2023 Toyota Tacoma Trail 4x4 Double Cab – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Impeccable behavior and weather impervious
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Good grunt and a great horn make the V6 Tacoma Trail a bully pulpit to be reckoned with. Just make sure you choose the 2GR-FKS motor, a stalwart 278hp 3.5 liter V6 that dumps 265 pound-feet of torque to the pavement at 4600rpm. You do not want to buy this 4,661 pound truck with the available 2TR-FE engine, a wheezy 159hp 2.6 liter I-4 that makes just 180 foot pounds of torque at 3800rpm. Look at the bottom line this way: The I-4 Tacoma is saddled with a burdensome power-to-weight ratio of 29.31 lb/hp, versus the V6 which boasts a comparatively stellar 16.7 pounds per horsepower. As for the horn part of the equation, when you lean on the tooter in the Tacoma Trail, pokey motorists freeze in their tracks, birds take flight, and your intention to proceed is made crystal clear.
The Tacoma, now 7 years into its 3rd generation, is definitely old school. It's brandishes a toughness that's all but disappeared from the American motoring scene these days. If you like real buttons to push, big knobs to twirl, and instant results from physical inputs, you will love the cab of the Tacoma. It's one of the few survivors that have escaped the great purge of the physical in favor of touch-feely haptic. The steering wheel itself is a work of art, with a rubberized high grip center section fitted with only as many function buttons as you need. You can monitor audio sound level and station choice (left spoke), or toggle through various menus and displays (right spoke). We were particularly gratified to discover that the Tacoma still uses Toyota's excellent stand-alone cruise control stalk, a wonderful feature far better than invisible buttons randomly embedded in the steering wheel.
The Trail cuts a classic off road stance, with its body jacked tall over visually diminutive wheels and tires. The Tacoma has long ridden on 16-inch rims, and the latest version continues the tradition with a handsome set of 7Jx16 bronze colored alloys sporting Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT rubber (265/70R16). The Wranglers carry deep cut sidewall sculpting that makes them and the wheels both sparkle in the sun. With a height of 71.6 inches, the climb into the cab can be a bit arduous. Our test Trail was fitted with a $1,069 "Truck Exterior Package" which included a set of fixed running boards mounted so tall on the rocker panels that they seemed superfluous. The cabin floor was only a few inches higher than the boards.
Another puzzling fitment was the flip/flop tubular aluminum retaining barrier built into the truck's tailgate area. Surely, carrying a bicycle in this truck shouldn't prove problematic. But it did, thanks to the design of that moveable barrier. With the unit folded into the bed and the tailgate shut, there's no room inside the bed for the bike. Dropping the tailgate and flipping the barrier over the extended gate opens up lots of space in the bed. But then the question becomes how do you load the bike when the barrier precludes access to the bed? What this system needs is a way to raise the barrier 90 degrees to allow bed access. The best we could do was use a couple of provided straps to hold the barrier tenuously erect while we slipped the bike in and out. This is not something you want to deal with on a regular basis. At the very least the tubular fence needs a pawl to hold it in the vertical position for loading and unloading.
During our week with this truck we experienced one of the worst storms ever to hit the San Francisco Bay Area. While we left the Taco parked during the worst hours of the bomb cyclone, we did drive it immediately before and after D-Day. I could not recommend more highly the impeccable behavior of this truck in such dangerous conditions. From the elevated seating position to the immense traction available from its off-road worthy suspension and tires, the Tacoma was the perfect antidote to the deluge and winds generated by that perfect storm. Say what you will about dated but proven technology, torquey old-school V6 motors, and utilitarian interior layouts, there isn't a vehicle on earth I would have preferred to the evergreen Toyota Tacoma Trail during that fateful week.
2023 TOYOTA TACOMA TRAIL 4x4 DOUBLE CAB
ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6 DOHC 24-Valve, aluminum block and heads, direct and port fuel injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 18MPG City/22MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,783
HYPES: Weather Impervious
GRIPES: Puzzling Bed Configuration
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman