2011 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner Review - Late Production
2011 TOYOTA TACOMA PRERUNNER ACCESS CAB
By Steve Purdy
Of all segments in the car and light truck market in the US one of the weakest is what are sometimes called “compact” pickups. Some, like the Nissan Frontier and its derivative Suzuki Equator, are a bit more like mid-sized. Others include Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger (due to go away soon, maybe not to be replaced) and Dodge Dakota.
The differential in cost, efficiency and utility between these smaller trucks and their full-size rivals is not great. As a result many buyers opt for the bigger, more macho trucks - hence fewer customers to go around in this genre. As fuel prices rise that dynamic may change.
This week we are testing what some say is the leader of this pack, the Toyota Tacoma PreRunner (in this case in the “Access Cab” configuration) which comes in either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Our rear-wheel drive tester, starting at $21,315, is about the middle of the Tacoma’s range as defined by the bottom-of-the-line Basic truck at $16,365 and the top-of-the-line X-Runner starting at $25, 735. You can easily option the X-Runner to over 30 grand if you want.
This current Tacoma is just the second generation of this full-frame truck, the original having been introduced in 1995 and the update in 2005. So, Toyota has gotten lots of mileage (pun intended) out of this truck design. It certainly resembles big brother, Tundra, with trucky good looks. A meaty profile and vertical grille makes it look poised to haul and tow with the big boys. More on capability later.
Power, in this case, comes from a tepid 2.7-liter 4-cylinder making just 159 horsepower and a decent 180 pound-feet of torque. A nice V6 with 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque is available and preferable if you have need for substantial hauling or towing. A 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual are available with either engine depending on trim and drive configurations. This smaller engine is certainly adequate for light use and easing around town. It’s rated by the EPA at 19-mpg in the city and 25 on the highway on regular fuel. With a 21.1-gallon fuel tank we have an admirable cruising range of over 500 miles.
Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds, maximum payload is 1,340 and tongue load is 350 pounds. Curb weight is 3,250 to 3,560 depending on configuration. The bed measures 73.5 inches long by 56.7 inches wide (41.5 inches between the wheel well incursions) and 18 inches deep. The Nissan Frontier is the only one of the genre to exceed these numbers.
In terms of safety, the Tacoma leads the pack. It earned IIHS “Top Safety Pick” and NHTSA 5-Star rating for front and side impact. Front and rear head airbags and dual front side-mounted airbags protect driver and front passenger. It also has all the chassis dynamics we expect like ABS, TC, brake force distribution, etc.
The truck is fully warranted for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the drivetrain is covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Free maintenance and roadside assistance is included for the first 2 years or 25,000 miles.
I remember a day when an unloaded pickup truck of any kind would dance the jitterbug over on a bumpy road. That’s not the case anymore as suspensions have gotten ever more sophisticated. I didn’t get a chance this week to test it loaded but drove it all over empty. While it rides firmly as we would expect, it was not unpleasantly rough even on some of our winter-damaged back roads.
In researching the Tacoma I find that most reviewers agree that it leads the pack. The domestic offerings have not been updated in years. The other Japanese competitors can only be had in a V6 so can’t match the mileage. I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve driven some of the others.
In the meantime I’ll just say that this Tacoma would be an easy smaller hauler to live with.
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