.6-seconds. Except for a bit of lag at the start, power was constantly available in all gears and torque was impressively strong.
Toyota covers the supercharger under the truck’s original powertrain warranty for up to 5-years or 60,000-miles when installed by a Toyota dealer. Non-dealer installs are warranted up to 12-months or 12,000-miles.
Ride and handling were very good for a long wheelbase crew cab. There was little body roll in corners taken at sensible speeds. Driving the 4x4 Tacoma on the twisty Mulholland Highway wasn’t as difficult as had been anticipated. The sport suspension was always on the stiff side of comfortable on the coastal and mountainous two-lane road, especially when the truck hit coarse pavement, but for the most part the truck’s behavior was predictable and seldom unsettling. Steering feedback was the biggest complaint – becoming slow and dull at higher speeds.
The long bed option made the Tacoma difficult to park. At 221-inches it was the same length as a Chevrolet Avalanche and only 7-inches shorter than a Tundra CrewMax, and it lacked back up sensors. Several parking attempts in different lots required multi-point turning maneuvers.
All this time spent driving the Tacoma left me wanting something different. Something better. If I wanted a truck this size, I’d get a half-ton. But in the city, do I need a 6.6-second mid-size pickup? No. Do I want better than (an average) 15.2-miles-per-gallon? Yes. Would I settle for a four-cylinder gas engine - or better yet a diesel - in my city truck? Absolutely.
The Tacoma is a decent truck but what I really want is an A-BAT.
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