When it comes to the midsized pickup truck market, there’s one and only one name that completely dominates the segment. That name is the Toyota Tacoma. And with major contenders like Ford withdrawing from the segment, the Tacoma begins to standout even more as a clear winner. But even though the Tacoma is the undisputed sales leader year in and year out, is the truck really that much better than the competition? It seems the expertise of Pickuptrucks.com has found an answer. The verdict: the Toyota Tacoma lives up to every ounce of its reputation as a dependable mid-sized truck, finding itself way ahead of the pack in off-road ruggedness and an overall standout in real-world performance.
Mark Williams, editor-in-chief of Pickuptrucks.com and his team pitted seven trucks in a free-for-all comparison test in multiple categories. They were the 2012 Chevy Colorado, 2011 Ford Ranger, 2012 GMC Canyon, 2012 Honda Ridgeline, 2012 Nissan Frontier, 2012 Suzuki Equator and 2012 Toyota Tacoma. The trucks were thrashed, beaten and bruised on the dynamo, on the drag strip, in the desert, and on the highway — all to find out which truck is worthy of winning the high-budget, high-stakes comparison test.
To begin with, let’s have a look at the Tacoma on paper. With a starting price of just $22,100-$29,900, depending on the model, this purpose-built truck can come with either a 2.7-liter inline-four cylinder gasoline engine that offers 159 horsepower. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Upgrade to the 4.0L V6, and the output is bumped up to substantial 236 horsepower. Transmission offerings are diverse, with a 4-speed automatic, a 5-speed automatic, a 5-speed manual, and a 6-speed manual. Some rugged options include mud-guards, skid plates for the underbody, Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). As a result, the Tacoma 372 points out of 400 in value judging and 142 points out of 160 in expert impressions as tallied by Williams and company. And while the Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier came close to the Tacoma’s overall score of 514, the Toyota won outright.
Another defining element of the Shootout happened to be the unladen quarter-mile testing. The testers collected data from the trucks every 200 feet as the trucks paced as fast as they could down a quarter-mile drag strip. To nobody’s surprise, the Tacoma finished near the top again, crossing the finish line with a time of 16.43 seconds at 85.1 mph. It was second only to the Chevrolet Colorado, which was equipped with a less-fuel efficient V8 engine, edging the Toyota by less than a quarter of a second in quarter-mile acceleration. Also nearly identical between the Chevy and Toyota was 0-60 mph acceleration, at 8.12 and 8.17 seconds, respectively.
The PickupTrucks.com team then filled the beds of all the trucks with 40-pound bags of rock salt, until each truck had its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating maxed. Being that each truck had different capacities, each truck carried a different load. For the Tacoma, it was 22 40-pound bags. It was the same story as before, with the Tacoma finishing just behind the V8-powered Chevy Colorado, accelerating from 0-60 in 9.27 seconds and crossing the quarter-mile finish in 17.18 seconds at 80.94 mph. But what’s the point of all that pep if the truck isn’t capable of stopping quickly? This is where the Tacoma stood out in a big way.
During empty testing, the Tacoma was the far-and-away winner, with an average stopping distance from 60-0 mph at 133 feet. The Honda Ridgeline was second, however it took an additional 15 feet to come to a stop. During loaded stops, Toyota, once again was the standout winner with 142 feet, with the rest of the group bunching up over 10 to 15 feet longer.
While Toyota was a standout performer and a victor in the aforementioned testing, it might have been its off-road performance that stole the show. Toyota’s TRD off-road package ended up being the proverbial gun to a knife fight, scoring 50 out of 50 points in hill climbing, which was double that of the Honda and five points ahead of the Suzuki. The Tacoma scored a perfect 50/50 again in the off-road course, edging the Nissan and the Suzuki once again.
So no matter what the job calls for, the Toyota Tacoma seems to be the best tool in the box. PickupTrucks.com’s testing tells us so.