It might sell in droves, but why? This aging truck still has its charms, though.
What is it?
Like the antique 4Runner stablemate, the Tacoma largely sells on reputation and coolness. Renowned for its implausible durability and reliability, the Tacoma has built itself into some kind of attainable legend, with its off-road cred and rugged looks lending it some serious cool points. While it's engineering from not just last decade, but the preceding one, there still is some charm to the robust and simple nature of this mid-size truck. There are lots of shortcomings, but for nearly 30 years, it still continues to flood our streets in both the States and also other parts of the world as the related Hilux pickup.
The Tacoma SR5 Double Cab V6 4x4 starts at $35,655, but the Trail Edition tacks on $3,765 to include the 16" bronze wheels, the special heritage grille, locking rear differential, uprated suspension, locking bed storage, all-weather floor liners, and a basic skid plate. Toss in parking sensors and an upgraded infotainment screen and stereo for another $1,710, $600 for blind spot monitoring and then destination/delivery fee, and this truck sits as equipped at $43,164.
As mentioned earlier, you want to buy a Tacoma because it's cool. There's so much history behind this truck that it has become something to aspire to. While some dream of Porsches, many do dream of having that perfect Tacoma one day; it's these intangible qualities that make the Tacoma such an alluring prospect for the everyday person. They're also known to last literally forever, and Top Gear found the related Hilux model to be actually non-killable, and so this has lent to the mystique as a vehicle you can truly depend on anywhere in the world. Lots also build them into off-roaders via lift kits and 35" tires, where they are common sights in(as well as being quite formidable) the deserts and Rubicon Trail.
When compared to some rivals, the Tacoma is the one that sticks closest to its real truck roots, being a more simple offering next to the relative modernity of Ford's Ranger, Hyundai's Santa Cruz, and the Honda Ridgeline. It's also a case of sticking to what you know almost, like, if you're already a Tacoma owner and it's been a wonderful vehicle for you (as basically all Tacoma owners view theirs as), why take a chance and switch to one of these newer offerings? Stick with what you know and what you can depend on.
This Trail edition seriously looks the part, with classy bronze wheels, decent tires for a compromise of asphalt and dirt, a TRD Pro-style grille, and the gorgeous Lunar Rock paint make this an attractive truck. The package itself starts out as an entry SR5, but combines the most desired aesthetic elements to make it appear like a TRD Pro-lite (the TRD Pro is the Tacoma flagship trim). It would also serve as an excellent starting point for a 2" lift kit if you so desired or other accessories. Others who even buy TRD Sports or TRD Off-Roads will want to make theirs look like the Trail.
And despite the ancient body-on-frame architecture, the Tacoma actually drives fine, owing a lot to how honest it feels behind the wheel. The steering is a little light, but there's real feedback there at your fingers, and while it is slow and requires lots of input, again, it's surprisingly accurate. For a stiff truck, the ride quality is also not bad either. But, commanding the Tacoma isn't an unpleasant experience in the slightest. And if you do venture into the dirt, the 4WD is operated electronically, so a flick of a knob and the Tacoma will devour most all terrains that aren't the most extreme sections of the Rubicon (ground clearance will be an issue, hence why so many put big tires and lift kits to clear obstacles).
And this is both a positive and a negative, but the Tacoma, owing to its old design, is a bit of an Neanderthal. However, looking back at history, Neanderthals were the first humans that were able to inhabit the far colder regions of Europe and were of a rugged biology and makeup when compared to the earliest H. Sapiens that existed at the same time. The Tacoma is an aging brute from years past, but it is made and proven to survive the harshest conditions and environments, places where newer and civil unibody pickups might struggle. Old bones, but bones built to endure where others couldn't and aren't evolved enough to yet.
Well, many of the reasons why one would want to choose a Tacoma are also the very reason others will want to avoid one. I do think it's overpriced at $43,164, as a half-ton truck from Ram, even a Laramie, isn't much more. The interior is also a catastrophe, being a relic from the early 2000s. Plastics are everywhere, and they're hard and cheap. The infotainment looks like a cheap aftermarket unit from the Obama years, and it's just an overall not nice place to be. I get it, this isn't supposed to be a luxury vehicle, but it's so behind the times. The Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited I had recently, which cost about the same, is a Rolls Royce inside by comparison, and that's not an exaggeration. I know Toyota can do decent interiors, because the one in a Venza or Highlander Limited are of such a higher quality. Just because it's a truck doesn't mean the cabin has to be crap and tired. Furthermore, back seat space in the Double Cab isn't impressive and the seats themselves are too flat; The steering wheel doesn't telescope far enough either.
The other relic is the powertrain, consisting of a 3.5L V6 and six-speed automatic; They're turds. With 278 horsepower on paper, it's a travesty just how slow the Tacoma feels. The dim-witted automatic doesn't help, being slow to shift and constantly hunting for gears (at least eight tightly spaced ratios would be a welcome addition). All this results in a 0-60 MPH time of 8 seconds, and this lack of punch is readily apparent when accelerating up hills. Is performance that important in a truck? No, but it's such a lollygagging loser when rivals are significantly more powerful, resulting in the Tacoma constantly requiring heavy throttle input at all times. Also, the angle of the pedal feels weird, with my size modest 9 foot crowding the pedal and hitting the arm of it too often.
Besides being slow, the Tacoma is outrageously thirsty, averaging a dismal 18 miles to a gallon and achieving 22 on the highway, both of which are considerably less than the faster Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz. And despite the 'real truck' architecture that lies underneath the Tacoma, its payload (about 1,200 pounds) and tow ratings (ranges from 3,500-6,400 pounds) don't impress, and the tow rating especially must have been given downhill, because there's no way I would ever trust this weak little engine laden with an extra 6,000 pounds.
Tacomas can do off-road, yes, but there's another new rival that also does off-road rather well: the Jeep Gladiator, basically a Jeep Wrangler with a pickup bed. It's also a relic, but has been better modernized than a Tacoma, all while delivering an authentic Jeep experience. Yeah, some examples can be quite expensive, but it has to be a real choice when deciding on a pickup truck in this price range.
For those dead-set on a Tacoma, it is, of course, a triumph. The legendary Tacoma is thoroughly still present and has a few aesthetic upgrades on this Trail Edition. Whether a Tacoma is right for you is one thing, but whether you want one, as many do, is totally separate. Any casual driver wanting a small truck would be best served in the civil Honda Ridgeline, Chevy/GMC Colorado/Canyon, Ford Ranger, or Hyundai Santa Cruz, but those don't have the same cool and reputation as a Tacoma. It might be a winner of a Tacoma, but it's not exactly a winner of a mid-size truck. An updated and revamped Tacoma will be a most welcome addition.
2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition
Price as-tested: $43,164