I want to confess a personal issue here. No, it’s not that strange night my junior year in college, but it concerns automotive products. I confess to being a bit of a homer. I want products made in the good old US of A for American car companies to do well. Not that I would lie to make them sound good, but deep inside, I want them to kick a little foreign tush every now and then.

And one area we could always count on for some tailgate kicking was in pickup trucks. I mean, come on. Is there anything more American than a small enclosed box with a big open one out back? Having a truck that looks like you could haul Commander Peary’s arctic supplies when all you really haul is potting soil is as patriotic a statement as an Eddie Bauer down vest in the middle of New York City. It doesn’t matter if you need it, for crying out loud. It only matters that you look like you do. And if you honestly do need a tough truck, the products from the land of the free and the home of the 99-cent burger were the choice to make.

But my friends, two weeks after driving a perfectly acceptable, reasonably sophisticated domestic pickup, I was given the all-new Toyota Tacoma for a week. 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.

Inside, it is roomy and in our TRD Off Road 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 $40-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 truck with every convenience a truck type should want, starts at just about $32,000. 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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