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A wide selection of exterior styles and configurations, excellent build quality, well-wrought interiors, a choice of engines, and a sporty, street-wise X-Runner trim all contribute to the popularity of the 2011 Toyota Tacoma.The Bad
Degraded ride comfort with off-road suspensions, iffy brakes, a raucous V6, and a distinct lack of rear-passenger room in the Access Cab variations tarnish the 2011 Tacoma just a bit.
The CarGurus View
Generally considered the class leader in the midsize pickup market, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma admirably fills the gap between the anti-chic family wagon and the overbearing full-size pickup. Toyota quality, capable powertrains, and proven off-road abilities, as well as improved ride and handling characteristics and a dearth of quality competition, would seem to mandate the supremacy of this mini-workhorse for the foreseeable future.
At a Glance
Essentially the last quality midsize pickup left on the continent, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma continues to appeal to those who want the utility of a truck and the practicality of a midsize wagon. This compact workhorse, though not perfect, is the overwhelming favorite of reviewers simply because Toyota has paid attention to the details. Though basically the same truck since a 2005 reworking, a few trims sport some minor grille tweaks for 2011, plus an automatic transmission with the inline four-cylinder (I4) engine is available now, as are two new optional TRD off-road packages, front bucket seats on all trims but the base rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Regular Cab, and standard air conditioning across the lineup. Some exterior touches that owners seem to appreciate include standard trailer wiring on all trims and standard skid plates on all 4WD trims.
Tacoma trims include the base Regular Cab, the mid-priced Access Cab, the roomy Double Cab, and the sporty X-Runner. All trims are delivered with standard RWD, though all are available with part-time, on-demand 4WD, with the exception of the RWD-only X-Runner. The Regular Cab, Access Cab, and X-Runner trims are equipped with a 6-foot bed, with the Double Cab trim level toting a standard 5-foot bed. For those who don’t foresee the need to park close to others in a crowded mall parking lot, the Double Cab, available in both RWD and 4WD versions, is additionally available in a 6-foot long-bed configuration. Regular Cab trims seat either two or three, depending on the drivetrain, while Access Cab trims, including the X-Runner, seat six in a pinch with small, rear-hinged rear passenger doors. The Double Cab features roomier rear seating, as well as four front-hinged, independently opening access doors. Additionally, the Access and Double Cab trims offer the RWD-only PreRunner sub-trim that features the aggressive look of its 4WD siblings.
The 2011 Tacoma has few rivals, with American midsize pickups not even deemed worthy of contention, according to most reviewers. Nissan’s Frontier and the mirror-image Suzuki Equator, meantime, provide the Tacoma’s major competition. Virtually all reviews note that though the Frontier and the Equator are decent enough trucks, neither appears capable of giving the folks at Toyota a serious run for the gold.
Standard power across the 2011 Tacoma lineup, excepting the X-Runner, is a 2.7-liter I4 engine that’s mated to a 5-speed manual transmission in the Regular Cab configuration, and a 4-speed automatic in the Double Cab variant. This combo puts out 159 hp at 5,200 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. With variable valve timing, mileage is estimated at 21/25 mpg in RWD trims and 18/20 in 4WD versions. A four-speed automatic transmission is now available with the four-banger, with mileage estimated at 19/25 in RWD configurations and 18/21 with 4WD trims. Towing weight with the I4 is maxed out at 3,500 pounds. Additionally, all Tacoma pickups are equipped with a standard limited-slip differential.
Available for the Access Cab and Double Cab trim levels and standard in the X-Runner is a variable-valve-timed 4.0-liter V6 powerplant. This potent mill is combined with a standard 5-speed automatic transmission in all RWD trims except the X-Runner and pounds down 236 hp at 5,200 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Additionally, V6-equipped 4WD Access Cab and Double Cab trims can be delivered with an available 6-speed manual transmission. The X-Runner, however, is the only trim that sports both the V6 and 6-speed stick shift as standard equipment. Mileage with the various V6 drivetrain configurations ranges from 17/21 in RWD trims with the five-speed automatic to 14/18 for 4WD six-speed stick-shift-equipped Tacoma trims. Towing capacity with the V6, meanwhile, is pegged at 6,500 pounds except for the X-Runner, which is maxed out at 3,500 pounds.
The 2011 Tacoma’s on-demand 4WD system relies on a mechanical center differential and rear limited-slip differential, as well as auto-locking hubs and electronic hi-lo gear selection to beat the worst that winter and terrain have to offer.
Reviewers are generously disposed toward both Tacoma powerplants, with the V6 especially praiseworthy for its adequacy to virtually all driving situations. One 0-60 run with the V6 in a Double Cab trim resulted in a time of 7.8 seconds, not bad for a utilitarian pickup truck. The I4, meanwhile, garners kudos from most reviewers for its fuel efficiency, as well as a surprising giddyup, as long as it’s not overtaxed. Both the 5- and 6-speed stick shifts are deemed admirably responsive, while both automatics are thought smooth and alert, with timely downshifts on those hilly roads. Many reviewers concede that the V6 can be a bit raucous on acceleration, though it dampens down considerably at cruising speeds.
Ride & Handling
Considering the propensity of pickups of any size to be brutes on the road, the 2011 Tacoma seems to have somewhat mitigated this problem. A standard double-wishbone front independent suspension is complemented by front and rear stabilizer bars and a solid live-axle rear suspension. All RWD trims, meanwhile, sport standard 15-inch steel wheels, with 4WD trims boasting 16-inch steel wheels. The X-Runner, as a more street-worthy truck, mounts 18-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment. Additionally, optional 17-inch alloy wheels are available for all PreRunner sub-trims in the TRD Sport packages, as well as with 4WD trims in the TRD Off-Road packages.
