Recently my family and I did something that we’d never done together, and something my wife and I had not done since high school. We went to a drive-in. Well, maybe not a drive-in like in the traditional sense. One of the local theme parks transformed one of their vast parking lots into a drive-in complete with large blow up screens on one end. In the age of the COVID-19 lockdowns this allowed families the chance to socially distance while escaping the quarantine quarters we’ve all been trapped in for the last few months.
The visit was suggested by my daughter who thought it would be a good idea since one of the vehicles I had for the week was a 2020 Toyota Tacoma. We could all hang out in the bed eat take out and watch a movie (which would be preceded by fireworks from inside the park).
Earlier in the week, because I had a truck, my wife whipped out here ongoing list of home improvement projects that needed doing and the supplies needed to do said home improvement projects. This happens every time I get a truck for a week, and I learned long ago that trying to somehow shirk this responsibility, run and hide, will only result in me spending time in the proverbial dog house, but only after I build it.
I get a pickup truck a couple of times a year, so I’ve had the opportunity to try a few in various sizes, shapes and configurations.
Now I have to admit to a bit of bias when it comes to the Toyota Tacoma. When I was in the Army the Tacoma was the favorite vehicle of Special Operations troops and I’ve spent a great deal of time in and on a modified Tacoma.
What I’ve always liked about the Tacoma is the size. It isn’t too big, nor too heavy, and you can get it outfitted with all manner of off road stuff (see above and no an M60 is not an option available from Toyota) that will allow it to take on just about any terrain, or it can be toned down enough to be a daily driver that can haul home improvement project materials home, or take in an occasional drive-in movie.
The Tacoma is offered in six trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited and TRD Pro. There are two cabs, extended and crew (Toyota calls them Access Cab and Double Cab). There are also two bed sizes, Access Cab models come with a six-foot bed, while Double Cabs come with a 5-foot bed, though a 6-foot bed is optional on lower trims. There are two engines, a 2.7-liter I4 (159 horses, 180 lb-ft torque) and a 3.5-liter V6 (278, 265 lb-ft). The power is sent to the road via a 6-speed automatic of 6-speed manual transmission.
The base-level SR comes standard atop 16-in steel wheels, with power accessories, a very nice composite bed that doesn’t need a bed liner, bed tie-down points, a rearview camera, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a GoPro mount, three USB ports and a 7-in touchscreen interface. The SR comes standard with the 4-cylinder engine but can be upgraded to the V6.
The SR5 adds exterior trim, rear tinted windows, a power driver’s seat, keyless entry, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls, satellite radio and an 8-in infotainment system.
The TRD Sport trim has an on-road-oriented sport suspension, proximity entry and push-button start, LED daytime running lights, 17-in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming mirror and a wireless phone charger. Crew cabs include a power rear window. TRD Sport models also come standard with the V6.
My tester for the week was the Tacoma Limited which is only offered in the Double Cab and focuses on comfort-oriented niceties , adds 18-in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic warning system, all as standard.
For those wanting to play in the mud, the TRD Off-Road trim has 16-inch wheels wrapped with mild all-terrain tires, a Bilstein off-road suspension, skid plates, the deletion of the front air dam for a better approach angle, a locking rear differential, Toyota’s Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select systems and some unique styling elements. Yes, the TRD Off-Road is cheaper than the Limited, but it’s arguably a better value since it tops out at around $45,000 with the addition of the TRD Premium Off-Road package, which gets you almost all of the good stuff offered on the Limited.
The top of the line TRD Pro is only available with the double cab and 5-foot bed. It builds off of the TRD Off-Road trim with upgraded Fox-branded shock absorbers that give a 1-in lift, a TRD cat-back exhaust, Rigid Industries-branded fog lights, a hood scoop, leather seats, all-terrain tires, unique wheels and a few other aesthetic filigrees. A JBL audio system is included but only if you go for the automatic transmission. Toyota sometimes shows the TRD Pro with a snorkel-style air intake, but that’s an accessory that can only be purchased from the dealer and installed on any Tacoma, not just the TRD Pro.
As for options, many lower-tier Tacomas offer equipment that comes standard on higher trim levels as an upgrade.
For 2020, Toyota gave the Tacoma a mid-cycle refresh. The upper trims get a new grille, new headlights, new taillights and new wheels. V6 engine-equipped SR5 trims and up also get a power-adjustable driver’s seat. There are also a couple of new colors including one Toyota call’s “Army Green” which isn’t really Army green but gave me a chuckle.
While the Tacoma is beloved for its off-road prowess, the all-pavement-all-the-time variants shouldn’t be dismissed as I learned with my week with the Limited. Sure, the ability to go off-road is nice, and I’m the first one who loves to hit the trail, but for everyday use in suburbia, something like the Limited can be the way to go.
In my opinion, the hard edges of an off roader can wear on you unless your driveway is a mile-long dirt road and you are out climbing hills every weekend. What I liked about the Limited was refinement and interior comfort; combined with the smaller size of the Tacoma and it could be a great truck for an everyday driver.
My Limited had the V6 and that seems to be plenty of power; the I4 should do just fine, as long as there isn’t any heavy towing or mudding involved.
We would have never gone to a drive-in movie had the Tacoma not been in my driveway. Not escaped the prison that we’ve been quarantining in for the last few months had we not been able to set in the back of a Tacoma truck bed. Sure, we could have taken a traditional sedan, but I don’t think it would have been the same. And of course, having a truck all the time would mean that a some point I would exhaust my wife’s list of home improvement projects. Might take a while, but I could get through them, eventually.
The 2020 Tacoma Limited
MSRP (as tested): $41,865
Engine: 3.5 Liter V6 278 horsepower @ 6000, 265 lb-ft torque at 4600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Base Curb Weight: 4,425 lbs.
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 18 city, 22 highway, 20 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 23 mpg
Exterior Dimensions (Inches)
Width, without mirrors: 75.2
Cargo Bed Length: 60.5
Cargo Bed Width at Floor: 56.7
Cargo Bed Width Between Wheelhousings : 41.5
Cargo Bed Height: 19.1
Interior Dimensions (Inches)
Passenger / Seating Capacity: 5
Front Head Room: 39.7
Front Leg Room: 42.9
Front Shoulder Room: 58.3
Front Hip Room: 57.2
Second Row Head Room: 38.3
Second Row Leg Room: 32.6
Second Row Shoulder Room: 58.9
Second Row Hip Room: 56.3
3 Basic Years / 36,000 Basic Miles
5 Drivetrain Years / 60,000 Drivetrain Miles
5 Corrosion Years / Unlimited Corrosion Miles
2 Roadside Assistance Years / Unlimited Roadside Assistance Miles
2 Maintenance Years / 25,000 Maintenance Miles