Always at the head of the pack with consumers, and indeed one of our editors’ segment favorites, the Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup sees no changes for 2008. Evidently, Toyota is a firm believer in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.
Completely revamped three years ago and sometimes referred to as a compact pickup, the current-generation Tacoma is actually more of a midsize. Versatility is the Tacoma’s calling card, as a wide variety of cab styles, bed lengths and trim levels allow one to configure anything from a base standard cab work truck to a luxurious crew cab family truck with stout hauling and towing capabilities.
So great is the Tacoma’s choice of body styles that should you opt for a Double Cab (crew cab) with a long bed, this once-small pickup will boast a wheelbase and overall length greater than a full-size domestic with a short bed.
Also impressive is the Tacoma’s roomy cabin and array of practical features, such as a scratch- and dent-resistant composite cargo bed that has built-in storage units, adjustable tie-down anchors and even an optional 400-watt electrical outlet. This Toyota’s available 236-horsepower V6 may not have class-leading power, but the spec sheet doesn’t indicate the smooth and usable broad spread of power it provides.
All things considered, the Tacoma is a well-rounded pickup that has no significant weaknesses. Its versatile nature, impressive build quality, strong reliability history and pleasant driving dynamics have earned it two successive Editors’ Most Wanted awards. Though we also suggest taking a look at another favorite of ours — the Nissan Frontier — the 2008 Toyota Tacoma is easy for us to recommend to those shopping for a compact or midsize pickup truck.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup that’s available as a regular cab, an extended cab (“Access Cab”) that features small rearward-opening doors, and a crew cab (“Double Cab”) with four full-size doors. Both Regular and Access Cabs come with a 6-foot cargo bed. The longer Double Cab has a shortened bed to make it more reasonable to park and garage. But for those who need plenty of passenger room and hauling capacity, Toyota offers a Double Cab with the long 6-foot bed.
All body styles are available in both two- and four-wheel drive. Should one desire the rugged look and suspension of a four-wheel-drive truck without the added weight, maintenance and fuel appetite of actual four-wheel-drive running gear, there is the PreRunner version, which is capable of handling light-duty off-road work. On the other end of the spectrum is the street performance-oriented X-Runner.
Tacoma regular cabs are meant primarily for workhorse duty and as such are sparsely equipped — standard features include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, twin auxiliary power outlets and a four-speaker CD stereo. The Tacoma Access Cab comes with air-conditioning, an overhead console and a six-speaker sound system. The Tacoma Double Cab adds keyless entry, full power accessories and upgraded upholstery.
Most options are grouped in available packages. The TRD Off-Road package includes fender flares, 16-inch alloy wheels, more exterior chrome trim, a heavy-duty suspension, a locking rear differential, skid plates and sport seats. The TRD Sport package is a street performance upgrade and includes 17-inch wheels, a hood scoop, sport suspension and sport seats. The popular SR-5 package bundles exterior enhancements (chrome grille shell, color-keyed wheel flares, privacy glass, foglights) with interior upgrades (fancier seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control). Separate options include alloy wheels, a towing package and premium audio with CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
The regular and Access Cab models can be had with either four- or six-cylinder engines, while the Double Cab models use the V6 exclusively. The standard 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine makes 159 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque. The 4.0-liter V6 engine pumps out 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. With the inline-4, one may choose either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Those who opt for the V6 are offered a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic.
Even saddled with the additional weight of four-wheel drive and a long bed, a Tacoma Double Cab V6 we tested sprinted to 60 mph in just 7.8 seconds, giving it the distinction of being one of the quickest midsize trucks available. Rear-wheel or four-wheel drive is offered for all body styles. Properly equipped, the Tacoma can tow 6,500 pounds.
Antilock brakes with brake assist are standard, while a stability control system is optional. Double Cab models also offer optional front-seat side airbags as well as full-length head curtain airbags. Hill-start assist control (HAC) and downhill assist control (DAC) are provided for 4WD models equipped with an automatic transmission, stability control and the Off-Road package.
In government testing, the 2008 Toyota Tacoma received a top five-star rating for its protection of occupants in frontal and side-impact crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tacoma its top rating of “Good” for offset-frontal impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although the Tacoma’s interior isn’t particularly fancy, it provides plenty of practicality and comfort. The gauges are clear and the controls are easy to operate. Storage space is plentiful, and the Double Cab’s rear seat is comfortable for adults. However, some drivers might take issue with the positioning of the driver seat, feeling that it’s mounted too low to the floor. For hauling cargo, a non-rusting and dent-resistant composite cargo bed comes standard on all models, while an optional bed-mounted 115-volt/400-watt electrical outlet is ideal for campers and outdoor sports enthusiasts.