2008 Toyota Tacoma
2008 Toyota Tacoma Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
The benchmark for mid-size pickups.
In a field of outstanding trucks, the Toyota Tacoma stands out as one of the best, perhaps the best, of a very good bunch. It comes in a wide range of configurations to please a wide range of buyers. As a result, the Tacoma dominates the market for mid-size pickups.
The Tacoma offers a comfortable cab, a refined ride, and quality construction. Its on-road handing is responsive, its off-road capability is proven. The Double Cab delivers more rear-seat comfort than most of the competition, with enough room to rival a small sedan. Properly equipped V6 models can to tow up to 6,500 pounds.
Models range from a $15,000 work truck with a four-cylinder and 2WD to a $31,000 V6 4WD Double Cab Long Bed with all the candy. The base model is among the few regular-cab pickups still available, as the market has moved to extended-cab and crew cab styles; it excels at durability and reliability.
Tacoma PreRunner models can make you feel like Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart practicing for the Baja 1000, while the sporty X-Runner may make you feel like Rod Millen preparing to blast up Pike's Peak.
New for 2008 is the Rugged Trail package, with locking rear differential, specially tuned off-road suspension, skid plate, 16-inch black Baja wheels, black overfenders, and unique graphics. There are no other changes for 2008. For 2007, Toyota upgraded the front seats for enhanced interior comfort, while chrome-rimmed instruments and new audio head units brightened its two-tone instrument panel.
Compact pickups aren't what they used to be. For one thing, they're no longer compact. Nor are they uncomfortable. They're more comfortable and more capable than ever before.
The 2008 Toyota Tacoma is available in 18 different configurations, including Regular Cab, Access Cab (extended cab) and Double Cab (crew cab) body styles. Regular and Access Cabs come with six-foot beds; Double Cab comes with the choice of a shorter five-foot bed or a standard-size six-footer.
The base engine is a 2.7-liter inline-4 mated to a five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is optional ($900). A 4.0-liter V6 is standard on Double Cabs and optional ($1,555) on 4WD Access Cabs. It is paired with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic ($880).
The Tacoma 2WD Regular Cab ($14,280) comes standard with cloth upholstery, AM/FM/CD four-speaker sound system, tachometer, digital clock, two 12-volt powerpoints, fuel warning light, tire-pressure monitor, service reminder indicator, dome lamp, rear mudguards, 15-inch steel wheels and a full-size spare tire. Air conditioning is optional.
Access Cab ($17,720) and Double Cab ($24,735) models add more standard features, including air conditioning and functional consoles for the floor and ceiling. Double Cabs come with upgraded seat fabric, plus power windows, mirrors and door locks. Access and Double Cabs also get upgraded six-speaker audio systems, and offer an in-dash six-CD changer ($200); Double Cabs offer a premium JBL system ($560) with CD changer and amplified subwoofer. Both audio upgrades feature steering wheel controls.
PreRunner models are 2WD only, but feature the high stance and general appearance of a 4WD truck. (Desert racers use this style of truck to scout or pre-run a course before a race.) Regular Cab PreRunners ($15,150) must make do with four-cylinder power. The V6 is optional ($1,455) on PreRunner Access Cabs ($18,480) and of course standard on Double Cabs ($22,540). Buying a PreRunner is the only way you can get a 2WD Double Cab, as 4WD is standard on base Double Cabs. And all Double Cab PreRunners come with automatic transmission.
X-Runner ($24,045) features unique styling cues and a chassis tuned for on-road performance. Its name refers to the additional X-shaped brace added stiffen its frame against high cornering loads. X-Runner is offered only in the Access Cab style, and only with the V6 and six-speed manual.
SR5 packages ($1,525-$1,860) bundle styling and comfort features, including color-keyed overfenders and front bumper, chrome grille surround and chrome rear bumper, bucket seats with center console, and other upgraded interior features and trim.
Three TRD packages are available, named for Toyota Racing Development, which engineers and distributes high-performance parts for Toyota.
The pavement-oriented TRD Sport Package ($3,220-$3,915) starts with SR5 Package 2 equipment and adds or substitutes P265/65R17 tires, limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, sport seats, overhead console and power point, plus a hood scoop, lots of body-color trim, and its own graphics package. TRD Sport is available on any Tacoma V6.
The TRD Offroad Package ($3,045-$3,755) starts with SR5 Package 2 equipment and adds or substitutes BF Goodrich P265/70R16 OWL tires, locking rear differential, off-road suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, engine skidplate, sport seats, overhead console with compass and outside temperature, heavy-duty front tow hook, 115v/400w deck-mounted powerpoint, and unique TRD graphics. TRD Offroad is available only on V6 models, but not on Double Cab Long Beds.
