Have you priced out a new Toyota Tacoma lately? How about a used one? In both cases, it’s simply astounding what prices they fetch. One would think that perhaps this leaves a door open for the competition. However, while there is more competition than there used to be, the Tacoma’s sales numbers have done the seemingly impossible. Over the last ten years they’ve gone up virtually every single year and likely only due to Covid will this year be slightly lower; even in the midst of the pandemic though there were months where year-over-year sales improved on last year, the Tacoma has been knocking on the door of a quarter million sales per year for the last couple now.
Well, obviously this must be a cutting edge truck then that works for all kinds of people, one might conclude. No, that’s not the case either really. In fact it has some odd limitations that if they were corrected might propel it to even greater heights. Its competition needs to hope that Toyota doesn’t decide to up the ante, as currently they seem to be giving others lots of opportunity, but to little avail.
I was very pleasantly surprised when this truck showed up as it was 1) brand new, with nobody else having driven it, 2) equipped with a stick shift (!), and 3) supplied with a very traditional metal bladed key topped with a plastic fob that only had three buttons on it – lock, unlock, and an alarm.
And no, this is not the stripper version of Tacoma, far from it, this is in fact the (as usual with testers) top of the line with some significant differences to the rest of the versions but similar enough in major aspects to be able to draw relevant conclusions from.
Of course being the TRD Pro version means it’s Toyota’s top dog as far as factory equipped off-road ability goes. We’ve recently seen its stable mates the Sequoia and Tundra here equipped in this guise and the formula is similar. Distinctive looks, some hardware upgrades, somewhat limited availability to cast a halo on the rest of the line-up that can be optioned with similar sounding but different (lesser) hardware, and minimal extra options.
Also, there’s often an exclusive paint color option and of course a higher price tag that unless one can make actual use of the upgrades doesn’t make a lot of financial sense beyond the fact that if someone wants to and is able to pay for something that makes them happy, then let them. It’s their money. Although in all fairness it’s likely not too difficult to get a lower trim level Tacoma and add a few bits to match what’s on offer here mechanically if not visually for perhaps less outlay, especially if this is just a starting point and not the end goal.
If Marty McFly decided to pick 2021 as his year to visit in the future, this may well be the Toyota pickup that he would choose this time around. Sadly the TRD Pro package doesn’t include any KC Hi-Lites or roll bar, but as with the others there are a set of LED fog lights provided by Rigid Industries who in this case is even allowed to display their name on their surrounds.
The grille is blockier with the TOYOTA script across it and a scoop on the hood, the wheels are black 16″ alloy wheels, and the suspension again contains TRD-tuned FOX-brand 2.5″ internal bypass shocks all around with remote reservoirs for the rear units.
There’s a beefy skid plate under the front, a special TRD exhaust with black tip, and inside embroidered leather seats with a special shift knob and floor mats. What there isn’t though is any kind of special tire, the 265/70-16 Goodyear Wranglers feature a decidedly ordinary tread pattern that pays dividends on the street with decent adhesion and low noise but likely aren’t the best choice for the trail or beyond. However, Toyota likely realizes that any serious owners will replace the tires with their own favored item as soon as they purchase the truck, so why spend more than necessary.
The color, which I shan’t fawn over but do find attractive is Lunar Rock, just like on the Toyota Tundra we reviewed recently, a sort of pale gray that takes on different hues depending on the light and is an exclusive TRD Pro color this year. Other choices include white, a charcoal gray, and black. The nature you will presumably be visiting with this truck will provide the sightings of other, non-grayscale colors, so consider the paint selections a motivator to get out there.
One of the biggest foibles of the Tacoma has long been the seat position. In this case it’s dictated by the height of the floor and the relative lowness of the roof. While I realize that my own height (6’1″ with a 32″ inseam) perhaps puts me in the taller segment of buyers in markets the Tacoma is sold in, I am hardly freakishly tall nor weirdly proportioned.
