2021 Toyota Tacoma: enduring pickup gets edgy

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By James Raia

It’s been nearly 27 years since the Toyota Tacoma debuted in the United States, and it’s among the most enduring pickup trucks available. For 2021, the versatile daily driver and work truck has a new optional look.

Joining six other Toyota cars, vans and trucks, the Tacoma is available in a Nightshade Edition. It’s an edgy look that features a lot of black — alloy wheels, front lower grille, rear spoiler, outside mirrors, door handles, side rocker panels and shark-fin antenna. There’s a single exhaust with dual black diffusers and black Toyota emblem and badges.

Available in two-and four-wheel-drive variants with a spacious Double Cab body style, the new Tacoma features a 3.5-liter V6 with 278-horsepower. It has a towing capacity of 6,800 pounds and a payload of 1,685 pounds.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma Nightshade is a new edgy trim for the best-selling midsize pickup truck.
The 2021 Toyota Tacoma Nightshade is a new edgy trim for the best-selling midsize pickup truck.

Gas mileage averages vary with Tacoma’s configuration and range from 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway in the two-wheel-drive automatic to 17/20 mpg in the four-wheel-drive double-cab with a manual transmission.

Except for 2020 because of delayed production and lack of consumer interest during the Covid-19 pandemic, Tacoma sales have increased yearly since 2011. The Nightshade trim is limited to 5,000 trucks in 2021 models, as is the Tundra. The starting MSRP for the Tacoma Nightshade trim is $41,980.

2021 Toyota Pickup has new trim

The upscale edition’s aggressive style extends throughout the truck, including the manufacturer’s Toyota Safety Sense and a Toyota Entune 3.0 touchscreen infotainment system. Highlights also include a power sunroof, heated front seats, an 8-inch touchscreen display with Dynamic Navigation and a JBL premium sound system. There’s also the Safety Sense P (TSS-P). It bundles adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning,

As the country’s top-selling truck for more than a decade, the Tacoma’s popularity is easy to understand. As a daily use vehicle, it’s comfortable yet rugged. A year ago, the Tacoma was first equipped with a power-adjusted front seat with 10-way lumbar support beginning in TRD Sport trims.

For family use, the Double Cab is the best choice among the 33 configurations. Its roomy back bench seat has plenty of legroom and is comfortable for three passengers.

As a work vehicle, the TRD off-road model features a locking Rear Differential, Hill Start Assist Control, Active Traction Control and Crawl Control. They’re quality assist features, ideal for confident driving in off-road and rock-crawling driving situations.

The Tacoma hasn’t had a complete redesign since 2015. But upgrades in recent years have kept it fresh. Besides its redesigned grille and a new taillight design last, the option Nightshade Edition is as fresh as any competitor. The TRD Sport has a few other keen accessories: a 120-vole power outlet in the bed and a Qi wireless charging system tucked in the top center of the console. Latches, tie-downs, the removable extra-duty bedliner all add to the truck’s appeal.

If there’s a downside to the Nightshade Edition it’s the truck’s exterior and interior contrast. The black accents and primary exterior paint combination attract plenty of attention. The interior leans toward functionality; it’s not an aggressive power statement.

It’s a minor squabble. The Tacoma is a versatile and appealing as any mid-size truck. It’s a chameleon, adaptable to what’s presented on or off-road. It drives with a swagger when needed and is equally worthy as a city dweller.

Without the Nightshade Edition, the Tacoma stands our among its peers. With its bold, limited edition trim, Toyota has taken its best truck and made it better.

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