Test Drive column: 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4
Entry price: $26,050
Price as tested: $40,759
This week we test drive the 2020 Toyota Tacoma Sport, delivered with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) upgrades, 4x4 underpinnings and five-passenger double cab roominess.
New for 2020 are a mild front upgrade, more safety items, better noise reduction, a power driver seat, and Apple CarPlay with Amazon Alexa and Android Auto.
Toyota entered the midsize truck market back in 2001 and the Tacoma was an immediate sales hit. Now in its ninth generation, Toyota’s reliability record is outstanding and Tacoma continues to be competitive for both foreign and stiff North American competition.
Tacoma, however, isn’t Toyota’s first pickup truck by any means. They’ve been involved in compact to “lightweight midsize” trucks since 1967, when the first Toyota truck arrived on American soil called the Toyota Stout.
Further, today’s modern day midsize is a far cry from what I call “lightweight midsize” back in the early 1970s. Specifically, today’s four-door Tacoma 4x4s are nearly 130 inches in wheelbase with curb weight eclipsing two tons. To me, that might be midsize to some people, but when you drive a Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport, you feel “high and mighty” more so than “midsize.”
The entry Tacoma SR Access Cab with rear jump seats starts at $26,050 and then escalates all the way up to the premier TRD Pro, which starts at $43,960. In between, a bevy of Tacoma models in both Access Cab and Double Cab four-door motifs will surely quench the appetite of pickup truck consumers. Overall, there are six Tacomas to choose from with either rear drive or 4x4 underpinnings. Your Toyota dealer will gladly explain all the offerings.
Although four-cylinder models are available in the SR and SR5 models in both 2WD and 4x4, once you get to our Sport TRD and above, power comes solely from V6 engines that put out 278 horses and 265 lb. ft. of torque. The V6 offers the buyer a choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, while the four-cylinder models, which generate 159 horsepower and 158 lb. ft. of torque, are limited to six-speed automatic transmissions only. The V6 is my recommendation even though fuel mileage is a little less with 17 city and 21 highway versus the four cylinder’s 19 and 23.
Our tester featured TRD’s heavy duty front skid plate underpinnings and ample ground clearance of 9.4 inches which makes weekend off-road adventures non-worrisome. Toyota’s proven 4x4 system, called 4WDemand, is a part-time switchable 2WD, 4WD and 4WD Low with electronically controlled transfer case and automatic limited-slip differential.
Standard for 2020 is Toyota Safety Sense and Star Safety System, which adds all of today’s high-tech safety offerings and the now more common enhancements like lane departure alert, pre-collision system with pedestrian warning and even automatic high beams. Add electronic brake force distribution, smart stop assist, rear safety camera, all traction controls, power-assisted full ABS disc front and drum rear brakes and a full complement of driver and passenger front and side airbags and you’re riding in one safe pickup. Years ago, pickup trucks did not offer safety features like this and were more work oriented in the build process.
Additionally, all of the Class IV towing enhancements are standard on the TRD 4x4 Sport trims and upward. The tow package adds a bevy of must have towing items, including four- and seven-pin connectors w/converter, 130 amp alternator, a tow kit with hitch and also a trailer sway control. You can tow up to 6,500 pounds with no worries.
Impressive outward styling finds Toyota Tacoma further solidifying its reputation as a major player in the smaller pickup category thanks to a TRD hood scoop, projector beam headlights and aggressive gray/smoke colored front grille. The interior is also noteworthy offering lots of room, six-speaker stereo with SiriusXM, all the modern gadgetry via a 8-inch touch screen along with three USB ports, one media port and two USB charge ports.
Tacoma features a front suspension with coil-over shocks and double wishbone setup, multi-leaf sport tuned rear suspension with special sport tuned shocks, limited slip differential and stabilizer bars on a full truck chassis. The cargo area features a composite inner liner with steel outer panels, rail caps and removable tailgate.
Our TRD Sport came with 17-inch off-road ready tires on alloy wheels, sliding rear window, power outlets, fog lamps, keyless entry, cruise control, fabric sport seats, leather steering wheel and more.
Options on our tester include $469 for oval tube side steps, paint protection film for $395, bed step for $300, $799 for TRD performance exhaust, $417 for a four-season mat package, $140 for a leather TRD shift knob, and $99 for a chrome lettered tailgate insert.
Another option is the Technology Package with Options that features a Tonneau cover, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor and parking sonar for $1,450 more.
Added to the TRD Sport Dual Cab, 5 ft. bed entry of $36,965 and $1,175 for delivery, the final retail came in at $40,759.
Important numbers include a 127.4-inch wheelbase, 4,435 lb. curb weight, 6,400 lb. tow capacity, 21.1 gallon fuel tank, 5-foot cargo bed and a 40.6 ft. turning radius.
Toyota Tacoma pickups drive well and offer a degree of highway comfort over and above what’s expected from full chassis pickup trucks. Granted, you can feel the road irregularities, but that’s expected from pickup trucks with stiffer suspensions.
Overall, if you decide to park one in your driveway you’ll be motoring in one impressive “big midsize” truck offering excellent reliability and very impressive resale values.
Likes: Versatility, TRD 4x4 underpinnings, V6 power.
Dislikes: Rear drum brakes, bumpy ride, noisy.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.