New StepSide models with flared rear fenders are available this spring in both regular-cab and extended-cab versions as late additions to the 2000 Tacoma lineup. The StepSide models copy similar flared-fender models available from Ford, Chevrolet and GMC that prove popular with buyers looking for sporty styling.
Toyota will join the crew-cab market late this year with the Tacoma Double Cab, which will have four conventional, front-hinged doors. Due before the end of the calendar year, the 2001 Double Cab will compete with crew cabs from Chevrolet, GMC and Nissan and the Explorer Sport Trac, a four-door sport utility vehicle with an open cargo bed.
Tacoma currently comes as an extended cab called XtraCab that does not have rear doors.
The regular cab is 184 inches long on a 103-inch wheelbase, and the XtraCab is 203 inches long on a 122-inch wheelbase. Both have a 6.2-foot cargo bed.
About 20 percent of Tacoma sales are PreRunner models, which have two-wheel drive but are gussied up to look like 4x4 offroaders. Standard features include higher ground clearance, mud guards and all-terrain tires. A new Full Color Key option package provides body-color bumpers and trim instead of chrome.
Bucket seats are standard on the XtraCab Limited and optional on other models, which come with a standard three-place bench. XtraCabs also have two rear jump seats.
The rear jump seats are uncomfortable, but the front seats are first rate in all models, with plenty of room for tall occupants. The dashboard is well designed and convenient except for one big flaw: the dual cupholders that slide out block the climate controls.
Under the Hood
All two-wheel-drive Tacomas, except the PreRunner, have as standard a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 142 horsepower. A 150-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder is standard on four-wheel-drive models and the PreRunner. Optional on 2WDs and 4WDs is a 3.4-liter V-6 with 190 horsepower. For those who aren't satisfied with 190 horsepower, a power-boosting supercharger is available on the V-6 as a dealer-installed option that is backed with a factory warranty.
The 4WD system on the top-shelf Limited model is called 4WDemand and allows shifting into 4WD High at speeds faster than 50 mph with a floor-mounted transfer-case lever. A dashboard switch to engage 4WD is optional on the Limited. The 4WDemand feature is optional on all other 4x4 Tacomas. The standard system has manual front hubs, which requires the truck to be stopped and the hubs to lock or unlock by hand to engage or disengage 4WD. Four-wheel antilock brakes are optional on all models.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is weak and noisy, and the 2.7-liter engine is adequate in these trucks. The smooth, potent V-6 is the way to go if you can afford the extra cost. Tacomas are more expensive than comparably equipped domestic pickups, and even shift-on-the-fly is an extra-cost item on the 4x4s.
Tacoma scores big points in overall refinement and quality. These are well-made trucks that should be reliable and durable. Over time, the higher purchase price may prove to be worth it.