On Christmas Eve, our 11-year-old son had only one request.
"Daddy, can we please, please, please take the Tacoma to church?" he begged, using his most plaintive Tiny Tim voice.
There's just something about Toyota's midsize truck that makes it nearly irresistible to young males. Maybe it's because it looks muscled and macho — as if it were designed by Tonka.
Whatever the reason, it is the default "wish-list" vehicle for teenage boys looking for their first rides. Parents hoping to grant these desires will find themselves on the wrong side of one of the Tacoma's main virtues: its lofty resale value.
Buyers hoping to scoop up a three-year-old Tacoma for about half the price of a new one are in for a rude surprise. Kelley Blue Book reports that for the last three years the Tacoma has topped its resale value list. A three-year-old Tacoma holds about 72 percent of its original value; after five years it still commands 58 percent of its sticker price.
-Model: 2018 Toyota Tacoma Limited 4X4
-Exterior color: Quicksand
-Interior color: Black and brown
-Engine: 3.5-liter, V-6
-Transmission: six-speed automatic
-Fuel economy: 23 mpg highway, 18 mpg city
-Local Dealer: Capital Toyota on Lee Highway, Toyota of Cleveland
-Price (as tested): $42,252
Now, if you are in the market for a new, midsize truck, those numbers should be music to your ears. You can buy a new Tacoma, keep it for a few years, and trade it in for a new one without blowing your budget. If more people considered this "total cost of ownership" formula instead of just looking at the retail price, they would make more prudent buying decisions.
But even if adolescent hormones or financial planning are not your motivation for looking at a new Tacoma, there are still plenty of reasons to have it on your test-drive list.
Redesigned in 2016, the Tacoma is a functional, durable pick-up truck with a five-star safety rating. In certain configurations (notably the TRD Pro model), it is probably the best off-roader in the segment.
Our manufacturer-provided tester is a Limited trim model — in four-wheel-drive, double-cab configuration — with an MSRP of $42,252. Using the Kelley Blue Book formula, it should still be worth over $30,000 three years from now. Pricing starts at $25,200 for a base SR model.
Tacomas are available locally at Capital Toyota on Lee Highway and Toyota of Cleveland, off I-75 Exit 20.
STYLING AND FEATURES
A 2016 redesign brought more muscular sheet metal and a more rigid chassis to the Tacoma. A hexagonal grille is conservative by today's truck standards. A body-colored skid-plate hints at the truck's off-roading chops.
Our tester shows off Toyota's attractive Quicksand color, a hue that falls between beige and light brown and looks particularly handsome on the truck. Eighteen-inch polished alloy wheels are a nice design accent.
Equipped with a five-foot bed, our tester has a five-passenger, double-cab arrangement and is fully functional as a family vehicle. The back seats are more snug than some in the midsize segment — the Honda Ridgeline's roomier second row comes to mind — but should prove adequate for most needs.
Standard equipment on the Limited includes Toyota's excellent safety-tech bundle with back-up camera, blind-spot monitor and rear, cross-traffic alert. Leather-trimmed seats, a power moonroof and Toyota's Entune infotainment systems are included in Limited trim models such as our tester.
Options include a $650 tonneau cover, a $120 bed mat, $208 carpeted floor mats and a $799 performance exhaust package.
Our tester is equipped with a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that makes 278 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A 2.7-liter, 159 horsepower engine is available on some lower trims.
The V-6 engine is smooth and capable. Equipped with a $650 tow package, the Tacoma can pull up to 6,400 pounds.
Cabin noise was a little more pronounced than we expected, but the over-all driving experience is composed and comfortable. The Tacoma is much easier to drive and park than larger, full-size trucks that hog the road.
We recommend the V-6 option with on-demand four-wheel-drive if you can swing it. (Remember that sterling re-sale value.)
The Tacoma is a best-selling truck for a reason. Its combination of rugged styling, legendary durability and top re-sale value is a hard list of virtues to beat. And when you are ready to sell there will be a line of teen-age boys outside your door willing to buy.
And, yes, our son was driven to church in the Tacoma!
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.