2011 Toyota Tacoma Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 10, 2011

The Tacoma is a workhorse truck that gives a little more space and capability than a true compact, yet offers decent fuel efficiency and a low price.

True compact trucks are almost extinct in the U.S. market. With the exception of the Ford Ranger, most of the entry-level trucks available are mid-sizers, or almost full-sizers by some standards. The Toyota Tacoma is one of them. Like the Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma serves those who don't need the hardcore hauling and towing ability of the full-size trucks but still require the day-to-day durability of a pickup.

There's not a whole lot to say about the Tacoma's styling; it's a traditional compact truck design, with a little added flair on the outside, paired with the chunky, down-to-business look that nearly all Toyota trucks have had in recent years. Inside, entry Tacomas can look a little drab inside, though the top trim levels have an interior that uses more matte-metallic panels and upgraded upholstery that has more in common with the Camry and Avalon sedans. Regular Cab, Access Cab, and Double Cab editions of the Tacoma are offered, with standard or long-bed (LB) lengths, with four- or six-cylinder engines, and they all have the same styling, albeit with different levels of stretch for the cab and bed.

Provided you're not trying to move too quickly—or pull or haul much of a load—the base 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder will manage well enough (and for 2011, Toyota has expanded the number of four-cylinder Tacoma models). The 4.0-liter V-6 that's offered on the rest of the lineup provides a completely different personality, as it produces 236 horsepower and an even more noteworthy 266 pound-feet of torque—enough to move the Tacoma quickly even when you have a heavy load. The five-speed manual transmission, 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.

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Overall, ride and handling are a little disappointing in the Tacoma—even among pickups, which typically do trade off some ride comfort and nimbleness for heavy-hauling ability. The steering is good and communicative, but the ride, on each of the several Tacomas we've sampled, has been hard and choppy—to the point that on pockmarked city surfaces the tires simply lose contact with the road. And maneuverability in the Tacoma doesn't seem any better than that of a full-size truck.

Perhaps the best way to judge the Tacoma's performance, since it's not very impressive, is by towing and payload. The Tacoma's payload is well into the 3/4-ton category, depending on the model, and its tow rating goes up to 6,500 pounds.

Compared with full-size trucks, the Tacoma disappoints for interior roominess and seating comfort, but compared with other mid-sizers like the Nissan Frontier it's competitive. That said, even though Double Cab versions have the space for four adults (two kids in back for Access Cabs, which have smaller back doors and seating), the rather skimpy, short and flat seats in front won't win you over for longer trips.

The 2011 Tacoma model line covers a wide range of needs in base form, especially if you're willing to add a few options, but two specialized models, the PreRunner and X-Runner, are focused for tough terrain and look the part. Especially for those who want an off-road able truck that really looks the part, there's a lot from which to choose. The PreRunner 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 or, on top of that, new T|X and T|X Pro packages, which add 16-inch black bead-lock wheels, BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, black tube side steps, a stainless steel exhaust tip, and exterior graphics.

While the equipment list has lots of hardware for work and recreation, today's truck shoppers expect an almost carlike level of interior comfort and features; but in that respect, the features are a little sparse—as well as dated. Bluetooth hands-free connectivity still isn't offered on much of the lineup, and there's no factory navigation option whatsoever.

8

2011 Toyota Tacoma

Styling

A tough, brawny-looking exterior and simple, straightforward interior tastefully embody what a pickup should be, but it won’t turn heads.

There's not a whole lot to say about the Tacoma's styling; it's a traditional compact truck design, with a little added flair on the outside, paired with the chunky, down-to-business look that nearly all Toyota trucks have had in recent years. Though the Tacoma saw a light restyle a couple of years ago, its fundamental design and styling are carried through mostly unchanged since this larger, nearly mid-size version of the Tacoma was introduced, for 2005. The offset, flared wheel wells and flared fender sheetmetal adds a hint of aggression or sportiness—brought out, especially, in its off-road trims—and the front end still bears a clear family resemblance with that of the full-size Titan and Land Cruiser. This year the front grille trim is new, but that doesn't dramatically change the look.

Inside, entry Tacomas can look a little drab inside, though the top trim levels have an interior that uses more matte-metallic panels and upgraded upholstery that has more in common with the Camry and Avalon sedans. Regular Cab, Access Cab, and Double Cab editions of the Tacoma are offered, with standard or long-bed (LB) lengths, with four- or six-cylinder engines, and they all have the same styling, albeit with different levels of stretch for the cab and bed.

6

2011 Toyota Tacoma

Performance

The 2011 Toyota Tacoma has plenty of truck toughness and it won’t let you down off-road, though performance is adequate but unimpressive in other respects.

Provided you're not trying to move too quickly—or pull or haul much of a load—the base 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder will manage well enough (and for 2011, Toyota has expanded the number of four-cylinder Tacoma models). The 4.0-liter V-6 that's offered on the rest of the lineup provides a completely different personality, as it produces 236 horsepower and an even more noteworthy 266 pound-feet of torque—enough to move the Tacoma quickly even when you have a heavy load. The five-speed manual transmission, 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.

Overall, ride and handling are a little disappointing in the Tacoma—even among pickups, which typically do trade off some ride comfort and nimbleness for heavy-hauling ability. The steering is good and communicative, but the ride, on each of the several Tacomas we've sampled, has been hard and choppy—to the point that on pockmarked city surfaces the tires simply lose contact with the road. And maneuverability in the Tacoma doesn't seem any better than that of a full-size truck.

