Winnipeg Free Press

Desirable little pickup gets a safety upgrade

by William Clavey . Aug 03 2018
William Clavey / LC MediaThe base Toyota Tacoma starts around $31,000 and comes equipped with a 159-horsepower, 2.7-litre, four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission.

William Clavey / LC Media

The base Toyota Tacoma starts around $31,000 and comes equipped with a 159-horsepower, 2.7-litre, four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Marty McFly was right in the Back to the Future movies: the Toyota Tacoma is a very desirable little pickup.

It’s fascinating what the appearance in a cult movie about time travelling will do to a vehicle. That and the best reliability rating on the planet also helps. Ask anyone looking for a second-hand Toyota truck or head online and look for one yourself, you’ll quickly realize they’re impossible to find at a decent price.

Indeed, the Tacoma’s resale value is through the roof. Within its segment, which suddenly includes some rather solid contenders such as the Honda Ridgeline, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and the upcoming Ford Ranger, the Tacoma is also the least refined. And that’s no coincidence. Toyota engineers carefully observed what owners of past iterations enjoyed so much in their truck, stayed true to these qualities, and made improvements in the areas that matter.

One of the improvements is technology. New for 2018 is the addition of a full battalion of standard active safety features. Toyota calls it “Safety Sense P,” a package that includes a forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, automatic high-beams and adaptive cruise control.

Base Tacomas start around $31,000 and come with a 159-horsepower, 2.7-litre four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed automatic. A manual transmission is no longer available with the four-cylinder.

We recommend, however, the ubiquitous 3.5-litre, dual overhead cam mill. It makes a healthy 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is still available in V-6 trucks.

Our tester was a V-6-powered double cab model with an MSRP of $39,885 equipped with the six-speed automatic, a six-foot bed and Toyota’s mostly aesthetic $3,985 TRD Sport package. However, Toyota will sell you a full-on, significantly fortified, off-road-ready version called the TRD Pro, which rings the register at more than $50,000.

But that doesn’t mean a base model 4x4 Tacoma can’t kick butts on the trails. Actually, that’s where it shines over its rivals.

The dual-range transfer case is easy to engage via a large knob dial, and there’s a witty Crawl Control system which can act as a low-speed off-road cruise control by electronically operating the engine and brakes when surmounting serious obstacles. Toyota has also fitted its rig with a “Multi-terrain Select” gizmo that optimizes the traction control system for getting your truck out of tricky situations such as deep sand. Heck, there’s even a standard GoPro camera windshield mount so you can film yourself doing silly things in the mud.

On the road, however, the 2018 Toyota Tacoma doesn’t hide its fortified body-on-frame configuration, which hasn’t changed much in the past decade. This generation is nevertheless quieter than its predecessor and body motions have been slightly quelled.

During the time we had the Tacoma, we had trouble staying under the 12-litres-per-100-kilometres mark. Some V-8-powered full-sizers post similar numbers.

Then there’s the cabin. To Toyota’s credit, the overall design and the layout of the dashboard are well done. I particularly enjoy the large knob dials allowing you to control everything, as well as the globally utilitarian and well-assembled look and feel of it all. The standard touchscreen infotainment system is simple and easy to operate.

The problem is overall cabin comfort. The floor is higher than in your average midsize truck (good for off-roading) meaning tall people will feel like their knees are hugging their foreheads.

But you know what? All of this is irrelevant and Toyota understands it. No matter how unrefined its bulletproof Tacoma is, consumers will continue to rush into showrooms to buy one. That’s an impact in the industry its rivals could only dream of causing.

— LC Media