Right at home in a hook ‘em horns orange Toyota Tacoma pickup truck
When in Texas, do as the Texans, right? That means driving a truck. I love the idea of a truck. It makes you capable and self reliant, it supplements your own strength. It allows you to do things that a car can’t, like hauling antiques or plants or towing powerful things like boats or backhoes. And even if you never do any of those things, it’s great to know that you can.
When I think of trucks, I can’t help but think of Emma Stone in “The Help;” she was a get-it-done type who relied on her family’s truck to get where she needed to go.
But Texas also means living life to the fullest: taking risks and having fun. Big hair, dresses with big prints, big jewelry, and big trucks all go together in Texas.
So how appropriate that when I had the chance to drive around Texas for a week in a 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD it was University of Texas orange. And even in a skirt and heels, heading to the mall for a little shopping, I fit right in.
Texanese: Toyota moves to Texas; are we on the brink of a whole new culture?
When I think of Texas and trucks, I wonder: do the Japanese really ‘get’ Texas? But Texas is the new home of Toyota. The company is moving its North American headquarters to Plano, right outside of Dallas. Will this result in a whole new Texanese culture? Will Texsushi and wonton tacos become a thing? Will we start to see Toyota collaborations like Takashi Murakami and Louis Vuitton or Vans? Personally I would LOVE that. It is all so perfectly Texas.
Who the Toyota Tacoma is for:
- Drivers who need a truck bed for hauling things
- Drivers who need towing capacity
- Drivers who need a back seat for passengers
- Those who like a lot of thoughtful touches in their truck, such as a soft open bed gate that doesn’t bounce when you open it
- Buyers who appreciate that the truck’s outer design flows into the cabin, too
- Buyers who want and need the latest technology in their truck, including wireless phone charging, smart key with push button start, voice activated navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio
- Buyers who want an off-road truck for fun but need all the conveniences of a car for real life (like heated seats)
- Buyers who are GoPro fanatics and will use the GoPro mount on the Tacoma’s windshield
- Buyers who want all this at a mid-sized price of about $37,000
What you should consider:
- The model we tested did not have running boards; if you and your passengers are tall, you don’t need it but if anyone is short, you’ll want it
- A mid sized truck is great for parking and driving in traffic, but back seat leg room can feel tight for taller passengers
- All the tech features including USB ports and charge ports are in the front seat, so back seat passengers have to ask for help plugging in
- While there’s a lot of clever storage space in the truck, it’s only good for smaller items; larger items will need a lock box or other truck bed solution
What does TRD mean and what does it do for the Tacoma?
First of all, TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development. In this case, off road racing development. Essentially, Toyota sends engineers and designers off road in their trucks to learn what they can do, then pits their trucks against others on race courses. They put what they’ve learned into the trucks they sell so you don’t get stuck, hurt or even dirty or uncomfortable, whether you’re hauling horses on a rain-rutted dirt road or stuck in a traffic jam on I-35. Pretty nice, eh?
And, what does the Toyota Tacoma TRD do for me?
Well, that’s the big question: if you don’t really need a truck, would it be worth the investment to own one? Can you still live a car-life in a truck? The answer is: yes.
Toyota has thought through all these things:
Is it cumbersome to drive and park?
No. A mid-sized truck, it fit nicely in every parking spot we attempted. Also we were able to park right up front in the shopping centers, restaurants and hotels we visited. The Tacoma fit right in with traffic, even in some of Dallas’s more narrow roadways.
Yes, there is storage underneath and behind the rear seats. The spaces won’t store a lot, but there’s enough room for shopping bags, laptops, tablets, even handbags. Or, you can buy a lock box for the bed and store things in there (though that might require climbing into the bed to get to it). If you regularly need to carry small items in the bed, you might want to consider investing in a cargo management system. We put all our luggage in the bed for the trip to the airport and because we filled the bed, nothing slid around. When it was just my suitcase, it slid around and whacked the side of the bed with every turn.
The truck we test drove had a “crew cab” that was comfortable for four passengers but accommodates five. Being a mid-sized truck, leg room wasn’t huge, but my kids were perfectly comfortable for the three and a half hour drive from Austin to Dallas.
Is it hard to get in and out of?
A truck can be a challenge because of its height. But the Tacoma truck is a mid sized truck so it’s not as high off the ground as some others. However, the off road capable four wheel drive makes it higher off the ground than some other trucks. Still, I found the front seats to be at hip level and therefore, easy to slide in and out of. If I were a couple of inches shorter, I’d like to have a running board to help me hop in and out.
And how about me: Will I be happy in this truck?
Yes. The Tacoma had all the comforts and conveniences of a car: voice activated navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, a wireless Qi charge pad (that fit my iPhone 6!!!), heated seats and a full suite of safety features including blind spot monitors, electronic stability control and smart stop (which stops you automatically if the truck senses a crash is imminent).
We never got to go off road the week we had the Toyota Tacoma, but I sincerely hope that soon I’ll get to try it out. I’m not much of an off-roader, but when I get the chance, it’s a ton of fun. And if I get the chance to go off road in a skirt and heels and big jewelry, even better. Especially in Texas.
What I Loved
- Capable 4×4 truck with a car-like interior
- Manageable size
- Qi wireless charge pad
- Heated seats
- Seating for 5
- Many storage nooks
- Color-matched dash
- Sun roof
- Safety technology
- Voice activated controls
What You Need to Know
- Fuel economy 18 MPG city/23 Highway; we averaged about 20 MPG
- Uses regular gas
- Starting price for TRD off road: about $32,000
- Price of the model we tested: $37,610
Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the Tacoma TRD for my review. Opinions are all my own.