2008 Toyota Tacoma Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

The 2008 Toyota Tacoma covers the basics, at a price that’s lower than full-size trucks.

As the experts at TheCarConnection.com compiled this review that covers the 2008 Toyota Tacoma, they consulted with a wide range of respected review sources. Then they brought their own experience driving the Tacoma to this review to make it especially useful to shoppers looking to compare it to rivals.

Ever since it was last redesigned in 2005, Toyota’s Tacoma has been more of a mid-size pickup model than a compact. But it remains available in a wide range of models powered by four- and six-cylinder engines that make it a more fuel-efficient choice than full-size trucks, if not much more maneuverable.

The 2008 Toyota Tacoma comes in a very wide range of models, including Regular Cab, Access Cab, and Double Cab editions with standard or long-bed (LB) lengths, rear- or four-wheel drive, and several different trims ranging from a basic work truck to an off-road-ready ranch vehicle to a long, stable rig good for towing up to 6,500 pounds.

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Standard in the 2008 Toyota Tacoma is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 159 horsepower. The optional 4.0-liter V-6 comes in at 236 horsepower. In the smaller models, the four-cylinder engine provides adequate performance if you don’t plan to do much towing, but it’s somewhat noisy during acceleration and not very smooth. The V-6 is a big step up; it gives the Tacoma a very torquey, smooth, and responsive character, although it’s also quite noisy. The four-cylinder model comes with a five-speed manual, which shifts smoothly but has long throws; both the four-speed automatic that’s optional with the four-cylinder and the five-speed automatic that’s standard on V-6 models are responsive. With the four-cylinder engine, the Tacoma is rated as high as 20 mpg city, 25 mpg highway.

The 2008 Toyota Tacoma handles and rides like a truck--which is to say that the steering is good and communicative--the ride is hard and bumpy, while the suspension hops over bumps if they come in the middle of a corner. Also, shoppers looking to replace their older truly compact pickups with the Tacoma may be surprised to find that it doesn’t maneuver or park much more easily than the full-size trucks.

The inside of the Tacoma’s cargo bed is now made of a composite material, a sheet-molded compound purported to be 10 percent lighter than steel yet more durable. Payload is well into the 3/4-ton category in the 2008 Toyota Tacoma, depending on the model.

Inside the cabin, the new 2008 Toyota Tacoma is roomy and comfortable. The seats could use more support, especially laterally, but there’s plenty of space for about any size driver and passenger in front. Controls are very simple and straightforward, and though the instrument panel and interior aren’t anything special, they fit the Tacoma’s role. For 2007, the mid-size Toyota truck receives minor upgrades to the look and feel, including redesigned seats, a two-tone gauge panel, and chrome trim.

Two specialized models of the 2008 Toyota Tacoma—Pre-Runner and X-Runner—offer equipment focused on off-roading and racy street performance, respectively. The Pre-Runner adds a higher-riding suspension, locking rear differential, and other appearance cues. The X-Runner gets wider wheels and tires, a lowered, sport-tuned suspension, and an X-braced frame--thus, the name--along with extra interior conveniences. There’s also a TRD Off-Road Package that piles on to the Pre-Runner an off-road-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, fog lamps, a transfer-case skidplate, and badging.

Anti-lock brakes are standard, as are variable wipers, a composite pickup bed, an AM/FM/CD player, and a tilt/telescope wheel. Tire pressure monitors, curtain airbags, and stability control are among the included safety gear on all models. The base tires are 15-inchers, while 16-inchers are available on PreRunner and 4WD models. The options list on the 2008 Toyota Tacoma is expansive, with plenty of heavy-duty upgrades and appearance add-ons, but one item that many people have come to expect, a navigation system, isn’t offered.

Anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2008 Toyota Tacoma, and side and curtain airbags are available but only in the Double Cab model. The Tacoma has done very well in crash tests, with top five-star results in frontal and side tests from the federal government and top "good" ratings from the IIHS in front and side impact tests, though it did get a "marginal" rating from the IIHS in the rear-impact test.

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