2019 Toyota Tacoma Quick Spin: Small, Subtle Improvements

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By Aaron Bragman

We might all be excited for the arrival of the new 2019 Ford Ranger and 2020 Jeep Gladiator next year, and the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon have proven to be seriously popular entries into the mid-size pickup truck class, but the undisputed sales king is still the Toyota Tacoma. The Tacoma gets a couple of refinements for 2019 along with a couple of new colors, and we got our first look at the truck at a tailgate party held by Toyota at the University of Michigan versus Penn State University football game a few weeks ago (Go Blue!).

Related: Sibling Rivalry: 2018 Toyota Tundra Vs. 2018 Toyota Tacoma

On hand for the pre-game festivities was none other than Sheldon Brown, the chief vehicle engineer for the current-generation Tacoma and Tundra pickups, who walked us around the lovely Cavalry Blue TRD Sport double cab model parked in the tent on that blustery autumn Saturday morning.

Quieter, Smoother

The Tacoma is in the middle of its latest life cycle — the last big update it received came for 2016 model year — so the changes for the 2019 model are subtle, and mostly things you can't see, according to Brown. The most effort was devoted to a noise, vibration and harshness package aimed at improving the Tacoma's drivability and refinement. Better cabin isolation was the goal, and that was achieved through more insulation, thicker side glass and a revised rear suspension.

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I recently had a chance to take the new 2019 Tacoma TRD Sport for a spin, racking up a few hundred miles in the latest version of the venerable crew cab. The TRD Sport isn't really an off-road model — it has 17-inch all-season truck tires instead of the more aggressive all-terrain tires seen on the TRD Pro, and it lacks the TRD Off-Road's Crawl Control and off-road suspension with Bilstein shocks. But that doesn't mean it's not a capable truck — its shift-on-the-fly part-time four-wheel-drive system is easy to operate but is meant for dirt or slippery conditions duty — you don't want to operate it on dry or merely wet pavement.

The changes made for 2019 really do create a more refined environment in the Tacoma; it's immediately noticeable that the truck is quieter in all conditions. On the highway, road noise is much more muted than before, and the engine note is sufficiently quiet as well, creating a more pleasant experience. Thicker side glass has also helped to cut wind noise at highway speeds.

Changes also have been made to the engine control mapping, according to Brown, tuning the 3.5-liter V-6 to make it more responsive. It's not the most powerful V-6 in the class, making 278 horsepower and 265 pounds-feet of torque. That's less than most competitor V-6 engines, and there's not any more power coming for 2019. But the power and torque that's available has been made more usable across a broader spectrum of the rpm range, creating a more responsive truck that drives better than it used to. The brakes seem to be stronger than I remember on previous Tacomas, and the overall driving experience is one of solid, refined stability and control.

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Interior Shortcomings

Where the Tacoma continues to struggle is inside. The interior materials and build quality are still class-competitive, despite the preponderance of hard plastic. No other pickup in the class has an interior with any less hard plastic, so this apparently doesn't faze the Tacoma's legion of buyers. Where the Taco has an issue is with interior room, notably headroom. It's clearly the product of an earlier time, when small trucks actually were small, instead of the mid-size trucks we have today that are nearly as big as full-size trucks were a decade ago. Headroom in the Tacoma is compromised for anyone taller than 5 feet, 10 inches, as the seat just isn't low enough to allow taller drivers enough headroom with the moonroof present. Without the moonroof, it might not be an issue, but my head touched firmly against the headliner in models with the glass roof present. This isn't the case in any other mid-size truck, including the ancient Nissan Frontier.

Mid-size pickups don't come cheap. You can get a base model, extended-cab two-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Tacoma for around $25,000, but it's generally a fleet model that comes with few amenities. The sticker price on my mid-level TRD Sport 4x4 double cab came to a hefty $41,200 including destination, but it had a leather interior, moonroof and navigation. You can go a bit higher in the Tacoma if you want: If you specify the TRD Pro and load it up, you'll top $46,000.