The TRD Rugged Trail Package ($3,125-3,835) is similar to the Off-Road Package mechanically, but offers its own unique look with black 16-inch Baja wheels and black overfenders. All-weather floor mats are also part of the package, which is available only on V6 models with black, white, or silver paint.
Options for the Tacoma include a tow package ($650) for V6 models that comprises a 130-amp alternator, heavy-duty battery, transmission oil cooler, and a Class IV hitch with seven-pin connector.
The Toyota Tacoma is an attractive truck, though not as stylish as its competitors from Nissan and Dodge. Big headlights and a bold grille highlight the Tacoma's front end. Flush rear surface glass and flush surface structures between the bumper sides and body give it a polished look. PreRunner and 4WD models are distinguished by bold overfenders.
Overall length of the Tacoma varies by body style: Regular Cabs are the shortest and most maneuverable, measuring 190.4 inches overall on a 109.4-inch wheelbase. Access Cab and Double Cab short-bed models have a 127.2-inch wheelbase and 208.1-inch overall length. Double Cab long-bed models are quite long at 221.3 inches overall on a 140.9-inch wheelbase. All models have six-foot beds except the Double Cab short-bed, which has a five-foot bed.
How to choose? Regular Cab models pack lots of cargo space in a relatively small package, good for maneuverability in the big city. Regular Cab PreRunners and 4WD's also have the best break-over angle due to their short length, and therefore offer the best capability off road. Access Cabs feature large dual rear auxiliary doors, not good for people but very good for gear. Double Cabs have long, conventionally hinged rear doors that open 80 degrees for ease of entry or loading gear. Double Cabs offer the people-carrying comfort of a sport-utility. Long-bed Double Cabs can carry more stuff but are unwieldy in tight places.
Tacoma comes with a composite inner bed, lighter than steel yet tougher and more durable. The bed features two-tier loading and an integrated deck rail utility system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. The rails are compatible with Genuine Toyota Accessories, including cargo-bed cross bars, a fork-mount bike rack, and diamond-plate storage boxes.
All of the latest-generation midsize pickups have decent interiors, but the quality of Toyota's interior materials seems just a little better. The lower dash and console are a lighter color than the main upper dash, brightening the interior. Chrome rings surround the three clustered gauges. Not everyone loves the perforated silver plastic used for the center stack. But the cloth upholstery is decent and the seats look nice.
In fact, Toyota made the Tacoma's seats bigger last year, which was an improvement. The manually adjustable seats include lumbar adjustment but no adjustment for seat height or the angle of the seat bottom, whereas the power seats on the Nissan Frontier have these features.
Overall, the Tacoma provides the driver with a good driving position. Big mirrors afford a good view to the rear.
Solid cup holders are provided in the center console area. On models that don't have sport seats, the front passenger's seatback flips down to form a tray table or to make room for long objects, a handy feature. The switchgear is easy to operate, and everything is where you expect it to be. Big rotary knobs make it easy to adjust cabin temperature even with gloves on; the knobs are electronic, so they're easy to twist. The radio is fully integrated into the upper center stack and it's easy to operate. CDs sound good through the JBL speakers. We aren't thrilled with the pull-out handbrake that comes on models with manual transmissions, as we prefer a lever or footbrake. Models with automatics come with a foot-operated parking brake.
The rear seats in the Tacoma Double Cab are particularly comfortable for the class, offering good legroom and shoulder room and decent headroom. The seatback is angled back slightly, making it more comfortable than the overly upright rear seats in some other compact pickups. In a back-to-back comparison test, we found the back seats of the Tacoma more comfortable than those in the Frontier. A younger person should be okay to ride across the state back there, and even adults won't complain too much on short trips. The rear windows even go all the way down.
The rear-seat area in the Double Cab is also good for carrying cargo. The seat is split 60/40. Flip the seat bottoms forward and fold the two sections down to form a flat platform for gear. It takes two hands to do this, and you first have to remove the headrests, which is a hassle, though Toyota has at least provided a place to store them. The backs of the seatbacks are hard, and form a sturdy cargo floor. It's not a bad spot for a dog, better than the bumpy floors in the Nissan Frontier and Dodge Dakota, but still a big jump down. Our experience has been that none of the trucks in this class is particularly good for dogs.
The Access Cab has rear seats, but they're pretty hopeless for humans. The space back there is best used for small cargo that you don't want to put in the bed.
The Toyota Tacoma drives well and cruises nicely. It offers plenty of power from the V6. It handles well and feels relatively refined. Off-road models offer better capability over rugged terrain than previous-generation models as well as improved ride comfort.
The 4.0-liter V6 engine uses dual overhead camshafts and variable valve technology (Toyota calls it VVT-i, for Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) to optimize power and torque over a broad range of rpm. In action, the V6 feels refined and delivers responsive performance. It is rated at 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. That means the Toyota V6 is still more powerful than the base V6 in the new Dodge Dakota, but less powerful than the Nissan Frontier's V6, or the optional inline-5 in the Chevrolet Colorado.
