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2017 Toyota Tacoma: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2017

For the first time in 10 years, pickup fans finally got an all-new Toyota Tacoma last year. Although the general shape and concept remained, the Taco got new styling, a new engine, an updated interior and several new features, putting a modern spin on this popular midsize pickup.

Principally, the 2017 Toyota Tacoma maintains its predecessors' positioning as the go-to midsize truck choice for off-roading and other rugged adventures. Especially when you opt for one of the three TRD trim levels, it can go places and do things that the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon would blush at. The Honda Ridgeline would laugh, turn around and go home. On the other hand, it's still less comfortable, spacious and refined than those trucks, meaning it's less desirable as a daily driver.

But really, we like this purposeful, uncompromised nature. Although the Tacoma won't be for everyone because of it, it'll also be perfectly suited for those who desire its unique capabilities.

What's New for 2017?

After its redesign last year, the Tacoma enters 2017 with a new TRD Pro trim level. There are also some minor equipment changes as well.

What We Like

Legendary durability; more rugged and off-road ready than other midsize trucks; simple controls; reasonable pricing; several body styles

What We Don't

Awkward driving position with no height adjustment; sluggish base engine; rough ride

How Much?

$24,300-$43,000

Fuel Economy

The Tacoma is offered with two powertrains, a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6. While both engines are offered with rear- or 4-wheel drive, only 4-wheel-drive models offer manual or automatic transmissions. Two-wheel-drive Tacoma models are only available with the 6-speed automatic.

The 2.7-liter 4-cylinder produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. It returns 19 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive. Opting for 4WD or the manual lowers those figures by 1 mpg.

Interestingly, the V6-powered Tacoma gets virtually the same fuel economy. This 3.5-liter engine produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, and with rear-wheel drive and the automatic returns 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy and 21 mpg combined. Opting for 4WD lowers those figures to 18/23/20, while the manual lowers them further to 17/21/18.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Toyota Tacoma is offered in five trim levels: base-level SR, midlevel SR5, upscale Limited and the off-road-oriented TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trims. Most models (SR, SR5 and the TRD models) offer an extended cab (Access Cab) or crew cab (Double Cab) variant, though the Limited is only offered in Double Cab guise.

The base-level SR ($24,300) doesn't include much, merely touting a backup camera, steel wheels, power accessories, air conditioning, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a GoPro mount and a 6-inch touchscreen interface with Toyota's Entune Audio system and a USB port. The SR also comes standard with the 4-cylinder engine, though it can be upgraded to the V6.

Next up is the midlevel SR5 ($26,400), which adds keyless entry, cruise control, satellite radio, improved exterior trim, rear tinted windows, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls, fog lights, satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free for Apple iPhones and a smartphone app-based navigation system.

From there, drivers can upgrade to the TRD Sport ($30,700), which boasts keyless access with push-button starting, an off-road suspension, Toyota's excellent Crawl Control system, an electronic locking rear differential, LED daytime running lights, 17-in alloy wheels, a wireless phone charger, an auto-dimming mirror, rear parking sensors and a 7-in touchscreen including Toyota's Entune App Suite and a navigation system. Crew cabs include a power rear window. TRD Sport models also come standard with the V6.

Drivers looking to get even further off the pavement can choose the TRD Off-Road ($31,900), which boasts off-road-oriented wheels and tires, further enhanced suspension, skid plates, the deletion of the front air dam for better approach angle, a locking rear differential, an off-road-oriented traction-enhancement system (includes various terrain-specific settings) and a revised look.

Topping the range is the Limited ($35,900), which is only offered in crew cab (Double Cab) guise. The Tacoma Limited sheds some of the TRD models' off-road equipment, but adds 18-in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

The TRD Pro ($41,000) is crew cab only and essentially adds to the TRD Off-Road special styling, upgraded shocks, extra ground clearance and the Limited's more luxury-oriented extras.

When it comes to options, many Tacoma models offer available equipment that's standard on higher trim levels. For instance, many of the Tacoma Limited's features are available on TRD models, many TRD features can be had on the SR5 and many SR5 features are optional on the SR.

Safety

All Tacoma models come with side-curtain airbags, driver- and passenger-knee airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes and a backup camera. Available safety gadgets include a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert, which are optional on the TRD models and standard on the Tacoma Limited and TRD Pro.

The government gave the Tacoma crew cab a 4-star overall crash rating along with 4-star frontal, 5-star side and 4-star rollover ratings. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tacoma crew cab the best possible rating of Good in the moderate overlap front and side crash tests.

Behind the Wheel

When running errands around town or covering long distances on the highway, the Tacoma will feel a bit more rough and tumble than its GM and Honda rivals. You'll find the ride a bit bouncier and its driving position is, quite frankly, odd -- it's low to the floor and doesn't offer height adjustment. Plus, if you opt for an off-road model, its rugged tires will increase stopping distances and interior noise.

So, if you're looking for civility, look elsewhere. But what the Tacoma does offer is fun. It feels like a smaller, more agile truck than its competitors. Its steering is comparatively responsive and it feels like you can toss it about. Most importantly, though, the Tacoma is THE choice for off-roading in the segment -- how could it not be, with three different TRD specialty models from which to choose? Unlike the GM trucks, the Tacoma isn't trying to be a miniature version of a full-size truck and as such, it stands apart as something special.

As for the powertrains, we find the 4-cylinder to be merely adequate. Most drivers will likely skip it and go straight for the new V6, which is a good move, as it boasts far more power and the same fuel economy as the 4-cylinder.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Chevrolet Colorado -- The Tacoma's closest rival is the Chevy Colorado and its GMC Canyon mechanical twin. Both offer similarly appealing styling, ride comfort and interior quality. Both are more akin to a miniature half-ton truck than the more specialized Tacoma.

2017 Nissan Frontier -- Nissan's midsize Frontier pickup soldiers on without an update in the face of much newer rivals. While the Frontier is tough, so are the new Tacoma and Colorado. Only consider it if you can find a great deal.

2017 Honda Ridgeline-- When it comes to midsize trucks, think of the Ridgeline as the polar opposite to the Tacoma. It's every bit as comfortable, refined and versatile as the Tacoma is rough, rugged and single-minded. Read "2017 Honda Ridgeline vs 2017 Toyota Tacoma: Which is Better?"

Used RAM 2500 Power Wagon -- If you want a serious off-roading truck, but would rather it be bigger and burlier, it's hard to beat the mighty RAM 2500 Power Wagon. Prices are steep, though, so you may have to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

If you have no intention of getting your truck dirty, the Tacoma probably isn't the truck for you. If you do have that intention, absolutely get one of the TRD models. The TRD Off-Road is probably your best bet since it comes with virtually every rough-and-ready enhancement available in the Taco's tool box without the styling and feature frivolities of the pricey TRD Pro.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Toyota Tacoma: New Car Review - Autotrader