We're eager to get the Tacoma out against the up-and-coming new players in the class to see how the sales champ stacks up. Check back here next week for our 2019 Ford Ranger-2019 Toyota Tacoma matchup.

Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman

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Comments

Glad they made the improvements to engine management. That has been the biggest complaint of the atkinson motor. Put some 33inch mudders on it and see how the noise is then. Cannot get the seats much lower to the floor then they are now. With out the glass roof you can a couple inches though.

THE 3.5 IS A JOKE! The only reason I will keep my 2nd gen Tacoma over the new.

I'm shocked this is still the #1 seller. It's lacking in most areas compared to it's competition. That engine is a dog, and competitors 4 cylinder engines now beat it too. With the new Jeep and Ranger coming out soon, buyers will be cross shopping more, and then looking at all brands. I believe once more of the Toy owners cross shop they will realize there are better choices out there.

Half-assed acceleration, drum brakes, downright uncomfortable seating for anyone over 5'10" and no real product updates since Number 43 was in the White House. that's the taco. Sad.

Every US competitor with the possible exception of Nissan has brought a better truck to market since 2006. Even GM.

At least Nissan offers S model Frontiers that gives value shoppers a truck to choose from.

I have the 2017 Tacoma. I agree the 3.5 is a complete joke. I cant believe so many people buy these trucks. I was a fool and drank the the Toyota Tacoma koolaid

Obviously all the whining and complaints about the tacoma isn't a problem, otherwise it wouldn't be the top seller.

all the whining and complaints about the tacoma isn't a problem

@uh huh

Because you say a lot of people do stupid things? So, that makes the Tacoma a good truck...

Ok, now I get it. (not)

In my humble opinion these small trucks are only good if it's a fleet model. Making it cheap. Otherwise it makes no sense to me to buy a gutless cramped short on creature comforts mini when you can get a better truck in a 1/2 ton for about the same amount of money. The reason people bought these rather than a 1/2 ton was price.

Half-assed acceleration, drum brakes, downright uncomfortable seating for anyone over 5'10" and no real product updates since Number 43 was in the White House. that's the taco. Sad.

Every US competitor with the possible exception of Nissan has brought a better truck to market since 2006. Even GM.

At least Nissan offers S model Frontiers that gives value shoppers a truck to choose from.


Posted by: papajim | Dec 20, 2018 11:20:21 AM

And yet they still outsell the competition. I guess your opinion isn't worth much.

So for 2019 still
👎no electric drivers seat(even on higher trim models)
👎no apple/Android car play 👎shitty nav &radio syst
👎horrible mpg 👎weak engine
👎no rear disc brakes
👎no remote start 👎1999 technology
👎uncomfortable rear seats with cramped back space
☝Toyota is time you give the tacoma a real upgrade

And yet they still outsell the competition. I guess your opinion isn't worth much...Posted by: dale milner | Dec 20, 2018

@dale

More than 50 million people voted for Brand X in the last presidential election, despite all of her criminal activity and decades of scamming the American public.

I can't tell other people whom to vote for or which brand of truck to buy. I can only hope that my actions offer an excellent example for them to follow.

Toyota has some very loyal customers. I don't dislike the Tacoma its just for the money there are more modern midsize trucks available. Just like some have stated at least the Frontier offers value for an old design. I do like the blue on this truck but that is not enough.

Toyota brought some new and unique features, but the majority are for the OffRoading types. Nothing wrong with that, BUT everyone who drives one experiences the 3.5. It’s just not that good. Compared to the rest of the class, completely inadequate.
Some have called for a small V8, but Toyota’s line of fuel thirsty V8s are hardly up to the task. The back seat in the crew cab are tiny, the headroom is short. It is as though they designed this truck around the typical Japanese family.
I was all for this truck until I was allowed an extended (weekend) test drive.

