SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: I enjoyed this 2014 Toyota Tacoma in a Throwback Thursday type of way, smiling as I considered just how far and how quickly many products within the automotive industry have come.
Despite the long list of options, driving this aging Tacoma provides a blunt reminder of a recent time when pickup trucks were little more than workhorses. It rides down the road like a, surprise, pickup truck: Its ladder frame and rear leaf springs/solid axle suspension are plenty enjoyable on smooth tarmac, but hit a bumpy or uneven stretch and you experience a fair amount of vibration and shakiness through the chassis. That’s endemic in pickup land, but newer offerings have, as also noted previously, improved upon significantly. The truck handles benignly, though the lifeless steering and instances of axle hop at times force you to make constant little corrections to prevent it from wandering where you don’t desire to go.
Thankfully, this Tacoma came with the V6 engine, which makes a fair amount of low-down torque, and drives the Toyota down the road at a reasonable pace when you stand on the throttle. “Reasonable” does not mean in dragster style, as the approximately 5,500-pound curb weight makes itself known at all times. The 4.0-liter is not going to claim any awards for quietness, either, especially in this application where you already experience a fair amount of road noise.
Inside is a sea of hard plastic, another “old” pickup trait that, again, others have moved forward from. Even the leather wrapped steering wheel requires a close second look to make sure that it is indeed leather. The 6-inch screen on the center stack is the only modern-looking feature, but its grainy resolution in backup-cam mode contributes to the overall perception of datedness.
And yet, I enjoyed every minute driving the Tacoma. It’s a competent workhorse, certainly as equipped with all this optional equipment for dedicated off-roading and towing. This is simply a truck, designed to function as a truck, and while that design and engineering work occurred years ago, it is a nice reminder that a lot of the features and creature comforts -- ones that relatively recently have become standard items and expectations -- are not always the end-all-be-all some people would have you believe.
I would drive a Tacoma happily in most conditions and circumstances, and its suddenly old-school ruggedness and few frills would make me feel a lot better beating the hell out of it than I might in a brand new luxo truck. My feelings won’t save it from its inevitable retirement, but I’ll miss it when it’s gone. I must be getting old, because sometimes I think there is a lot to like in a truck or car that is simply … a truck or car, and not a rolling multimedia, luxury command center.
The 2014 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab market is about to get a lot more crowded with the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins arriving at dealerships.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I praised the last Tacoma I was in for its truckiness. It was cheap, it felt rugged, had a limited-slip diff and didn’t seem like it would mind a few scratches from errant two tracking. This one won’t get the same praise, considering it’s closer to $40K than $20K.
Power is a little weak from the big ol’ V6, and noisy too. One of the ways I check interior noise is by listening to my Apple iPhone without connecting it to the radio. In nice sedans it’s no problem. Here, the wind and road noise made it a chore.
The interior looks…inexpensive, and that would be OK if this pickup wasn’t $36,000. When I did hook my phone up to the touchscreen radio, it worked fine. But even that touchscreen looks cheap.
The Tacoma market is about to get a lot more crowded, too. The Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins are arriving at dealerships, and the average pickup buyer is extremely loyal. Those looking to downsize from a Silverado are not going to pick the Tacoma -- at least not anymore.
The basic model, which is what I think we had last time, starts at $21,000, which is a pickup price I could get behind. On the other hand, I would only buy one for work. Some people might enjoy riding around in one, but not me. The Colorado/Canyon spell big trouble for this truck, as well as the Nissan Frontier.
The 2014 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab feels rugged.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Another day, another Tacoma Double Cab. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how this 2014 truck, which is loaded with off-road goodies, differs substantively from the 2015 Tacoma TRD Pro double cab we recently tested. Most of the fancy trail stuff is optional as opposed to standard, but from the Bilsteins to the V6, both appear very similar.
That isn’t a terrible thing -- the truck feels rugged. There’s a reason African republics fight wars with Toyota pickups, after all. With its Class-IV towing package and transmission and oil coolers, I could easily see hooking up a trailer load of dirt bikes and heading into the brush for a weekend of camping and riding without worrying about a breakdown or getting stuck.
That said, the Tacoma feels old -- like it was designed and engineered a decade ago (surprise: it was). The truck likes to wander at speed, and its highly boosted steering makes expressway overcorrection a nuisance. Don’t let its smaller size fool you; this is far less comfortable to cruise in than our larger long-term Chevy Silverado.
The interior of the 2014 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab looks a little inexpensive
2014 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab
Options: TRD off-road package including off-road tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, electronic control locking differential, 16-inch alloy wheels with P265/70R16 BFG tires, VSC+A-Trac in place of standard VSC+Trac with HAC and DAC, engine skid plate, front tow hook, 115-volt/400Watt deck powerpoint, fog lamps, remote keyless entry, cruise control, variable speed wipers, chrome grill surround and rear bumper, color-keyed front bumper and over fenders, sliding rear window with privacy glass, sport water-resistant seats with driver lumbar support, metallic tone instrument panel trim, leather trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, leather-trimmed shifter, dual sun visors with mirrors and extenders, tailgate-handle integrated backup camera, TRD off-road graphics ($3,860); Entune premium JBL audio with navigation and App Suite including the Entune multimedia bundle (6.1-inch high resolution touchscreen with split screen display, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, JBL speakers including subwoofer, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, advance voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, Phone Book access and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology), HD radio, HD predictive traffic and Doppler weather overlay, AM/FM cache radio, Sirius XM radio with 90-day complimentary trial, Gracenotes album cover art and integrated backup camera display ($2,330); V6 tow package for off-road package including Class-IV towing receiver hitch, transmission oil cooler, engine oil cooler, 130-amp alternator, heavy duty battery, 7-pin connector with convertor, trailer sway control ($650); running boards ($437); VIP-RS3200 plus security system ($359); carpet floor mats and door sill protectors ($195); emergency assistance kit ($59); first aid kit ($29); extra value package MSRP discount (-$435)
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