Toyota Tacoma aces its test

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If you listen to the radio and television ads you’d think there were only full-size pickups for the consumer. Not so, mid-size pickups like Toyota’s Tacoma are available for those of you who feel a full-size truck is too much for your needs.

I recently drove a 2014 Tacoma 4X4 Doublecab, which in Toyota speak is a pickup with four doors. Base price is $29,600. My test Tacoma came with the TRD sport premium package priced at $7,315 and a five-speed automatic transmission for an additional $1,550. Toyota roadside assistance is included.

The Tacoma feels as rugged as Toyota pickups I’ve tested before – a beefy ride, but not too firm as to shake you up. The meaty 16-inch all-season tires make minimal noise on pavement and, with good sound insulation, the cab remains relatively quiet at highway speed.

Power from the DOHC 4.0 litre V-6 comes on smoothly, then more powerfully as rpms increase. We’re talking a burly 236 horsepower with 266 foot-pounds of trail-tackling torque. The five-speed automatic is a good match for the V-6 and employs an electronic system that works to help eliminate "gear hunting" on uphill grades.

Most of my highway travel involved cruising at 110 kilometres per hour on the Anthony Henday. Two years ago I tested an extended cab Tacoma and drove it to Rocky Mountain House and back. I can assure you it has very good highway manners. Combined with some in-town driving I was able to travel just over 500 kilometres on a tank of gas – not bad considering the size of truck.

The TRD off-road package gives you a lot for the money; 6,400 pounds (2,903 kilograms) towing capacity, transmission cooler (automatic only), engine oil cooler, upgraded alternator, active traction control (A-TRAC), rear differential lock, fuel tank and transfer case protector plates, downhill assist control (automatic only), hill-start assist control (HAC) (automatic only), trailer sway control, front Bilstein shock absorbers, rear Bilstein shock absorbers, P265/70R16 all-terrain tires and 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and a lot more including a front skid plate to protect the underside of the engine.

It’s an excellent package for the guy, or gal perhaps, who wants to go where the road doesn’t. Just bring your hiking boots, a lunch and some water.

Adding to the driving comfort of the Tacoma is an interior with a heavy-duty look, a wider dash and prominent centre cluster appointed with pronounced, ergonomic controls making the driving experience that much easier when you have everything right at hand.

I found the driver’s seat to be well bolstered with good support resulting in no aches and pains. The tilting, telescoping steering wheel helps drivers of all sizes become properly positioned and comfortable for a long road trip. The back seat is plenty roomy for adults and using a child car seat is also easily done. Ventilation and heating was very good.

The stereo system is top notch too. Tacoma models now have a new six-speaker AM/FM CD audio system, complete with MP3/WMA capability and audio auxiliary input jack. There are also steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth, USB audio input, and integrated satellite radio, now standard on all four-by-four models.

OK, some of the fancy stuff on the inside sounds a little sissy for a rugged looking Toyota four-by-four. But this is what buyers want on their trucks. Creature comforts aside, you know these trucks are tough. If you’re not keen on a full-size pickup, domestic or import, then the Tacoma maybe be just your size, especially if you live on acreage.

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