More than 50 million people voted for Brand X in the last presidential election, despite all of her criminal activity and decades of scamming the American public.

I can't tell other people whom to vote for or which brand of truck to buy. I can only hope that my actions offer an excellent example for them to follow.

@papajim

I always thought the most popular was the one that sold the most or got the most votes.

LOL people still cant get off those rear drum brakes! Whats wrong with drum brakes that last 150,000 miles or better? I've only replaced like 2 sets ever in 16 years on tacomas. Plus power seats? If you're so set on dumbass power seats in a pickup truck then go buy a gawty overpriced domestic truck with useless bells and whistles...or...a car. It just goes to show toyota is more focused on simplicity, reliability and longevity than gimmicks.

I guess your opinion isn't worth much, Dale.

Here come the haters!

I own two Tacoma's, a 2010 5-speed manual and a 2016 with 6-speed auto, both are 2.7 powered, 4x4, accesscab solid trucks!

The 2010 stickered at $25,000 and had 7 miles on her when I picked it up. The 2016 stickered for $26,000 and had 11 miles on her when I picked it up.

These Toyota trucks are bullet proof, I have yet to have a single issue with them. I would never buy a small car or suv for similar price because I cannot get the use out of those compared to how I use my trucks, plus safety is better with the Tacoma!

The liberal bytching about rear brakes, interior to name a few, what are you guys, a bunch of girls? Your quest for these girl features in trucks is why the price keeps skyrocketing! Your fault also to why we have no more true compact trucks because of your bytching and whining that you want more girl features and comfort, etc...

The Tacoma is true to its TRUCK roots than the wanna be trucks that resemble more suv than truck from GM and now Ford. I love both of my Tacoma's and I am not one bit surprised why they continue to sell so well.

I spend more time modding my Tacoma's than fixing them! These 2.7 liter powered Tacoma's are simply the best, most reliable trucks on the market right now, bar none!

I owned a 2006 Tacoma pre-runner for the last 12 years. it was one of the most reliable trucks I’ve ever owned. After deciding to get a new truck I decided to upgrade to the tundra. the new Tacoma’s didn’t have much of a significant upgrade to stay with that model for me

The Taco has lagged in innovation, features, and refinement for years and years and years now. BUT it remains top of the class, selling at a premium, even though its not as nice/attractive a product. WHY? Because of Toyotas and the Taco's stellar reputation for toughness, reliability, and longevity. Even with the rusted frame disaster Toy came out on top with their buy back program making it as "right" as possible. It would really be something to see Toy put a 1st rate interior, modern materials, modern engines, more gears into the auto tranny, into one of these little overpriced profit machines... but that would price it out or eat the profit so being #1 they can continue with their current formula until something changes. One would have thought the Colorado would have been that change but it wasn't. Don't kid yourself if you think it will be the Ranger. The Toy is safe on top of the heap for at least a long time. The Ranger and Colorado will be where the fight is.

@Clint--Agree with you assessment. Tacoma will probably still be the Number 1 selling midsize truck because of loyalty and resale but it is not the newest or most innovate. I do hope that increases competition will eventually force Toyota to redesign an all new and improve midsize truck. Toyota is slow to update and change most of their product line. The Ranger will be a big seller for Ford but I doubt it will top Tacoma but there is nothing wrong with that because it gives the consumer more choice and it gives Ford a product that will help Ford. Each of the midsize trucks have their strengths and weaknesses and I could live with any of them but I do have my own preferences.

Mid-size pickups don't come cheap. You can get a base model, extended-cab two-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Tacoma for around $25,000, but it's generally a fleet model that comes with few amenities.

@Jeff S and Clint

The above quote from the PUTC story tells it all. For the same mid-twenties pricing, a Nissan Frontier can be had with a sturdy V6 and choice of auto or manual trans. The reason Toyota gets away with that is simple.

