There’s an interesting story about that particular truck. The original got totaled in a crash after filming was completed. Then the producers outfitted an exact replica for the third film, which in later years just became some regular guys truck – can you even imagine just tooling around in Marty McFly’s truck? – but then had its own bad luck. Someone painted it orange, and then, if that’s not bad enough, it was stolen – who would steal an orange truck? – and ended up, allegedly, being used by a Mexican drug cartel.
I’m not making this stuff up, by the way.
The truck you saw in the movies eventually morphed its way into what’s known today as the Tacoma, which officially made its debut in the mid 90s. Back then it was in the compact pickup segment. Since then, like everything in America, it’s gotten larger, so now it competes in the mid-size arena. If things keep going, this truck will have to call Jenny Craig in a few years.
It’s funny, it doesn’t seem huge from the outside, but when you haul yourself up behind the wheel, it feels larger.
With one quick glance at the exterior, you can tell they mean business. The truck sits up high with good clearance. But underneath is where they’ve stacked the good stuff for taking it to the trails, from the knobby tires to the special shocks, a little crawl control, and other add-ons.
But I was happy even when I stayed civilized. The V6 engine powering this particular model won’t blow anyone away at the starting line, but I put that down mostly to the transmission itself. There were times it seemed to be a bit sluggish, almost like the truck would prefer to get off the highway and onto the trails.
Talk to the people at Toyota and they’ll tell you that this is a trade-off for better gas mileage. You can’t have it both ways – at least, not usually. The Tacoma is okay when it comes to acceleration, but in return you get mileage that averages about 20. Not the best in the segment, but not horrible.
Overall you get to choose from six – yes, six – different trim styles for the Tacoma, ranging from the base SR model, all the way up to the Limited and, for 2017, the return of the TRD Pro. That’s what I drove for a week. If you’re new to this, TRD is the brand for Toyota Racing Development. For the Tacoma that means adding off-road tires and other equipment to make your trek through the underbrush a little more satisfying.
From the outside, it just looks tough, like it has an attitude and is ready to scrap. I love the bold TOYOTA across the grille, and the adjustable eyelets in the bed make it handsome and functional.
Slide into the cockpit and you’ll enjoy the layout. Toyota hasn’t fallen into the “too cool” trap when it comes to design. The dashboard controls are, well, easy, and these days that’s not a given.
The shifter is somewhat on the bulky side, which I like. Storage is good, which should be expected, I suppose. We all love a deep well between the seats because we have lots of stuff, man.
You’ll find an additional power plug and USB port within easy reach, too.
There’s decent space in the back seat, but I always get the feeling that the seats in the back of a pickup have always been mainly for storing your gear. Yeah, you can haul your pals around back there, but nobody would ever wish for it. If they do, they’ll dig the power sliding window into the bed.
As for driving, remember that the TRD’s whole reason for being is to play in the outback. But, when it must put on long pants and a button-up shirt, the Tacoma does pretty well. Toyota has urged their engineers to improve the pavement driving over the past few years, and they’ve responded.
2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
3.5L V6, 6-speed automatic transmission
As tested: $45,087
Fuel economy: 18/23/20 combined
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer