2014 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner First Test
Updated, But Still Dated
The Toyota Tacoma is, relatively speaking, as dominant in the midsize segment as the Ford F-150 is among fullsize trucks. Granted, the overall sales total for the Taco aren’t quite as dominating as the F-Series but nonetheless remains the undisputed king of the hill of the midsize segment. For the past few years, it has out-sold its nearest competition, the Nissan Frontier, by at least a two-to-one margin and usually more. Toyota trucks have a well-deserved reputation for reliability and ruggedness, and the 2014 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner Double Cab we tested carries forth that tradition.
But the Toyota Tacoma is nearing the decade mark without a major mechanical update, leaving the midsize segment ripe for a potential upset. General Motors is hoping for exactly that with the introduction of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. When those trucks come on the market, you can bet we'll have a head-to-head midsize throwdown. But until then, the Tacoma must be judged on its own merits.
For all the chatter and commentary of midsize trucks being nearly fullsize, the Toyota Tacoma feels noticeably smaller than the Tundra and other fullsize models like the F-150 or Silverado. This manifests itself both from behind the wheel, as well as in real-world driving. Fullsize trucks have grown to the point where crew cab models are often too large to fit into smaller, condominium-sized garage spaces. The Tacoma's overall length of 221.3 allows it to fit into smaller suburban and urban parking spaces that would not be possible with fullsize models. However, there are trade-offs to this city-friendly packaging. The Tacoma's interior, even in Double Cab configuration, is substantially cozier than full-size models, and the rear seat is decidedly snug, unlike the limo-like rear legroom that characterizes most current fullsize crew cabs.
Also somewhat peculiar to the Toyota Tacoma is a high-floor, legs-out seating position. While you eventually get used to it from behind the wheel, it results in an awkward knees-up seating posture for rear-seat passengers. The overall design of the Tacoma hasn't changed radically in its 10-year model run, but there have been minor updates along the way. LED taillights were added in 2009, and the front clip got an update in 2012.
The big news for 2014 is the availability of multiple levels of audio head units featuring Toyota's Entune multimedia interface system. Although lacking the stylistic and functional integration of some of the better touchscreen head units on the market, the system features a number of contemporary apps and functions, including Bluetooth music streaming, including album artwork without the need for a physical wired connection, Pandora streaming audio, iHeartRadio, and weather, fuel price, and other functional apps. The volume control rocker button on the steering wheel seems feels like an awkward last-minute add-on, and the tiny volume and tuning knobs on the head unit emphasize the fact that it was an adaptation to an older design, rather than a clean-sheet interior restyle.
On the road, the Tacoma is a competent and comfortable, but not particularly sporty. Even relatively low-speed cornering elicits barks from the front tires, and body roll is clearly felt. As is the case with most unloaded pickups, concrete freeway sections and expansion joints can make for an occasionally choppy ride, but in most driving situations, the ride is acceptably smooth. The 4.0L V-6 has served the second-generation Toyota Tacoma since its debut in 2005 and is substantially unchanged since it was introduced but did get a 1 mpg increase in city and highway fuel economy for the 2009 model year to 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. We got a respectable 18.6 mpg average in the week we had it in mixed driving conditions. In most driving situations, the 4.0L engine is torquey and relaxed, delivering more-than-adequate power. Only at wide-open throttle did it feel a little winded, with its enthusiasm tapering off noticeably over 5000 rpm. The five-speed automatic is also not exactly the model of smoothness, with shifts sometimes giving a bit of a drivetrain jolt. The Tacoma returned a respectably quick performance at the track however, with a 7.0-sec 0-60 run and 15.5 quarter mile at 87.4 mph.
From a value standpoint, our PreRunner Double Cab seemed a fair deal, with a total of $29,515, including destination. While not "cheap" by any means, it seems like a fair sum for the amount of equipment on our tester. However, the larger question remains of how tightly Toyota can hang on to its commanding market share with two new entrants into the segment just around the corner and a likely update on the Nissan Frontier coming soon. Toyota has gone a decade resting on its laurels and reputation with the current Tacoma, but the time has come for a more substantial update to its best-selling truck.
2014 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab
|PRICE AS TESTED||$29,870|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||4.0L/236-hp/266-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4078 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||221.3 x 74.6 x 70.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.5 sec @ 87.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.71 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/21/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||198/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.04 lb/mile|