2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 4x4 Double Cab vs. 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4x Crew Cab 4x4 Automatic V-6: Midsize truck battle.
This week: Toyota Tacoma
Price: $44,182. Trail Edition Package added big tires on 16-inch rims, locking differential and front and rear suspension, lockable bed storage and more for $3,765; console safe, $365; more noted throughout.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes that it “earns its off-road cred, durable and highly configurable, myriad driver assists are standard,” but not that the “automatic transmission behaves clumsily, squat cabin and small backseat, most rivals are more refined.”
Marketer’s pitch: “More capable. More epic adventures.”
Reality: Definitely more capable, but what price adventure?
What’s new: The suspension gets lifted in addition to the bigger tires on the Trail Edition, which is no longer just an appearance package. Otherwise, the Tacoma hasn’t been redesigned since 2016, and even that was … mild.
Up to speed: The 3.5-liter V-6 creates 278 horsepower and takes 8.2 seconds to get to 60 mph, according to Consumer Reports. Despite being really slow to 60, it can get away from you beyond that when you’re not paying attention.
A four-cylinder is also available but that must be really anemic.
Shifty: I would like to thank Toyota for sending me a Tacoma with an automatic transmission. Up till now, I thought maybe my clutching was not smooth. Come to find that the 6-speed automatic really is not any smoother. Going up hills or cornering could be a little stomach rumbling.
And because it’s a Toyota, Driver’s Seat aficionados already know we won’t be shifting our own gears despite the +/- setting on the gearshift.
The stick is still more fun, and it’s available only on the TRD models.
On the road: You would think that the Trail Edition tires that look as pillowy as a Norwegian elkhound would offer the softest ride this side of a 1972 Cadillac, but you would be mistaken.
On a 100-mile round trip to New Jersey, the Tacoma bumped and jostled and enhanced every road seam, and I think even some pebbles, and this was on the fairly smooth I-295.
Country roads are not fun, and I felt the Tacoma tilt pretty far on occasion, even while slowing down more than usual. But within its limits, it’s not hard to navigate tight places or back roads.
Off the road: No deep-woods adventures for the Tacoma, but I experienced something equally informative: night driving after an all-day rainstorm.
I got on the notoriously flood-prone Schuylkill Expressway to Philadelphia wondering, “Why are all these cars going so slow?” After a few miles, I glimpsed another car in the headlights and realized we were in a couple of inches of water the whole way; the Tacoma Trail Edition never wavered.
Play some tunes: It will take some serious audio to mask the constant droning of the black chrome exhaust ($799). It just goes on and on at highway speeds almost without letup.
Adding throttle for uphill climbs made the truck reminiscent of my 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon — the times when its muffler had gone bad. Regular readers know I rarely comment on the sound of a car beyond the cool rumble of various Hemi engines and sports cars, so it’s worth noting.
Fortunately the stereo is mostly up to the job and provides excellent sound, especially for a Toyota, definitely an A- or so. Controls feature dials for tuning and volume, and the touchscreen is easy to navigate.
Driver’s Seat: The cloth seats provide plenty of comfort and are almost as pillowy as the tires. There’s not tremendous support there, but I didn’t exit feeling sore or tired.
The dashboard is bare-bones Toyota, resembling quite closely the inside of Sturgis Kid 1.0′s 2016 Scion. The Tacoma feels even cheaper, though, with thin plastics that don’t offer any elegance or charm.
The Tacoma wheel telescopes a bit in addition to tilting, so it has this all over the Frontier.
Friends and stuff: The rear seat provides comfort almost equal to the front, and legs, feet and heads should be comfortable. The seat back folds to reveal some storage cubbies behind it, and the back folds down, seat bottom folds up, and headrest removes to create a flat storage space. Neat idea, if a little complicated.
A small bed is expected in a Tacoma, but the 5-foot bed was made even smaller by the storage boxes over each wheel well. Payload tops out at 1,685 pounds, and towing at 6,800, but you can’t get these features together.
Keeping warm and cool: The Tacoma features the round air vents that I love — easy to direct and close.
Controls are at the bottom of the console as usual and feature easy-to-operate dials, but a small screen showing temperature and air source faces down and is hard to read on the fly.
Fuel economy: I averaged a dismal 16 mpg.
Where it’s built: Baja California, Mexico
How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the reliability to be a 3 out of 5.
Next week: Nissan Frontier