Leader of the Pack – the 2019 Toyota Tacoma
By Christopher A. Randazzo
When the Toyota Tacoma was introduced in 1995, it was the replacement for the HiLux, or better known here in the US market as just a Toyota Pickup truck. Over the generations, Toyota’s smallest truck has evolved – it’s hardly little anymore, having grown and matured in its years and taking styling cues from its big brother, the Toyota Tundra.
The current generation has been around since 2016 and continues to be available in two cab configurations (Access Cab and Double Cab), two bed lengths (short and long), two different engines (a 4-cylinder and a V6), two different transmissions (6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic), and six different models (SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited and TRD Pro). Really, if you want something smaller than a full-sized truck, there is a Tacoma that can be fitted for your needs. Recently Toyota had me in a VooDoo Blue colored Double Cab TRD Pro with the V6 engine.
The Double Cab (a crew cab with 4 full size doors) is the roomiest Tacoma available, offering comfortable seating for five. The Access Cab uses small rear-hinged doors and is perfect when the back seat is used more to haul tools than passengers.
Powering the Tacoma is a pair of impressive engines – a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that makes 159 hp and a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. The four-cylinder is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Going with the V6 gives you the option of a six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic.
Once you get inside the Tacoma (it’s a big step up), a nicely appointed interior greets you. Room is plentiful, but the Tacoma’s high floor and low roof may make it feel a little awkward at first. Look around and you’ll see utility is everywhere – with cupholders in the center floor console and compartments that keep everything tidy. And as you would expect from Toyota, the quality of the materials used is extremely high.
Toyota has always put safety on top, and that is no different here. Each Tacoma is fitted with the Toyota’s Safety Sense System which includes a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert as well as automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. Then there is the alphabet-soup of safety equipment that includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC). Every Tacoma now comes equipped with front-seat side airbags as well as side curtain airbags.
For those into off-roading, the TRD Pro model is sure to please you. Along with 4-wheel drive, this model adds Fox shock absorbers, an electronic locking rear differential, a multi-terrain select switch, all-terrain tires, and a front skid plate. The TRD Pro also sits about an inch higher and comes with an all black grille and special decals.
If off-roading isn’t your thing, the Limited is the most civilized Tacoma with its leather interior and its flashy chrome exterior trim.
For 2019, the TRD Pro can be fitted with a high-mounted snorkel air intake. Called the “Desert Air Intake Package,” it elevates the air intake above the dust you are going to kick up while out bouncing around in the dunes. Mounted along the passenger side A-pillar, it has sure drawn some looks from other drivers.
Being fitted with the V6, there is plenty of power for just about any circumstance. In town, the automatic seems ideal, shifting at all the right times. On the highway, the transmission seems a little restless, wanting to change gears often. Purists will be glad to see that a manual gearbox is still available, but something tells me those days are numbered. The EPA rating on the tester was 18 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.
Toyota trucks have always been known to be tough and reliable. And for awhile the Tacoma was the only entry in the mid-size truck market. Today, with the likes of the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins as well as the Nissan Frontier and the return of the Ford Ranger, there are choices for mid-size truck buyers. But leading the pack continues to be the Toyota Tacoma.
By The Numbers:
2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Double Cab 4×4 V6
Base Price: $45,355.00
Price as Tested: $46,480.00
Layout: front-engine / four-wheel drive
Engine: 3.5 liter DOHC 24valve V6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Horsepower: 276 hp
Torque: 265 ft/lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 18 city / 22 highway mpg
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