2021 Toyota Tacoma Limited 4X4 Double Cab Review by David Colman +VIDEO
This behemoth scores 9 out of 10 stars
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
To make your life even more complicated, the 2021 Tacoma is available in 33 different configurations, with base prices ranging from $26,150 for a 4 cylinder SR Access Cab to $46,780 for a TRD Pro Double Cab. Our test model Limited nudged the upper end of the price spectrum, with a base of $41,980. Add to that figure $1,000 for the Nightshade Edition, which is new for 2021, plus another $1,692 in miscellaneous accessories, and you've got a Toyota truck worth $45,847. This third generation of the Tacoma was freshened for 2020, with improved audio system, larger 7 inch infotainment screen, 10 way power adjustable driver's seat, surround view camera (on top models), new grill, tail lights and wheels. The most notable upgrade for 2021 is the Nightshade package, which turns the Tacoma into a stealth bomber that would be right at home cruising Area 51. For your modest one grand investment, you get 18 inch dark smoke wheels shod with Michelin LTS M/S 2 radials (265/60R18) with an ultra durable wear rating of TW 780. To secure the smoked wheels, Nightshade adds black wheel locks and lug nuts, plus a black exhaust tip, black mirror caps, fog light bezels, door handles and badging. A final touch is the rather handsome "carbon styled black grill."
Visually, the Nightshade's Magnetic Gray Metallic paint and understated trade dress distinguish this Tacoma from the tape and chrome flash of its TRD cousins. But make no mistake about its bona fides as an off road machine. This one will churn back roads and rutted cow trails with the best of them. Attribute that penchant to a 4x4 system which can be summoned on demand. Toyota provides a 2-speed electronically controlled transfer case connected to the wheels through an automatic limited slip differential. Double wishbone coil spring independent suspension takes care of the front end. A leaf spring controls rear motion, with staggered outboard gas shocks and an anti-sway bar keeping the bed end under control. As you might expect with a leaf spring solid rear suspension design, ride quality of the Tacoma is jarringly bouncy over pavement imperfections. But should you plan on shooting the Rubicon Trail or taking your Nightshade to Moab, you will be interested in its impressive clearance figures. There's 9.4 inches of ground clearance, with an approach angle of 20 degrees, a departure angle of 23.5 degrees, and a breakover angle of 21 degrees. Standard hill start assist simplifies your off road experience.
You will discover the Tacoma's 3.5 liter V6 engine if you are able to lift the hood. Doing so is quite a feat, since the very heavy hood which stands four feet off the ground needs to be raised to five feet in order to slip the manual prop rod into place. If ever a design called for pneumatic struts, this is the one. The 278hp engine returns 20 MPG in overall driving, which is quite reasonable considering the 4,505 pound curb weight and the brick-like aerodynamics. The Nightshade will tow 6,400 pounds, and comes equipped with all the ancillaries you will need for the task, including a receiver hitch, engine oil cooler, power steering cooler, 130 amp alternator, 4/7 pin connector, and trailer sway control. From your lofty perch inside the Tacoma's elevated cabin, you have excellent sight lines to your trailer. Our test truck was fitted with a five foot bed, complete with sliding tie-downs mounted in a sturdy side rail system, plus a foot actuated self-storing bed step. We were able to carry some eight foot long moldings home from the hardware store by situating them sideways in the bed and protruding them into the cabin through the handy electric operated center window pane.
Despite its ample girth, the Tacoma is quite rewarding to drive on a daily basis, as long as your outing don't involve parking in confined spaces. The six speed automatic gearbox can be manipulated manually by slotting the shift lever into the available "S" slot on the driver's side of the pattern and bumping the stick up or down as needed. While the gearbox functions well in most situations when left in Drive, we noted that it seemed tardy to perform downshifts when the throttle is floored for a passing maneuver. That's when the manual bump stick mode becomes very useful.
Most enthusiasts think that when you append the word "sport" to personal transportation, you are referring to a sports car. But the Tacoma Nightshade broadens the concept of sport driving in many unanticipated ways. You might not think it would be much fun to control something this large and ungainly, but mastery of the driving technique required definitely brings a sense of sporting satisfaction.
2021 TOYOTA TACOMA LIMITED 4X4 DOUBLE CAB
ENGINE: 3.6 liter V6 with Dual VVT-i
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 18MPG City/22MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,847
HYPES: Dominant Road View, Responsive Drivetrain
GRIPES: manual Hood Strut, Tight Rear Seat
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10