- Engines offer a good balance of power and fuel efficiency
- Wide variety of body styles and trims
- Strong safety scores
- Impressive build quality
- Well-appointed interior
- Low seating position
- Spongy brake pedal
- V6 can get noisy
In the past, you faced a simple choice when the time came to buy a pickup truck. When gas was cheap and good times continued to roll, it was easy to justify getting the biggest thing available. In these leaner economic times, many people are reconsidering their wants versus their needs. You might want a truck with all that payload, power and space, but perhaps a smaller and less expensive truck is all you need. In that case, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma should do nicely.
Since its last redesign in 2005, the Tacoma has been a class-leading choice, due largely to its ability to bridge the gap between small work trucks and full-sizers. Thanks to available four- and six-cylinder engines and a wide range of body styles that start with the simple Regular Cab and go up to the Double Cab long bed, both business operators and families alike should be able to find a Tacoma in a size and style that suits their needs. Toyota offers the Pre-Runner, X Runner and off-road-capable TRD models to further cater to a diverse range of potential buyers.
In addition to its wide-ranging lineup, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma further distinguishes itself with its sturdy construction and reputation for reliability. Another plus is its well-appointed cabin, which greatly outshines the competition. Of the Tacoma's rivals, the strongest picks are the 2011 Nissan Frontier and almost identical Suzuki Equator; the American entries are sadly well past their prime and not really competitive. Still, although both the Frontier and the Equator are capable choices, neither is impressive enough to challenge the Tacoma's dominance in the segment.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2011
For 2011, the Toyota Tacoma's four-cylinder engine is a more practical choice now that it's available with an automatic transmission. Air-conditioning is now standard on every Tacoma, while all but Regular Cab 4x4 models get bucket seats. The front grille has been slightly redesigned depending on trim level and a pair of new off-road-oriented packages debut.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2011 Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup offered in Regular Cab, Access Cab (an extended cab with small rear-hinged doors) and Double Cab (crew cab with four full-size front-hinged doors) configurations. Both Regular and Access Cabs are joined to a 6-foot bed. The Double Cab has a shortened 5-foot bed in the interest of maneuverability, but a 6-foot bed is available as an option.
All Tacoma body styles are available in either two- or four-wheel-drive form. Rear-wheel-drive PreRunner versions adopt the rugged look and suspension of their off-road-focused stablemates, but without the added weight, fuel appetite and traction of actual 4WD. The rear-drive-only X-Runner version is more oriented to street performance, with a body kit, 18-inch alloy wheels, standard V6, a lowered sport-tuned suspension, a hood scoop, foglamps and an upgraded stereo.
As the base model, the lightly equipped Tacoma Regular Cab is ideal as a work truck; it actually has more standard amenities than other bare-bones pickups. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels, a limited-slip differential, air-conditioning, a composite bedliner, a bed utility rail system, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a cloth front bench seat and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. When equipped with four-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, the Regular Cab gets front bucket seats. The Access Cab gains power locks and windows, upgraded cloth upholstery, front bucket seats, a rear bench (includes under-seat storage) and two more speakers. The Tacoma Double Cab adds 16-inch steel wheels, a front skid plate and driver lumbar adjustment.
Most options (which can vary by region) are grouped into packages with varying availability depending on body styles and drivetrain choices. The Convenience package adds power mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, a sliding rear window and steering-wheel audio controls. Several variations of the SR-5 package typically combine exterior and interior enhancements that include a chrome grille and rear bumper, variable-speed wipers, foglamps, upgraded seats, a rearview camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a JBL upgraded six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and satellite radio. Some of these items are available separately.
The TRD Off-Road package includes 16-inch alloy wheels, fender flares, a heavy-duty suspension, a locking rear differential, skid plates and sport seats. Both the TX and TX Pro packages add black alloy wheels, all-terrain tires and unique badging; the TX also adds tube side steps, while the TX Pro adds a cat-back exhaust. The on-road-oriented TRD Sport package includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a hood scoop, a sport suspension and sport seats.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The Tacoma doesn't break any new ground in terms of interior design, but it is well built with quality materials and offers plenty of practicality. The attractive metallic interior trim found in higher trim levels adds a bit more refinement, especially when compared to its more industrial rivals. Furthermore, the gimmick-free cockpit benefits from easy-to-read gauges and intuitive controls.
Adult passengers will find the Double Cab's rear seats roomy and comfortable, while only smaller folk are likely to find the Access Cab's rear accommodations passable. Some of our editors have expressed displeasure with the Tacoma's low-slung front seats, noting that pickups are best served by seats that are higher from the floor. Behind the cab, a substantial composite inner cargo bed does a good job of defending the surface from dents and rust, and an optional bed-mounted 115-volt/400-watt electrical outlet should be a big hit with campers and tailgaters alike.
Standard safety equipment on all 2011 Tacomas includes stability and traction control, antilock brakes (disc front, drum rear) with brake assist, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front active headrests. Hill-start assist control (HAC) and downhill assist control (DAC) are available on 4WD models equipped with the automatic transmission.
In government crash testing, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma received a top five-star rating for its protection of occupants in frontal and side-impact crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tacoma its top rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side crash tests. The Tacoma is the only compact/midsize to receive high marks in both tests, earning it the distinction of being an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2011 Toyota Tacoma is available with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. All drivetrain and cab configurations other than the 4x4 Double Cab come standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Regular and Access Cabs, while a four-speed automatic is optional on those cabs and standard with the Double Cab. Fuel economy for a 4x2 with the automatic is 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, while the 4x4 with automatic gets 18/21/19.
Optional on the Access Cab and 4x2 Double Cab but standard on the 4x4 Double Cab is a 4.0-liter V6 that ups output to 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. In testing, a Tacoma Double Cab V6 turned in a 0-60-mph time of 7.8 seconds, which is suitably quick for a midsize truck. An automatic-equipped 4x2 with the V6 achieves an EPA-estimated 17/21/18, while the 4x4 gets 16/20/18. When properly equipped, the Tacoma can tow 6,500 pounds.
Drivers who don't plan on heavy hauling, towing or aggressive accelerating will likely find their needs met by the four-cylinder engine. The beefier V6 is a much more capable choice for more serious work and play, with plenty of low-range pull that continues into the higher revs. The only downside is that it can get a bit noisy at higher rpm.
For better or worse, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma drives like a proper pickup truck. It delivers a reasonably comfortable ride on the streets and, properly equipped, tackles off-road terrain without drama. The Tacoma can, however, feel rather twitchy if the bed's empty and the truck's fitted with one of the stiffer suspensions. It's also worth noting that while the brakes ably bring things to a halt, the soft pedal doesn't inspire confidence.
The 2011 Toyota Tacoma is a top choice in the midsize pickup segment thanks to its highly capable nature and wide array of configurations.