Perhaps the best way to judge the Tacoma's performance, since it's not very impressive, is by towing and payload. The Tacoma's payload is well into the 3/4-ton category, depending on the model, and its tow rating goes up to 6,500 pounds.

5

2011 Toyota Tacoma

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Toyota Tacoma has a roomy interior but it lacks comfortable seats and refinement, and has a rough ride in most trims.

Compared with full-size trucks, the Tacoma disappoints for interior roominess and seating comfort, but compared with other mid-sizers like the Nissan Frontier it's competitive. That said, even though Double Cab versions have the space for four adults (two kids in back for Access Cabs, which have smaller back doors and seating), the rather skimpy, short and flat seats in front won't win you over for longer trips.

Refinement might be slightly disappointing to some; both engines are louder than we would have hoped. But while the Tacoma's interior isn't refined, it does feel durable, with solid-feeling Toyota switchgear throughout and chunky climate controls that would be easy to grip with icy or gloved hands.

Despite all these misgivings, the Tacoma feels very tight and refined inside; it's quite well isolated from the road and wind noise, although you do hear the engine whenever accelerating, even mildly, in V-6 versions. The cabin and bed, in several test vehicles over the years, have been free of rattles, too. 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.

6

2011 Toyota Tacoma

Safety

The 2011 Toyota Tacoma has a good list of safety features, but there are worrisome issues in crash-test results from both major agencies.

The 2011 Toyota Tacoma has all the safety features you should expect in a pickup, and Toyota doesn't leave any out even in base models. That said, there are points to be concerned about in several crash-test results.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the Tacoma a top 'good' score in frontal, side, and rear impact, but especially of concern though is that the Tacoma earned a 'marginal' rating in the new IIHS roof strength test, which gauges the roof's protection of occupants in a rollover crash. Relative to other types of vehicles, pickups are especially rollover-prone in accidents.

The Tacoma also earned a pockmarked record in federal tests—including just three stars for frontal impact, and four-star ratings in the new side pole test, which isn't figured into the overall rating. It earned five stars in side impact, though.

The safety-equipment side of it is great, however. Anti-lock brakes, brake assist, and electronic stability control are included across the model line, as are active front headrests, front seat-mounted side airbags, and curtain side airbags, along with an Automatic Limited-slip Differential (Auto-LSD); TRD Off-Road packages are equipped with a separate locking rear differential.

8

2011 Toyota Tacoma

Features

The options list for the 2011 Toyota Tacoma is long on upgrades for serious truck use but short on creature comforts and tech features.

The 2011 Tacoma model line covers a wide range of needs in base form, especially if you're willing to add a few options, but two specialized models, the PreRunner and X-Runner, are focused for tough terrain and look the part.

While the equipment list has lots of hardware for work and recreation, today's truck shoppers expect an almost carlike level of interior comfort and features; but in that respect, the features are a little sparse—as well as dated. Bluetooth hands-free connectivity still isn't offered on much of the lineup, and there's no factory navigation option whatsoever.

But especially for those who want an off-road able truck that really looks the part, there's a lot from which to choose. The PreRunner 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.

Also available is a TRD Off-Road Package that brings special badging, plus an off-road suspension with Bilstein dampers, fog lamps, and a transfer-case skid plate. Taking the concept to an extreme is the Off-Road Rugged Trail Package, which includes a locking rear diff, 16-inch Baja wheels, additional skid plating, black overfenders, and Bilstein shocks.

New this year on PreRunner and 4x4 models—and potentially in addition to the Off-Road Package—are the T|X and T|X Pro packages, which add 16-inch black bead-lock wheels, BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, black tube side steps, a stainless steel exhaust tip, and exterior graphics. The T|X Pro adds a special cat-back exhaust system that enables more power and is more vocal.

Still available as a dealer-installed accessory is a supercharger kit from TRD, or Toyota Racing Development. It boosts the horsepower of the V-6 from 236 to 304. Other accessories include a bed divider, bed net, cargo crossbars, Yakima roof rack, bike rack, running boards, flip-out bed extender, SnugTop Super Sport hard shell, and a rubber bed mat.

6

2011 Toyota Tacoma

Fuel Economy

Most V-6 versions of the 2011 Toyota Tacoma are pretty thirsty, but this compact truck can be a relatively green choice in four-cylinder form.

In four-cylinder form, the Tacoma is pretty good on gas for a pickup, while V-6 Tacomas really aren't much better than a full-size truck. There's a very significant difference between base 2WD four-cylinder models of the Tacoma—returning up to 21 mpg city, 25 highway—and 4WD V-6 models—which get as low as 14/18.

In four-cylinder form, the Tacoma gets better mileage than GM's full-size hybrids—the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid—but not quite the numbers of the Ford Ranger.

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April 29, 2015
2011 Toyota Tacoma 2WD Double V6 AT PreRunner (Natl)

Fulfilled ALL of my expectations

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I literally stumbled on this vehicle at the Bremerton Toyota Scion dealership. It was so clean and had exceptionally low mileage. Drives like a dream and gets the same gas mileage as my Hyundai Santa Fe SUV! I... + More »
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