New Car/Review

Toyota

The Toyota Tacoma TRD, 4X4 Xtra Cab, Totally Rugged and Developed

by Larry Weitzman

Toyota Full Line factory footage (15:01) 28.8, 56k or 200k

Toyota has been making compact pickups for some time. Their refinement, quality and longevity have made them a benchmark in the small pickup industry. With the advent of factory involvement in off road racing, the consumer can now buy a factory equipped serious racing truck with the power and ability to compete or with the knowledge that this truck will go just about anywhere road or no road.

TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development. This racing arm of Toyota has designed a package to make this Tacoma just about ready to race in the Baja 1000. The TRD option add special off road suspension with Bilstein Gas Shocks, a true locking rear differential (a first among small pickups), special alloy wheels with 31 X 10.5 Goodyears, fender flares, tachometer and the TRD insignia.

There is a factory supercharger option now available without voiding the factory warranty that boosts horsepower by 50 and a likewise number for torque. Too bad my test vehicle didn't have it, that would have been some fun. TRD has several other options most notable being a kevlar clutch package. These guys are serious about trucks.

The truck that I demonstrated was a 5-speed manual with the 3.4L DOHC, 24 valve, V-6. It puts out 190 hp @ 4,800 rpm and 220 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm. There are also a 2.4L DOHC inline 4 which puts out 142 hp @ 5,600 and a 2.7L DOHC inline 4 which puts out 150 hp @ 4,800 rpm. The V-6 is incredibly smooth, at idle it is inaudible and vibrationless. Check the tach or you may try to start an already running engine.

The V-6 was connected to a 5 speed manual transmission. I appreciated the precise, notchy feel and reasonably short throws. The clutch was light and gave good progressive engagement feel. A 4 speed automatic is an available option ($900).

With a curb weight of 3,425 pounds, this truck should really go and go it does. 0-60 takes only 8.3 seconds and its 50-70 mph passing performance was clocked at 5.2 seconds. Going up a steep hill will slow that 50-70 mph passing time to 8.5 seconds. The passing times were done in 3rd gear without any shifting. If 2nd gear would have been used, a couple of tenths could possibly be shaved from these already quick times.

Using third gear shows the strong performance of this remarkable V-6. At 50 in 3rd gear, the engine is turning about 3,200 rpm, about 400 rpm below peak torque. It pulled like a freight train to 4,500 rpm that is the engine speed at 70 mph. This engine obviously puts out some serious torque at those engine speeds. With engine redline being 5,500 rpm, 3rd gear would be good to 85 mph, giving it a useful range from about 15 mph to 85 mph. I call that flexibility.

The 5 speed does add some good fun and makes this more of a sports car than a truck. Sports cars need to handle and this TRD can hold its own. Bass Lake, Green Valley and Carson Road were just a pleasure. Steering is accurate with good feedback. This engine is so flexible I could use 4th or 5th depending on whether I was going up or down the mountain. If you need more power, just flick the gearshift to a lower gear, and you got all you want.

Cruising the highway is done in 5th gear with the engine turning about 2400 rpm at 65 mph. This makes for relaxed cruising with enough power to do any hill without downshifting. The ride even with the TRD package is quite smooth with little tire or other noise entering the cabin.

The TRD suspension package does create a stiffer ride than the standard truck. On Ponderosa, you could feel the washboard more than other cars, not jarring but definitely not a limo. Because of the stiffer spring rates and Bilstein shocks, when going around corners at speed in the bumps, the back end can move because of wheel hop, but there are benefits and reason for the TRD that are not found on Ponderosa.

Put this baby on any dirt road with a couple of ruts and you will know what TRD is all about. It takes six-inch ruts and bumps like a pillow. When you hit a rut and wait for your fillings to fall out, you will keep on waiting because this TRD goes to work. It absorbs ruts, rocks and jumps (I didn't do any big rocks or jumps, this truck is too pretty, and I wouldn't want to even think about scratching it) with aplomb. No rattles or creaks, just incredible agility and ability to go anywhere off road.

