Toyota Tacoma shows off the American way

While you were enjoying the 4th of July, I’m sure many of you reflected on all that makes our nation so wonderful. Democracy, Deadliest Catch, and Doritos shell tacos are some of the principles upon which our nation was founded. But all of the above pale in comparison to the institution that is the pickup. As an essential tool in the American work force, the pickup was canonized as the patron saint of democracy by GM with the Bob Seger “Like a Rock” TV spots. Those ads were amazing. Chevrolet should have never abandoned that advertising campaign.

Toyota may be Japanese, but they have been on our shores for decades. They have learned our ways and understood where we want our big gulps. The revised 2012 Toyota Tacoma is their latest interpretation of what they understand to be most important to the mid-size pickup driver.

During the auto industry bailout, there were pockets of backlash against import brands. It was not uncommon to read about a vandalized Camry in Detroit, which had “Buy USA” emblazoned on the hood. Unfortunately for the Camry owner and the uninformed perpetrators, the Camry is built in Kentucky and Indiana. The All-American Silverado? A decent number of them are produced in Silao. That’s in Mexico.

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The 2012 Tacoma is built in San Antonio, Texas. Though it is built in the heart of truck country, it possesses Japanese Shogun-like styling. It features a pronounced grille, and fenders and sharp angles that may result in origami-swans attempting to mate with it.

Styling aside, you can get the Tacoma in your traditional bed/cab arrangements. The single cab, short bed Tacoma has a base MSRP of $17,125, while an Access or extended cab with rear-half doors carries a starting price of $19,915. The four-door Double Cab model starts at $22,425.

Our Access Cab model came with the $3,860 TRD package, turning the already brawny Tacoma into a prop in an energy drink commercial. This package consists of Bilstein shocks, 17-inch alloy wheels, “TRD” graphics, and a hood scoop.

The full name for the package is the “TRD Sport Extra Value Package,” and it provides an extensive list of features in addition to the exterior components. It encompasses a sliding rear window, water-resistant seats, a power outlet in the bed, and a backup camera integrated rearview mirror. Located in the left corner of the rearview, the backup display is not as distracting as it sounds. In fact, it’s quite intuitive, allowing the driver to more easily “use all mirrors and be aware of surroundings” as every camera-equipped car warns.

The Tacoma is available with either a 2.7-liter inline-4, or a 4.0-liter V6. The 159 horsepower from the 4-cylinder makes it a hard sell; it is really only good for hauling petunias around town. The V6, on the other hand, is a stout, responsive engine, delivering 236 horsepower and an all-important 266 pound feet of torque. This is the only engine available in Toyota’s off-road-ready FJ Cruiser, hinting at its true potential.

Both engines are available in either rear-wheel-drive, or four-wheel-drive with low range, operated via a dash-mounted switch. The 4-cylinder sends its power to the wheels with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, while the V6 does it with your choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed auto. Those wisely opting for the V6 will get up to speed on the highway without issue, though after a slight delay from the automatic transmission.

The best option for fuel economy is the daisy-hauling inline-4, achieving 21 miles per gallon city and 25 highway, when equipped with rear-wheel-drive and the 6-speed manual. Our V6 4x4 Automatic was rated at 16 city, 21 highway. Truck buyers know what they are getting into when it comes to fuel economy, and though the numbers are not terrifi c, they should not be shocking.

With the amount of fun you can have with the Tacoma, you will start to forget about the MPG’s—or lack thereof. It is remarkably liberating to toss a mountain bike in the pickup bed and drive out to a trail head without negotiating the cramped quarters of a crossover’s cabin or a bike rack that requires an engineering degree to operate.

Getting out to the remote destinations of summer fun is enjoyable with the Tacoma. The suspension eats up bumps in the road, and, when combined with direct steering, results in a precise, yet cushioned ride. The commanding view from which that ride is experienced will be a familiar one for any truck owner.

For anyone seeking to take the Tacoma out onto the trail, it’s good to know that, with the Bilstein shocks, the TRD Tacoma is at home playing in the dirt. Who are we to deny a creature its natural habitat? You wouldn’t prevent a bald eagle from divebombing salmon in Alaska, would you?

What I’m trying to say is: If you love America, buy this American-made, Japanese pickup, crank up “Wicked Garden” by Alice In Chains, and go off-roading in a muddy fi eld. It’s what our forefathers would have wanted.