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TheCarConnection.com's truck editors drove the new Tacoma in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's truck enthusiasts researched available road tests on the new Tacoma to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.
The Toyota Tacoma is available in a wide range of models, including Regular Cab, Access Cab, and Double Cab editions with standard or long-bed (LB) lengths, and powered by either a four- or six-cylinder engine. The Tacoma has grown from a compact truck into a mid-size and lost some of its maneuverability in the process, but the four-cylinder models retain good fuel efficiency.
The standard four-cylinder Tacoma 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 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 vocal.
Drivers of older-model Tacomas will be surprised to learn that the mid-size proportions of the newer Tacoma do not allow it to maneuver as easily as smaller, compact Tacomas. The 2009 Toyota Tacoma handles like a truck—which is to say that the steering is good and communicative—and the ride is hard and bumpy, while the suspension hops over bumps if they come in the middle of a corner.
You’ll find the 2009 Toyota Tacoma nearly as useful as a full-size truck. Its payload is well into the 3/4-ton category, depending on the model. The Tacoma’s cargo bed is a composite material, a sheet-molded compound purported to be more durable, and at the same time, 10 percent lighter than steel.
Controls inside the 2009 Tacoma are very simple and straightforward, and though the instrument panel and interior aren’t anything special, they fit the Tacoma’s role. While the seats could use more support, the cabin itself is comfortable and roomy with plenty of space up front for any size driver and passenger.
The Tacoma does 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, though it gets a "marginal" rating from the IIHS in the rear-impact test. All Tacoma models in the 2009 lineup receive the STAR Safety System of dynamic control technologies as standard equipment. The system includes an anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), and Traction Control (TRAC). Also standard on all Tacoma models for 2009 are active front headrests, front seat-mounted side airbags, and curtain side airbags, as well as an Automatic Limited-slip Differential (Auto-LSD); TRD Off-road packages are equipped with a separate locking rear differential.
The 2009 Toyota Tacoma lineup includes two specialized models: the Pre-Runner and X-Runner. 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 (hence 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 skid plate, and badging.
The options list on the 2009 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, 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.