GM's popular twins all sell north of 30k, apart from the $21k unicorns you'll only find on the web (not dealer lots). As long as Toyota isn't losing big sales figures to Nissan or some other competitor they will continue selling this outdated, uncomfortable, overpriced pickup.

Maybe Ford will have an impact with the Ranger but I'm doubting you see any real number of Rangers in the 20k-30k price range before this time next year at the very earliest.

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@papajim--Also the fact that the Ranger is sharing a plant with the Bronco which means that there will not be a surplus of Rangers. This is what GM has done with the Colorado and Canyon as well making sure that neither model is over produced. The higher end models have a higher profit margin and the manufacturer can make more profit on less volume. Toyota by its shear plant capacity will out produce GM and Ford with the Tacoma which has worked for Toyota since Tacoma is Number 1 in sales. The Tacoma helps Toyota with declining sales in its automobiles because of more buyers buying crossovers, suvs, and trucks.

You can find a base model Colorado/Canyon and Frontier but you have to do an internet search and the base models usually sell at little or no additional discount. Why make more base models when you can sell fully optioned models, but that is true for full size pickups as well. Not that easy to find any base models on a dealer lot regardless of size and type of truck.

This is what GM has done with the Colorado and Canyon as well making sure that neither model is over produced

@Jeff S

How do you know this?

I'm not being contradictory, I'm just curious. I always thought that Wentzville Mo was chosen for other reasons.

@papajim--Not saying why Wentzville was chosen but that GM has limited the production of the Colorado/Canyon. Maybe Wentzville was chosen because it had the capacity to make the Colorado/Canyon. The reason Ranger and Bronco are being made where they are is because Ford was discontinuing making small cars at that plant and had the capacity available along with maybe an agreement with the union to use the plant. As Colorado sales increased GM made the Wentzville plant dedicated to just the production of the Colorado/Canyon. GM has played it conservative and Ford is doing the same thing which is not necessarily bad. As you have said in the past that the automobile industry has too much capacity. Better to limit production and see how sales go (dealer orders based on sales). Toyota is already has 2 plants one in Texas producing Tundras and Tacomas and one in Mexico for just Tacoma and another one being built in Mexico.

@Jeff S

GM and "limiting production"

I don't know if GM has a strategy to limit production or not. There's probably some stuff on GM's website that addresses constraints at that plant. A few years back Wentzville was producing GM vans and midsize pickups there. The constraint on the pickups at that time would have been competing for shop floor space and other resources with the van production.

I'm thinking GM would be delighted to produce more pickups there as long as dealers were scooping 'em up.

@oxi

I’m not sure what you’re after there, but while your Tacos may fit your use, they don’t fit with others.

I’m 6’ tall, 200 lbs. Not fat, I work hard and work out. I have 3 kids and the seats have to be too far back for me and Momma, which prevents the rear facing car seats fitting.

The 3.5 is a dog. It just doesn’t accelerate well.
If that makes me a liberal sissy, well, bring your truck out to the ranch and let’s test your engine block theory.
Oh, it was hyperbole?
I bet my 7.3 will be around well after your 4 cyl is tango uniform.

@ James,

My 2.7 liter is practically the most reliable engine in a truck today, so spare me your fake maleness cheap talk!

While your truck will be in the repair shop, my Tacoma's will still be running strong! You have 3 kids, you should be driving the best vehicle and safest for having children, a minivan! By you not buying and driving a minivan you are endangering their safety, a proper vehicle for children is a minivan!

Trucks are for work and lifestyle, they are not meant to haul children around, get an suv or the safer minivan!

My 2016 does work out on the land I own from mowing to debris removal to watering and planting trees. My 2010 is prepared to tackle any situation in any weather conditions, it has a defined mission profile and can survive most situations that a normal truck could not even dare to make.

Toyota's are tougher trucks than you brainwashed, read liberal media to make your opinion, folks are. I am a REAL Toyota truck owner and not these fake ones on here spreading bullshyt. Their is a reason I keep coming back to Toyota, maybe you should listen to our stories and not what some desk jockey or fake profile says.

