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2013 Toyota Tacoma Driving Impressions

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Why We Drove It

You could argue that the greatest thing about a small truck is that it’s so easy to handle and live with. Parking lots never pose a challenge. Merging with traffic is as easy as driving a car. But you still get the utility and convenience of a truck when you need it. We’ve driven many Toyota Tacoma trucks. But we jumped at the chance to drive a highly optioned 2013 Toyota Tacoma (view photos) and found it an enjoyable truck to drive and one we would happily own ourselves—especially if we were committed to regular off-road adventures.

The base price of the Toyota Tacoma 4WD Access Cab V6 starts at $25,925. But one look at our red Toyota (read more Toyota articles) tester and it’s obvious the four-wheeler sports lots of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) add-ons. It’s what gives this small truck its striking appearance. The most obvious items are the 16-inch TRD Beadlock-style alloy wheels that wear BF Goodrich tires designed for 4×4 fun. They’re big and practically steer themselves to the mountains or mud bogs to test your off-roading skills. We liked the look a lot and received compliments along the lines of “Cool wheels, dude” from people who notice and say such things. Granted, the wider wheels make more noise when you’re on the freeway. A lot more noise. In fact, road noise in this 2013 Tacoma truck was much more noticeable than a 2012 Tacoma truck we drove just a few months ago. But if you’re serious about four-wheeling, we’re confident you won’t mind a bit.

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Other less-visible TRD features include an off-road-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, a locking rear differential, front tow hooks to pull fellow four-wheelers out of trouble, TRD performance exhaust, matching color front bumper and fog lamps. The TRD off-road package also delivers interior niceties like a rear-view camera that displays a small image in the rear-view mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with volume and tuning controls, and improved sport seats. If these all sound like must-have items, then you must have an extra $5,734 in your bank account when you buy this truck. If you’re serious about off-road driving and desire some creature comforts along the way, we recommend both the TRD Off-Road Extra Value package along with the TIX Pro Package.

Prepare to spend some real money on this truck since all the extras increased the price more than $8,900 to $34,118, including the $810 delivery fee.

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2013 Toyota Tacoma Driving Impressions

During a week of driving, we spent time in the city, on the highway and on mostly dry dirt roads. The Tacoma promises 16 mpg in the city and 20 on the freeway for a combined score of 18 mpg. We averaged just over 18 mpg, so right within the average.

Steering is typical of Toyota vehicles. In other words, it does the job but doesn’t communicate every road bump directly to your hands. We liked the tight turning radius that allowed us to quickly correct course after a wrong turn. The ride is fairly stiff and it’s not the most comfortable truck out there—especially if this is your go-to-Home-Depot-Saturday-special instead of a dedicated off-road companion.

But if you choose the upgrades like those we’ve already detailed, it’s because you’re looking to spend time off the road. The 4.0-liter V6 engine generates 236 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm and 266 pound-feet of torque @ 4,000 rpm and is connected to a five-speed automatic transmission. Together, they’re more than adequate around town and for most off-road trips.

Three driving modes are available: 2-Hi, 4-Hi and 4-Lo. Switching between the modes is as easy as turning a three-way dial located to the left of the center console. While we hoped for snow the week we drove the truck, it never materialized.

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Should you venture off the beaten path and require 4-Low, a constant beep accompanies your time in that lowest of gears. While we didn’t find fresh snow to test the 4WD, we did push the Tacoma through slushy, six-inch-deep snow in both 4H and 4L. The truck barely shuddered and we would expect the Tacoma to be a solid performer in those rocky hard places that are seemingly custom-designed for trucks.

The Tacoma is available with a Regular cab, Access cab and Double cab. Our test vehicle featured the Access Cab that is accessed via small suicide doors on each side of the truck. Suicide doors mean they open the opposite of your standard car doors – we still think it’s a terrible name for a door but a decent name for a rock band. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Jim Morrison and The Suicide Doors.”

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I digress

If you think third-row seats in SUVs are uncomfortable, they’re positively luxurious compared to the leg room and comfort offered by the tiny Access cab’s back seats. Forget lumbar or thigh support. The seats barely work for small kids let alone adults or a work crew. Even my kids complained, and they’re both under 10-years-old and four-feet-five inches tall. Our advice: if you plan to regularly travel with four passengers, opt for the Double cab instead. An equivalent model will set you back only $1,100 and your passengers will praise your good sense and consideration.

On the other hand, if your Tacoma truck is primarily a two-person vehicle, the seats and legroom of the Access cab are very good. We liked the bolstering and manual seat adjustments. Slide the seat back and someone well over six-feet tall will easily find a comfortable driving or riding position. We definitely prefer the extra space the Access cab offers compared to a Regular cab to store backpacks, groceries or other gear. So don’t discount the Access cab version of the Tacoma; just determine your passenger-hauling needs as you shop for your truck.

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