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Toyota Tacoma, 2011 truck review

As an ultimate utilitarian vehicle, it’s hard to find fault with the Toyota Tacoma. It’s the best selling truck in the United States in its class, and the 2011 edition is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports.

Two months ago, the Tacoma also was named top truck in its category in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 Dependability Study. It’s another reason why despite peaks and valleys, Toyota Tacoma sales have exceeded 145,000 annually since the compact truck’s debut in 1995.

Now 17 years old and a few generations into its tenure, I test drove for a week the 4×4 edition, one of several configurations available in 2011.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

It’s not often an urban driver needs a pick-up truck, but they come in handy for home projects. How else was I going to carry 2x10s for our garden’s flower beds? And a truck bed, of course, is good for bags of dirt or trips the recycling center or hauling home garage sale finds.

Toyota Tacoma, 2011 truck review 1

But those excursions are rare. So, during my weekly test drive, I traveled about 200 miles in a combination of city and freeway and took a fair share of teasing from friends who wondered what I was doing driving a pick-up truck.

Once I got beyond watching the fuel gauge steadily fall, the Tacoma 4×4 was easy to appreciate. It’s comfortable and its rugged personality affords a sense of adventure.

The Tacoma 4×4 also has a 4.0-liter, 24-valve V6 with 18-inch wheels. As such, other drivers tend to stay out of your way.

But the Tacoma is not just all power and no finesse. The Extra Value Package ($3,080) is expensive, but there’s about 30 items on the option list. There are basics like cruise control, variable speed wipers and fog lamps. And there are higher-end inclusions like sliding rear window with privacy glass, AM/FM/CD with six-disc changer and MP3/WMA playback capabilities, and a back-up camera.

Likes:

Good vision with high positioned driver and passenger seats.

Comfortable rear seats.

Sliding back window. Great on a warm day, useful as a portal for long pieces of wood like the 2x10s I lugged home from the local Home Depot.

Dislikes:

It’s a pick-up truck with a big engine. Still, the lower gas mileage averages are hard to accept.

Not the smoothest ride around, not even by pick-up truck standards.

Exterior color: Speedway Blue Metallic . . It’s too bright.

Facts & Figures: 2011 Toyota Tacoma

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, not tested.
Airbags: front and side-curtain.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 16 mpg (city), 20 mpg (hwy.)
Government Safety Ratings (NHSTA): Driver (frontal), 4 stars; Passenger (Crash), 2 stars; Front seat (side), 4 stars; Rear seat (Crash), 5 stars; Rollover, 4 stars.
Horsepower: 236
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $27,525.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.toyota.com
Price As tested: $33,654.00; (Manufacturer’s value package, $950.00); Total price: $32,704.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,0000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“The Toyota Tacoma may be the best pickup in its class.” —-Automotive.com.

“Taken as a whole, this truck has a lot to offer: power, off-road abilities, comfort and convenience-everything you’d want in a work truck, even if you just work hard at playing.” —- AutoWeek.com

“For better or worse, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma drives like a proper pickup truck. It delivers a reasonably comfortable ride on the streets and, properly equipped, tackles off-road terrain without drama.” —- Edmunds.com

“This is plenty of truck for 95 percent of truck buyers, everyone who isn’t hauling plywood or pulling 40-foot goosenecks.” —- Car and Driver.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“I rarely have need for a pick-up truck. I don’t work or live on a ranch; I don’t drive off-road; I don’t often carry heavy loads of equipment or supplies. But if I had a regular need for such a vehicle, I can’t think of a more practical, comfortable pick-up truck.”

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