Toyota Tacoma – 8 Months In

For those who follow my ramblings, you may recall that I replaced my 2010 Ford Explorer with a 2023 Toyota Tacoma as my photography vehicle in June of 2023.

I’ve now had the Toyota for about 8 months and driven it about 6,500 miles. It has seen some dirt and back country, along with snow, rain, mud, and highway time getting to and fro. No complaints at all either.

When I got the Tacoma, I wasn’t really aware of the cult following it had. I looked at other vehicles and pretty much decided that I needed a stock 4×4 that could do the job I wanted to do and it came down to either the Toyota Tacoma or the Toyota 4Runner. Similar vehicles but the 4 Runner was a bit more expensive. I’m not hauling kids around, so I didn’t need the SUV. I wanted something reliable and capable. The Tacoma fills that requirement.

The model I have is a TRD 4×4 Offroad, which has upgraded suspension, shocks and struts, a skid plate and a pretty good 4×4 locking differential for different road and driving conditions. I wouldn’t use it for rock crawling but it goes just about anywhere I need it to go, on road or off and in just about any weather conditions. It has a 278 HP 4.5 liter v-6 engine that is reliable and consistently gives me 21-23 mpg on road and off. Way better than my 2010 Explorer with 205 HP v-6 at 18 mpg in most situations. The Tacoma’s 6 speed automatic transmission is fairly smooth but it can feel a little busy in the mountains. It’s still better than the old Explorer it replaced though.

I quickly found out that this truck has a very strong cult following, not unlike the Jeep Wrangler, with similar enthusiasts out there in 4×4 world. I’ve driven Jeep Wranglers on several occasions and pretty much concluded that they are toys for young men and not really all that comfortable or suitable for an old man who wants something that can drive the highway with some economy and comfort and then go off road with some level of competence. I never intended to modify the truck to make it some kind of off-road toy, but it’s most certainly in that ball park to the younger guys and gals out there.

I joined a Colorado Tacoma Facebook group shortly after I purchased mine and waded knee deep into the Tacoma (Taco) culture. It’s been helpful for me to understand what types of problems have been reported with this truck and also what types of after-market stuff is out there if I do decide to modify it. As of now though, I’m not really considering any modifications other than to put a camper shell on it, which I’ve ordered and expect to have installed by mid-April. Seems that the most common or popular modifications are lift kits, bigger tires and custom engine tunes. I see a lot of people selling their stock parts so if I need a bumper or wheels or other stock items, they can be found at a reduced cost fairly easy. I also see a lot of people wanting to take their modifications off their trucks and return them to factory configurations so they can sell the truck. Modified trucks don’t hold their value as well as factory stock used trucks, as the modifications are usually a sign the truck has been used hard. A stock used Tacoma holds it’s value very well if it’s in good shape. Much better than American 4×4’s, such as my 2010 Explorer and most of the common domestic SUV’s.

The Tacoma is perfect as a 2 person photography vehicle. Though it has 4 doors and a back seat, I wouldn’t want to have to ride in the back seat as an adult for any length of time, as it’s a little bit on the cramped side. But, two people can load a week’s worth of luggage and full size camera packs and be comfortable. It’s still a tight fit though. That’s the reason I am putting a camper shell on it. The added dry storage the camper shell provides frees up the cramped cab when packing a lot of gear for long trips. I don’t really intend to use the camper shell for camping. The truck’s bed is only slightly longer than 5 feet. My camping days are done. I’d rather sleep in a bed than in the back of a pickup truck or on the ground in a tent. That’s for the youngsters.

The types of trips I’ve done so far include exploring most of the dirt forest roads in Northern Colorado, many requiring 4×4 vehicles to access. I’ve done highway trips to Southwest Colorado, explored ghost towns all around the state, been in snow and blizzards in the Denver area and it has simply handled everything with competence and dependability. I’m not a afraid to take it anywhere. It’s comfortable and does a good job at just about everything I need it to do.

My next adventure in the Tacoma will be a buddy trip to Monte Vista, Colorado for photographing the Sand Hill Crane migration and afterwords chasing the Durango & Silverton NGRR for some winter train photos. Most of the upcoming trip will be highway and paved roads, but there are some dirt roads involved and the Tacoma should get me though any type of weather and road conditions we’ll encounter. Comfortably and efficiently too.

Stay tuned, I’ll be writing more on that subject in March.