Sunday Drive: Defying winter in a Toyota Tacoma
A bright orange Toyota Tacoma and a beautiful Saturday in February provided the perfect combination for us to get out and do some hiking in the snow-covered Utah mountains. In the winter, it seems that after just a few days of being indoors, we feel the need to get out into nature.
Deanne did some research and found that the hike to Doughnut Falls up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City made for a wonderful winter adventure. So, off we headed in the Tacoma on the Saturday morning of our test drive. Since we were driving the 4×4 TRD Pro, we were not worried about weather, snow or anything else nature could throw at us.
On that cloudy morning, we headed off to get in some real winter hiking (we took spikes to attach to our boots) and, more importantly, enjoy the Tacoma and the ride up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Having a truck is always a great experience, whether it’s large or small, and the off-road capabilities of the Tacoma make it really one of a kind.
In the mid-sized truck category, the Tacoma is the national best-seller, proving that Toyota really knows how to engage with its customers and attract new ones to this ever-evolving vehicle.
Equipped with crawl control, hill start assist and a six-speed transmission, the truck really turns into a giant among its peers when put to the test. Deanne put it through a real trial when she and her friend Wendy Packard went hiking in Mapleton Canyon the day before our trip. She started up a snow-packed hill in two-wheel drive and got stuck.
With a quick shift into neutral and a flip of the switch into low, the Tacoma growled and headed up the hill without a hiccup. Deanne loved its ability to crawl right up the hill to the parking area, where they parked safely and headed out on their winter hike.
The Tacoma comes equipped with Toyota Safety Sense P, which includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, land departure alert and automatic high beams. These are all standard features on the Tacoma, no matter what level the consumer purchases.
Not all manufacturers have chosen to include these safety features at all trim levels. Craig just tested another brand’s full-sized truck and was very disappointed that it did not have radar cruise control.
The Tacoma TRD Pro was also equipped with a rear parking sensor to let us know if there was traffic or people behind us. This feature is very useful in a grocery store parking lot where there may be pedestrians wandering about. Blind sport monitor and onboard Wi-Fi were also included.
Our Saturday, drive turned out to be a beautiful trip. The canyons were more than overflowing with snow. As we hiked up the road, we quickly discovered street signs nearly covered by the snow on which we were walking. Hopefully this winter will help restore some of the water supply we need in Utah.
Inside, the Tacoma is much more comfortable than one would expect from a vehicle designed to be taken off-road and provide pure climbing pleasure. It kept us in relative comfort throughout our day in the mountains as well as during our everyday driving.
The new 8-inch touch screen is sleek and easy to use, adding a real touch of luxury to the cab of the Tacoma. It came complete with the Toyota Entune system, which allows easy access to phone apps and traffic and weather information.
The large dials provided for adjusting the climate controls, volume and channels were easy to manipulate, even with our gloves on when we returned from our hike in the snow. Also, the heated seats were a huge bonus for us as we drove the truck during a cold February week.
Being a mid-sized pickup, the Tacoma is definitely an easier option when it comes to getting things loaded into the bed. Craig found this out when he had to make a trip to the hardware store to purchase 18 9-foot-long two-by-fours for a project. After piling them all in the truck’s bed with the tailgate down, it was an easy task to secure the boards for the ride home with ratchet tie-down straps attached to the included bed hooks.
Under the hood, the excitement continued as Toyota has included an all-new 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V-6 complete with Toyota’s D-4S technology. It features both direct and port fuel injection. There will also be a four-cylinder version, but we think most folks will opt for the more powerful version of the engine. The V-6 makes 278 horsepower and 265 foot-pounds of torque, enough to pull up to 6,800 pounds or haul up to 1,440 pounds in the bed.
Both engines will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with electronic shifting, which delivers quick and easy shift points. The V-6 can also be mated with a new six-speed manual transmission. The new powertrain makes the Tacoma more powerful and fuel efficient than ever before; we averaged a very nice 21 mpg for our weeklong test ride.
The Tacoma proved to be an awesome winter road warrior, one that would work in anyone’s garage. Even in the bright orange color, we loved having it along for the drive.
Base price: $49,390
Destination charge: $1,335
Price as driven: $52,229