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The Tacoma recently earned some much-needed audio-system improvements, with the standard system incorporating built-in Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, plus a USB/iPod port. The base system now has six speakers, and even that is satellite-radio capable. Also new to the Tacoma line is the Entune system, which packages navigation functions, text-to-voice capability, voice commands, HD Radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, and real-time traffic and weather, among other features.
Outside of these changes, the Tacoma's model line largely has carried over for the past few years, offering a basic pickup package for those looking at the cheapest model, ranging all the way up to the specialized terrain-focused PreRunner model. The PreRunner adds a higher-riding suspension, locking rear differential, and other appearance cues. Also available is a TRD Off-Road Package that brings special badging, plus an off-road suspension with Bilstein dampers, fog lamps, and a transfer-case skid plate.
The base 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder can manage basic chores well enough, so long as you're riding solo and not towing or hauling much. We'd choose the five-speed manual, and leave off the hefty four-wheel-drive system; the four-speed automatic's gears are too widely spaced for quick acceleration or good fuel economy. The 4.0-liter V-6 on the preferred versions of the Tacoma has a completely different personality: it makes 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough to hustle the Tacoma around quickly, even when you have a heavy load, though things get a little breathless past 75 mph or so on the interstate. The five-speed automatic that's standard on V-6 models is a responsive gearbox, too.
It's the Tacoma's road manners that disappoint the most. Even among pickups, which typically trade off some ride comfort for heavy-hauling ability, the Tacoma feels numb and lifeless in urban environs. The ride is hard and choppy; on pockmarked city surfaces the tires simply lose contact with the road. Maneuverability in the Tacoma doesn't seem any better than that of a full-size truck.
Toyota recently gave the Tacoma a sharper, more defined look in front, with headlamps wrapped into the grille in a new way, and with higher turn signals that stretch the shape of the grille out at the lower corners. It beefs up the Tacoma somewhat, but it doesn't take much to look beyond the nose graft to see the compact proportions peeking out from behind that bulging front end. The offset, flared wheel wells and flared fender sheetmetal adds a hint of aggression or sportiness—brought out, especially, in its off-road trims—and the front end still bears a clear family resemblance with that of the full-size Tundra and Land Cruiser. Also, models with the TRD Sport Package get new side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
The Tacoma is known for its off-road performance, and for good reason. Many of the models–including the PreRunner and TRD versions–are intended for the shopper who'd rather play in the mud, and this year's new TRD Pro Series is the leader of that pack.
We'd steer you to the countless specialty publications for lengthy discussions of the Tacoma's tuning and off-road capabilities; its four-wheel-drive hardware ranges from a simple locking center differential to highly specialized setups with increased ride heights, knobby off-road tires, special shocks, and skid plates to protect its transfer case. Its customization possibilities go well beyond the usual light off-roading you'll find even in the SUV class--and if you're shopping a Tacoma purely as a dirty weekend plaything, you've probably listed the options and features you have in mind already.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.