The front suspension is independent double wishbone with coil springs and a stabilizer bar and a live axle with progressive rate leaf springs in the rear. The progressive rate means that the springs increase in stiffness as load is added. The Bilstein shocks are staggered to reduce axle tramp.

The EPA rates this Toyota at 16/19 mpg city/highway. I estimate that I got about 20 mpg during my test with about half my driving being on the highway. With its large 18-gallon fuel tank, range should exceed 300 miles.

Being a truck, utility is key. With the appropriate factory hitch, this rig can tow up to 5,000 pounds and still have room for a 600-pound payload in the truck. Its max payload is about 1650 pounds.

The interior of my test vehicle was very car like with comfortable, well-bolstered bucket seats ($65 option which includes a center console) designed for hours of use at a time. A 60/40 bench seat is standard. There is plenty of room for long legs and big shoulders. Even the rear jump seats have enough room for adults for short trips. The right jump seat has a small folding table that serves as a rear seat cup holder and an extension for mounting a child safety seat. There is a switch to turn off the passenger airbag as well. These guys at Toyota think of everything.

The dash and controls are easy to use with an instrument pod containing the tach ($95 option, but standard with certain packages), speedo, temp and fuel gauges. The excellent sound system and climate controls are to the right with two power ports below. The controls have a quality feel and storage space and cubbyholes are everywhere.

I haven't talked about the exterior appearance because I don't think Toyota has made an ugly car or truck since the first Cressida sedan made between 1978-1983. The Cressida finally got a new good looking body in 1984 and became one of the most successful models in Toyota's history. This Tacoma truck sits up high and has rugged good looks while retaining a softer, rounded appearance. Fender bulges and flares add to its stout image.

Trucks are very option intensive and can be equipped exactly as desired. The base price for a Tacoma 4X2 regular cab, 2.4L 5-speed manual is $12,698 plus $420 for destination. The base price for a top of the line Tacoma Limited Xtracab, 4X4 automatic is $24,688 plus $420 for destination. If you load up the Limited with the TRD package, ABS ($590 and recommended), C/D changer, sun roof and a few other goodies, the price will be about $28,000 including destination.

The truck I drove (base of $20,138 plus $420) which had just about every option one could want including, power windows and locks ($470), SR 5 package ($610), the TRD package ($1660), Convenience Package which includes tilt wheel, intermittent wipers, tach, and cruise control ($690) stickered for $23,988. I might opt for those great looking TRD special alloy wheels with P265/75R15 tires instead of the entire TRD package and save about $700. The standard 4X4 comes with gas filled shocks. The choice is yours.

SPECIFICATIONS

Price                                       $12,698 to about $28,000
Engine Type
   2.4L DOHC 16V inline                     4142 hp @ 5,000 rpm
                                            160 lb-ft torque @ 4,000 rpm
   2.7L DOHC 16V inline                     4150 hp @ 4,800 rpm
                                            177 lb-ft torque @ 4,000 rpm
   3.4L DOHC 24V V-6                        190 hp @ 4,800 rpm
                                            220 lb-ft torque @ 3,600 rpm
Transmissions
                                            4 speed automatic
                                            5 speed manual
                                            2 speed transfer case
                                            shift on the move
                                            Available rear locking 
                                            differential

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase (inches)                          103.3 (std cab), 121.9 (xtracab) 
Length (inches)                             183.8 203.1
Width (inches)                              66.5
Height (inches)                             61.8 (4X2), 66.9 (4X4)
Ground Clearance (inches)                   6.3  (4X2), 12.0 (4X4, 31" tires)
Curb Weight (pounds)                        2,580 to 3,460
Fuel Capacity (gallons)1                    5.9 to 18.0 
Max Tow Capacity (pounds)                   5,000

PERFORMANCE

0-60                                        8.3 seconds
50-70 level                                 5.2 seconds
50-70 uphill                                8.5 seconds
Top Speed                                   Plenty
Fuel Econ                                   EPA 16/19 city/highway, my estimate
                                            is 18-20 in El Dorado County and 20
                                            plus on the highway at 65 mph

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