It’s time to revisit a truck that for years has made domestic truck makers nervous.

And not necessarily the big haulers from the Big 3, it’s the small truck arena that has been so contentious.

Oh, the Toyota Tundra is finally a real competitor, but it took 2 or 3 generations to get there. No, it’s the little brother, the Tacoma, that forced everyone to step up their game, and the latest entries from GM are a good example of competition making the breed better.

Now we hear the Dakota and Ranger are due to return, and you can thank this beauty for that.

And, it has to be said, no matter how much you make allowances, squint your eyes or watch reruns of “Bridges of Madison County,” the Tacoma is frankly neck and neck with the American iron.

We can start with design, but that is so subjective it can hardly be held against any other truck. The Tacoma, though, is fresh and big…surprisingly big. Driving the new Toyota I ruminated on how quickly what we used to call full-sized has become a medium-sized entry.

That’s because for my money, the Tacoma is so nice, it’s hard to find a real reason to buy anything bigger. That’s because full-sized trucks just aren’t that much bigger.

The new Tacoma is so clean looking, so solid, so effortless and so practical, it was frankly embarrassing to many of its competitors. The body was as rattle-free as a sedan and the power from the optional 278-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 was intoxicating, in a truck-like sort of way.  The 6-speed automatic tranny and rock solid Toyota four-wheel-drive system handled anything winter could dish out.

Now, a protruding, blacked out grill was the most striking feature on our TRD Pro model.

Inside, it is roomy and in our TRD Pro test vehicle, offers as much seat room as a good-sized car and four big doors in the double cab configuration.

The dash design was a bit fussy, but in a brushed aluminum sort of way, with simple controls and big round gauges and air vents. The drivetrain is virtually silent and the body structure is as though carved from a solid ingot.

This is a great truck, and the options go from base SR to the SR5 to the TRD Sport to the tester we drove, to the Limited luxo-barge to the TRD Pro. Base prices range from just over $24,000 to over $45-large. TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development, though if you say it like a word, the imagery is unfortunate.

The new Toyota Tacoma is a very good truck and should scare the bejabbers out of the competition. Our upscale TRD Pro with every convenience a truck type should want, starts at just about $42, 700 and loaded up came to a hair over $45K. There are some very nice trucks out there these days, foreign and domestic. But, alas everyone, the Toyota is better than most. Sorry I had to be the one to tell you.


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