As mentioned, reviewers seem pleasantly surprised that the Tacoma, especially RWD versions, seems to have risen above the fray in ride and handling capabilities. Alas, according to virtually all reviewers, 4WD trims are a bit less composed on the road than their less traction-savvy brethren. Those Tacoma trims equipped with the optional TRD Off-Road packages are described by most reviewers as the worst of the lot, ride-wise.
The X-Runner, on the other hand, gets reviewer plaudits for its sport-tuned suspension, featuring Bilstein gas shocks and low-profile tires that inject some admirable pizzazz into the drive. This sport-oriented pickup shows up its lesser siblings with almost no body lean and strong braking performance, according to reviewers, with many complaining that non-X-Runner trims continue to be plagued by excessive body lean in fast corners and a squirrely brake pedal. Finally, reviewers note that the Tacoma is, like the big boys, occasionally prone to hopping around a bit, again, most noticeably with the stiffer 4WD suspensions and an empty bed.
Cabin & Comfort
The base Regular Cab Tacoma trim comes with few cabin frills for 2011, though air conditioning is now standard. Other standard cabin amenities include a bench seat, cloth upholstery, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, and an MP3-compatible single-CD player with four speakers. The 4WD Regular Cab trims, meanwhile, add bucket seats with a fold-flat passenger seat back.
Access Cab base trims throw in standard rear seats, power windows and door locks, front and overhead consoles, and two additional speakers. Double Cab variations, meantime, add in rear-seat heat vents and power outside mirrors.
The 2011 Tacoma X-Runner is by far the best-equipped trim right from the factory, with sport front seats, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, premium cloth upholstery, remote keyless entry, auto-dimming inside mirror with integrated rear-view camera, seven speakers that include a subwoofer, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter knob all standard.
Options for the Regular Cab Tacoma trims are limited to a sliding rear window, while Access Cab and Double Cab trims add on an available Class IV trailer hitch and wiring (V6 only), 16-inch alloy wheels, and a 6-CD player, as well as several features that come standard with the X-Runner. As well, Access Cab and Double Cab trims, depending on the drivetrain selected, additionally list JBL premium audio components, Bluetooth hands-free technology, and satellite radio in the available SR5 Extra Value Package, as well as the TRD Sport and TRD Sport Extra Value Packages available to RWD trims.
Finally, 4WD-equipped V6 Tacoma Access Cab and Double Cab trims can be delivered with the available TRD Off-Road Package and TRD Off-Road Extra Value Packages that include extra skid plates, suspension upgrades, hill-start assist, and descent control. These off-road packages can be further refined into the Tacoma T/X and T/X Pro variations with all-terrain tires and an upgraded, off-road-ready exhaust system, as well as unique badges and upgraded wheels.
Reviewers, for the most part, regard the 2011 Tacoma pickup’s standard amenities as simple and basic, essentially workmanlike. Cabins are well-laid-out, according to most reviews, with easily readable gauges and smooth, simple controls. Many reviewers laud the interior materials and workmanship in this midsize pickup, though a few complain that cabins run to extremes of bland and cluttered, depending on the trim level. Virtually all reviewers complain that head- and legroom are at a premium in the Access Cab rear cabin, making it a long ride for those unfortunate enough to be stuck there. The Double Cab’s rear seating area, however, more than makes up for this deficiency, with some reviewers describing this well-wrought cabin as having the roomiest rear seat in its class. Scads of interior storage also draw raves from nearly all reviewers.
For 2011, the Tacoma pickup sports a hefty number of safety features that are standard across the lineup. Beginning with front-disc/rear-drum ABS, this midsize truck also features electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assist, as well as traction and stability control. Occupant safety, meanwhile, is in the care of dual front side-mounted airbags, head curtain airbags, front and rear, depending on cabin configuration, and front head restraint whiplash protection. The X-Runner boasts standard front fog/driving lights that are optional with all other trims, while daytime running lights are optional across the lineup.
Finally, standard VSC +TRAC stability control can be replaced by optional VSC +ATRAC in 4WD Access Cab and Double Cab trims as part of the TRD Off-Road Packages.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), with its reworked testing and data collection systems, gives the 2011 Tacoma four stars in overall safety testing, with five stars, its highest rating, in side impact testing, three stars in front impact testing, and four stars again in rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) meanwhile gives this mini-pickup its best rating of Good in front-offset impact and side-impact tests, and its next-to-lowest score of Marginal in roof strength testing.
What Owners Think
While owners of the 2011 Toyota Tacoma are mostly positive in their assessment of this midsize truck, some glitches raise their ugly heads. First and foremost is the opinion that gas mileage with V6-equipped trims is often not as advertised. Though driving habits often become the determining factor in mileage estimations, virtually all owners with this complaint claim to have tried everything to stretch mileage, and that they still don’t meet expected goals, with some going so far as to lament the fact that a 6-speed automatic transmission is not offered in the lineup. Other owner gripes include a lack of some traditional standard features in the base trims, with many suggesting a few more options, such as leather upholstery and a power moonroof/sunroof. Complaints about continued poor braking performance throughout the trim spectrum, except for the X-Runner, also continue to plague this otherwise top-shelf midsize truck.
On the positive side, owners praise the 2011 Tacoma pickup’s V6 power, standard bed liner and side rails, quiet cabin, and its hefty interior storage space. Exterior styling attracts numerous owner praises, as does its surprisingly comfortable ride. The X-Runner, of course, has owners lauding its sporty handling and added standard features, though the lack of a 4WD system and depleted towing capacity limits its abilities as a work truck. Finally, most owners have no trouble admitting that Toyota reliability and quality were serious factors in their decision to buy, and most find that the chasm between a family wagon and a full-size pickup is filled admirably by the Tacoma.
Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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