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.
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.