@papajim--I agree. My point is GM would rather be cautious. As you point out there are other products competing for floor space.

I don't know what the liberal media has to do with choice of truck. Also my 99 S-10 does not spend more time in the shop than any other brand. If anything it is the most reliable vehicle I have ever owned and that after 20 years of ownership it is still going strong. That is enough to satisfy me. Bashing other brands and putting a political spin on trucks is not going to change anyone's mind. People choose a brand for different reasons which has little to do with politics.

@Jeff S

I mention GM's choice of Wentzville in part because it's right on I-70, very close to one of America's earliest and most robust rail-freight access-points. Back in the 1970s when Wentzville's assembly plant was first on the drawing board, GM was building trucks at a really old plant about 30 miles east in the St Louis area.

At that time Ford and Chrysler had St Louis operations too. So Wentzville, had a major interstate and cheap land and rail access without the St Louis area labor hassles and the higher taxes.

I grew up in that area I can remember a lot of this stuff. Back then St Louis had one of the biggest aircraft plants too. Lots and lots of skilled labor.

Crime, and housing-costs, sucked in St Louis so a lot of people liked the idea of being out in the country and still close to town, the airport, the major ball teams, etc. It's still a great location.

@oxi
Where do you get the notions that trucks are not for kids or families? I posted in another topic that my 91 yr old mother has told me stories about my great grandfather Ford pickup truck he had two the other after she left home, Small farmer that took his stuff into town market reason he got truck. So the grand kids 2 girls had to ride in trick with grandmother and grandfather.
As they got older was not possible for everyone to go everywhere.If you read Smithsonian article on history of pickup truck you would find out that this was very common as family vehicle.

@Oxi
The article is from Smithsonian Magazine
The Pickup Truck's Transformation From Humble Workhorse to Fancy Toy
But as I said in other post nothing new about pickup truck being family vehicle you see it in old movies old tv shows.
People did not have money to buy multiple vehicles in 1930s+
So ask yourself how did they get around?

So ask yourself how did they get around?

@2007...

they walked mostly. For greater distances they took trains and road buses. Look at photos of our ancestors from that era. These were some skinny people. They either walked or they didn't get there. They ate less. But few of them owned cars or trucks. Many, many families did not own their first vehicle of any kind until after WW2.

road buses??? Please make that "rode" buses.

@ James

Yea your 7.3l block may be around for awhile...but how many hpop's and injectors and turbo pedestal seals and glow plug harnesses will you have gone through before my 2.7 smokes one injector? The 7.3l is a great long block just that is has junk on it with the lame heui system on it. I know I've worked on too many of em. I had a 91' 7.3l idi and thats what a real diesel used to be. Yea i could run faster than it but it hauled anything and i ran it on used cooking oil and trans fluid half the time through the housing bubble. Good times lol.

Plus I'm 6' 190 and I've never had any issues driving my 2011 single cab. The seat isnt even all the way back in mine and never hit my head. If ya have 3 kids then i agree a fullsize is your game.

@PapaJim
This is why you should read up on stuff a bit more.
I see plenty of.guys posting nonsense or facts they don't know or unaware of. PapaJim in North Carolina in 1920s or even 1970s out in country part you didn't have buses pulling up.
My point is some of you guys think a pickup truck is only a work vehicle. The article says it did double duty even back many years ago. This was going into town to shop or going to doctor's.
All theese sales PapaJim talks about with trucks are not coming from farmers and tradesmen.
Plenty of articles saying pickup truck is replacing family sedans.

@2007

are you drunk? Your writing has slipped a notch or two.

Im 6-2 230lbs and have no problem with headroom, even wearing a hat, and folks its not a sports car the acceleration is good for a truck. People buy Tacomas for reliability something the competition doesnt have.



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