Mountain Wheels: Toyota’s popular Tacoma is not immune to I-70 road rage
Happy New Year, and thanks to everyone who read, shared and even commented on last week’s column about out-of-control driving in the Interstate 70 corridor. I appreciate the varied feedback — yes, 4Runner Dude, we will all try to get out of your way in the future because 90 mph is the way you safely travel and is clearly none of our concern. And … well, Speed Camera Fan, I too love the idea of ticket-issuing radar every three miles along the highway, but since this is Colorado, not Switzerland, I kind of think we’ll need a better solution than that to motoring malice.
So this week, in an attempt to do so, I spent some holiday driving in that most Colorado of vehicles, the Toyota Tacoma. I figured that blending in with the crowd in one of the state’s most popular trucks, even sporting Colorado plates, I’d suddenly be immune to the Interstate Lack of Love Affair.
No dice, kids. Even people in other Tacomas tried to run me off the road, so I know the system’s totally hooped. Irreversibly. I think I’ll be skiing Wyoming’s Snowy Range resort the rest of the season, or maybe backcountry skiing in Rollinsville, like my wiser friends.
The double-cab Tacoma, in the meantime, was an interesting experiment, not just of the social kind. I ventured out in an absolutely optioned-out TRD Pro off-road model, including the dust (not water) snorkel, the hood scoop and gigantic, Kevlar-infused Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires, plus an army green paint job.
This brought the total to (cough) $49,559, which seemed like a hell of a lot of money to me, given that a 4×4 SR model Tacoma with a six-speed automatic runs at about $32,315.
Did I mention the $725 snorkel, I mean Desert Air Intake — the piece that really ties the Tacoma TRD together but has to be disassembled to use an automatic car wash?
Sigh. Anyhow, the Taco is totally OK, overall, if you like your trucking rudimentary, plastic-rugged and pleasantly cubist, with limited amenities and total off-road superiority as a trade-off. I also will mention the indicated, occasionally 4-high-range uphill mileage: 14.1 mpg, which, in the absence of recent loans of the Lamborghini Aventador, is the lowest figure I have had since I drove the Ram truck with the Viper engine a decade ago.
Tacoma’s window sticker says 22 highway, 20 combined, so we are thinking this particular test model’s transmission might have been a little wonky despite less than 3,000 miles on the odometer. It happens.
Just what do you get for nearly $50,000 for a non-full-sized truck? With the TRD build, you get Fox internal bypass shocks that gave the Tacoma an almost car-styled ride on the highway, which is pretty boss considering the waist-height off-road tires the truck was sporting.
It also had an impressive graphics package — you just need to add the Colorado flag in shape of an AR-15 sticker to the back window to get with the program — and a much more imposing grille than standard models, with Rigid Industries LED fog lamps.
And summertime rock-hopping and trail blasting will certainly be more fun with the industrial-grade skid plate as well as TRD’s standard crawl mode controls, electronically locking rear differential and its multiterrain select. These all accentuate the not-unimpressive power of Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V6 and its rooty TRD cat-back exhaust, putting out 278 horsepower — rated to pull as much as 6,800 pounds of trailer, with trailer sway controls even part of the deal.
I am thinking that using all of that in a setting like the Great Sand Dunes, heading across the deep stuff to snake up the canyon between Mt. Herald and Mt. Zwischen, might make TRD really make sense, especially the sand snorkel.
In the meantime, you might be just slightly underwhelmed by Tacoma’s interior, as it’s pretty austere for, again, nearly $50K. I did get the pleasant and highly updated navigation screen, a JBL audio system and digital HVAC controls, but there’s not much else inside, true to its basic truck roots.
The seats had been given a little extra TRD branding and pinstriping splash and could fold semi-flat in the smallish interior for more hard cargo room, but besides a cordless phone charger and a single USB outlet (two more hidden in the console box), it’s all old-school simplicity, right down to the sequential shifting-integrated J-gate shift column.
First big test of the benefits of full LED lighting in the box: I accidentally left the knee-adjacent switch on all night. And when I came back, the Tacoma started in an instant.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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