2011 Toyota Tacoma: Introduction
In this review we are going to attempt to answer the age old question, “does size really matter?” We are, of course, talking about the size of compact and full-size pickup trucks. What did you think we were talking about? Seriously, get your mind out of the gutter. This is a family website.
Many pickup truck shoppers go out looking for a full size model like an F-150, Tundra or Dodge Ram when in fact a compact pickup truck like this 2011 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab will suit their needs just as capably all without needing to expand the size of your garage. This isn’t to say that the Tacoma isn’t a very large vehicle as this Double Cab model sometimes had trouble staying in one parking spot but thanks to its relatively narrow dimensions, this truck really is far more capable off-road than a Ram, F-150 or even big brother Tundra would be in most situations.
This fact is made even more clear with our tester’s T/X Pro off-road package developed by Toyota Racing Development which includes the TRD Off-Road Package in addition to 16-inch black Beadlock style alloys with wheel locks, BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, a stainless steel exhaust tip, black tube rail running bars, special body graphics and a TRD exhaust that turns the standard 4.0-liter 236 horsepower/266 lb. feet of torque V-6 into a burbling and growling monster that does a terrific imitation of the macho 5.7-liter V-8 from the Tundra. The package is worth it just for the cool sound effects offered by the special exhaust.
Prices for the most basic 2011 Tacoma start at just $16,365, but that model comes with what we would imagine to be a rather weedy 2.7-liter 159 horsepower/180 lb. feet of torque four-cylinder engine. There are two door regular cab versions: two and a half door extra cab models and full four door double cab models like the one tested here for those who actually like to be able to carry five passengers. There is also a lowered X-Runner model meant only for street use which sort of seems to defeat the purpose of a pickup truck but is available to buyers nonetheless.
2011 Toyota Tacoma: Exterior
Tried and true pickup truck machismo and angularly full bodied tough guy bravado rule the stylistic day when it comes to the exterior look of this 2011 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 T/X Pro. The giant, knobby off-road tires give it a look that implies it can and will tackle any road or obstacle in its way even if that obstacle should be an errant Kia Rio that got in its way. The T/X Pro package adds some semi-cheesy stickers to the sides of the short rear bed but the overall look really worked especially in our tester’s “arrest me” red color scheme.
To say the least, if people don’t hear you coming because of the burbling noise emanating from the TRD exhaust, they sure won’t miss you when you pull up in this very red pickup. Now, not many trucks can pull off the color red but the Tacoma is such a classic design that it could probably pull off hot pink. On second thought, maybe not.
Now while some may say that it’s about time for Toyota to finally restyle the Tacoma as it has pretty much looked this way since Grunge was popular, we think that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. The giant chrome front grille and the overall size of the truck really puts it in a stylistic class by itself. For a large portion of pickup truck buyers, a vehicle the size of the 2011 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab will do just fine, thank you very much.
2011 Toyota Tacoma: Interior
If you are expecting to find the latest high tech electronic gadgets and hardware inside any 2011 Toyota Tacoma model you might be a tad bit disappointed. Unlike full size models like the Ford F-150 or Tundra, the Tacoma doesn’t have options like leather seats, in-dash navigation, automatic temperature control, USB/iPod integration or heated seats. The Tacoma does offer all of the basics and the simple dashboard layout is effective, sturdily assembled and pleasing to the eye.
Optional extras do include some luxuries like Bluetooth, XM satellite radio, a rear view back-up camera (a must for any pickup) and a clear sounding JBL 6-speaker audio system that unfortunately only comes with an auxiliary input jack for your iPod. Really the only “luxury” we missed was USB/iPod integration as auxiliary input jacks require you to look down at your MP3 player to change songs, albums or playlists. Besides, having to listen to just your CD collection seems a tad bit 1999. Surely Toyota could find a way to wire in a USB port with the upgraded JBL audio system as the rest of the interior with its sturdily upholstered and supremely comfortable seats is a pleasant place to pass the miles.
Our 2011 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 with 5-speed automatic had a starting price of $27,025 but once you added all the off-road/tow packages and the feature-laden TRD Off-Road Extra Value Package ($4,850) the total with delivery came to $34,581. Do keep in mind, however, that most full size pick-up trucks are easily more expensive and can top out over the $50,000 mark. So while the Tacoma may lack some features its price does reflect that and most owners probably will never notice the lack of amenities... especially if you don’t own an iPod.
2011 Toyota Tacoma: Performance and Safety
Admittedly, there are plenty of folks out there who need a heavy duty full size pick-up truck that can haul 10,000 pounds but for recreational use the Tacoma’s 6,400-pound tow rating and payload capacity of 1,295 pounds should prove more than sufficient. All this and the Tacoma averages an EPA estimated 16 miles per gallon city/20 highway. During our week of testing (admittedly with no heavy towing) the truck averaged 17.8 mpg which is much better than the 11-13 mpg we have experienced in tests of the F-150, Ram and Tundra with their largest motors.
Now, if you are looking for something that handles and steers like anything less than a pickup truck, you might want to look elsewhere. The smoothest riding pickup truck out there right now is the Dodge Ram what with its independent rear suspension but the surprising thing about the Tacoma is that it turned out to have a noticeably smoother ride on freeways than the somewhat harsh Tundra which can feel jittery on freeway jaunts. Other than that, the Tacoma’s steering feel is light and rather numb around the center but it still offers up enough feel to direct the truck where you want to go.
As we said earlier, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 T/X Pro really is designed as much as an off-road tool as it is a high utility work truck. This model featured a locking rear differential perfect for getting plenty of traction in sticky situations, a front tow hook in case you do get stuck, skid plates and an off-road tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks. Our tester also included the $650 V-6 tow package which nicely doubles the tow capacity of this pickup thanks to a Class IV hitch as well as a beefed up battery, alternator and oil cooler.
Our favorite aspect of the 2011 Tacoma, however, proved to be its most well proven mechanical features which are the smooth five-speed automatic and 4.0-liter 236-horsepower/266 lb. feet of torque V-6 which felt a lot more powerful than those numbers suggest. Sure, the engine is loud but the noise it makes is so edgy and potent that it can turn something as decidedly macho as Old Spice seem just girlier than a Justin Bieber concert. The Tacoma’s V-6 motor and transmission may be old school but it is definitely an institution of higher learning you will enjoy attending. A party school, if you will.
When it comes to crash test safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Tacoma a top score of “Good” in both front and side impact tests. It does miss out on a full “Top Safety Pick” award as in roof strength tests it only scored a “Marginal” rating. We guess you should probably just try not to flip the truck over.
2011 Toyota Tacoma: Conclusion
The 2011 Toyota Tacoma fills a very important niche in the pickup truck market not only as an overall model line but also in this very off-road focused Double Cab 4x4 V6 T/X Pro trim level. Owners of this Tacoma could take their pickup to places owners of no supersized full size pickup would dare travel. Besides, not all truck owners need a specially designed “man-step” (as with the F-150) just to climb into the pickup bed. That’s just not very manly to need a special step just to load and unload your cargo, no matter how clever we found that invention to be on that particular Ford pickup truck icon.
So in the end you really need to take a long hard look at yourself, your needs, your priorities and perhaps your insecurities to decide whether or not you really need to go “full size” with your next pickup truck purchase. Because in the end the 2011 Toyota Tacoma truly proves it’s not the size that matters, what counts is what you can do with the stuff you have been given. Seriously, we aren’t getting all Freudian on you here. We are just talking about the size of pickup truck.
Toyota provided the vehicle this road test review
All photos provided by Toyota