Nonetheless, Toyota's 4.0-liter V6 works well with the five-speed automatic transmission. And that's our first choice for this truck: the V6 and automatic. The automatic is super smooth and very responsive, quickly downshifting when you mash the throttle, and it offers five ratios to better keep the engine at its most efficient rpm. For its part, the six-speed manual transmission is easy to shift, but first gear is a very low ratio, leaving a broad stretch to second. The automatic even delivers better gas mileage, according to the latest EPA estimates, with 16/20 mpg City/Highway; vs. 15/19 for the V6 and manual with 2WD and 15/18 for the V6/manual 4WD.
The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine gets better mileage and runs on Regular gas. As with the V6, the four-cylinder benefits from VVT-i and dohc, which means it's a modern, sophisticated engine. It is rated at 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, which is about average for the class. EPA estimates are 20/25 mpg with 2WD and the five-speed manual, and 19/25 mpg for 2WD with the four-speed automatic.
Handling is quite good on curvy roads. The Tacoma feels steady in sweeping turns and suffers from surprisingly little body roll, or lean, in hard corners. The Tacoma feels big on the road when compared with older compact pickups and, in fact, it is relatively large. It's wider and longer than previous-generation models. Size can be a detriment when parking, and a long-bed Double Cab can be a challenge in tight parking situations due to the amount of space it requires to turn. The Tacoma Double Cab long bed requires 44 feet to complete a circle, while a Double Cab short bed needs closer to 40 feet. For this reason, we recommend the short bed unless you really need to carry something that won't fit in it. A base Tacoma Regular Cab boasts a turning circle of less than 37 feet.
On pavement, the 4WD and TRD Offroad models seemed smooth and refined. Off-road, a 4WD TRD model is smooth and highly capable. The TRD suspension is excellent on rough, rugged terrain. It handles well on rough dirt trails, something we learned while charging up a ski run at Alyeska. It never bottomed on the rough terrain even when we pushed it well beyond socially acceptable standards. The Tacoma TRD also easily handled an off-road course that featured steep ascents and descents, moguls, and a log step. In short, we'd feel comfortable tackling just about any terrain in a Toyota Tacoma. And it doesn't just get there, it does it in relative comfort. The Tacoma doesn't seem to generate as much head toss as earlier 4WD compact pickups, an important consideration when driving long distances over rugged terrain, because you don't want to arrive to your backcountry camp fatigued from driving.
Switching into 4WD and 4WD Lo is as easy as twisting a rotary knob. It works very well, for the most part, but we tried to confuse it by switching the knob around underway and we succeeded. The low-range lights wouldn't turn off until we stopped, shut it off and restarted, the automotive equivalent of rebooting your computer.
The Tacoma's brakes are smooth and easy to modulate, and t.
Toyota Tacoma is among the best of the latest generation of midsize pickups. The Tacoma features a comfortable cab trimmed with quality materials. The 4WD models offer crisp handling, a nicely balanced ride quality, and excellent off-road capability. The TRD Offroad models are terrific trucks for rugged terrain. The X-Runner drives and performs like a sports car.
Toyota Tacoma Regular Cab 2.7-liter 5-speed manual ($14,280); w 4-speed automatic ($15,180); Access Cab 5M ($17,720); 4A ($18,620); PreRunner Regular Cab 5M ($15,150); PreRunner Access Cab 5M ($18,480); PreRunner V6 Access Cab w 6-speed manual ($19,935); w 5-speed automatic ($20,815); PreRunner V6 Double Cab 5A ($22,540); PreRunner Long Bed V6 Double Cab 5A ($23,040); X-Runner Access Cab V6 6M ($24,045); 4WD Regular Cab 2.7-liter 5M ($18,225); 4WD Access Cab 5M ($21,555); 4WD V6 Access Cab 6M ($23,110); 4WD V6 Access Cab 5A ($23,990); 4WD V6 Double Cab 6M ($24,735); 4WD V6 Double Cab 5A ($25,615); 4WD V6 Long Bed Double Cab 5A ($26,115).
Options As Tested
SR5 Package 2 ($1,525) includes fog lamps, remote keyless entry, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, chrome grille surround and rear bumper, color-keyed front bumper, sliding rear window w privacy glass, metallic tone instrument panel trim, leather steering wheel and shifter; curtain airbags for head protection ($650); JBL AM/FM/CD6 w 6 speakers, subwoofer and steering wheel audio controls ($560); limited-slip rear differential ($390): Towing Package ($650) including Class IV hitch, transmission oil cooler, heavy-duty battery and 130-amp alternator, 7-pin connector; 16-in. alloy wheels w P245/75R16 tires ($400): daytime running lights ($40).
Toyota Tacoma 4WD V6 Double Cab Long Bed ($26,115).
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