And the Tacoma is not even a world-wide model, that’s the Hilux, which while similarly sized in general, is a different truck. It’ll forever baffle me that the Tacoma doesn’t really take the target market buyers’ height into account. However, this truck seems to fit those under perhaps 5’9″ best especially when equipped with a sunroof as this one is as standard.
Getting in for taller folk involves first thrusting a leg into the cabin, then positioning one’s posterior on the edge of the seat, pulling the second leg in while sliding the first leg under the steering column without whacking it with a knee although it is now adjustable (tilt as well as telescope) and scooching one’s posterior across the seat, then bending the neck and pulling the head under the top of the door opening.
Once actually in, the best position turns out to be one slightly slouched to the right to avoid the sunroof frame, but the legs end up being fairly horizontal without much of a bend at the knee. Legroom isn’t overly abundant either, with a clutch in play as here it’s possible to just stretch the left leg around the pedal but it’s a considered maneuver, not a default.
Of course if one is closer to the size of a jockey, then never mind all of the foregoing and Bob’s your uncle. If nothing else, once inside, everything does fall readily to hand and is easily understood and adjusted. The seats, covered in a thick textured black leather with red stitching, are electrically adjustable, heated via dashboard buttons and the driver’s side features an adjustable two-position lumbar support. The steering wheel, while not heated, is well shaped with textured grip areas, and doesn’t block the clear, no-nonsense gauges.
There’s traditionally been a lot of guff about how plasticky some of the competition’s interiors are, specifically the other Japanese branded entry in this segment, and while the Tacoma’s interior is certainly more modern from a design perspective it is exactly as covered in hard plastics as that one. There is nothing soft whatsoever on the dash, beyond the seats the door panels each have one soft padded area as does the console lid. But you know what, as in that other truck, who really cares. What is there works, looks fine, is easy to clean, and if necessary, likely cheap to replace.
I dig the way the round air vents look and operate (slap them closed, twist the slats to move the airflow), the automatic HVAC is simple to understand with a minimal and logical display, there are a few buttons mainly for lighting and turning on or off the various safety systems.
Some others control bed lighting and the power port back there along with one labeled “Clutch Start Cancel” that allows you to start the truck in gear without using the clutch which can come in very handy in some off-road conditions, such as on a muddy hillside for example.
The touchscreen in the middle of the dash is similar to other current Toyota ones and to me is now more or less second nature. Anyone new to this truck or the system would get used to it quite quickly. As opposed to the very similar one in the Tundra it features a sort of matte coating on it and I had no issues with my sunglasses making it appear weird this time.
Image quality is acceptable but with plenty of room for improvement, especially as regards the camera resolution both backwards and forwards. Navigation response was good, and the music programming and selections don’t require any perusal of the manual either. There’s also voice command capability that seems to be improving with every generation of Toyota I drive, it’s very competitive at this point once you get used to how it likes to be spoken to.
Under the main dashboard lies a wireless charging pad at the front, as well as a few charging and connection ports, with the large manual shift lever behind it, and then the conventional handbrake alongside two cup holders. A large storage bin with soft padded lid rounds out this portion of the cabin.
While Toyota uses the DoubleCab nomenclature to describe the full crew cab version of the Tacoma, on the recent Tundra that moniker was for the middle option, with CrewMax describing the even larger one on that one. In this instance, the rear of the largest Tacoma cab is quite a bit smaller than that of the middle Tundra cab.
With the front seat properly adjusted for myself, I was mercilessly squished in the back seat here and wouldn’t want to ride in it. However my 11-year-old was just fine all the way to the south of Denver and back, although he did try to argue his 17-year-old sister into giving up the front passenger seat on the way back. She quickly and firmly made it very clear that wasn’t going to happen and he acquiesced without much bother so it worked out.
The seat bottoms do fold up (forward into the footwell) and the seat backs then can fold down once the headrests are removed and there are storage cubbies underneath. This also opens up some storage at the back of the cab behind the seatbacks and creates a flat load (elevated) floor. Overall there is more room for “stuff” back here than it appears at first glance.
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