2007 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD Sport – Night Raid to Jackson, Wyoming
After owning a Toyota Tacoma for a few months and racking up a few thousand miles around suburbia it was time for a real test; a road trip! So, with sleeping bags, fishing gear, bicycles, five gallons of water, maps of the West, 21 gallons of 91 octane, a fresh oil change, new oil filter and some personal effects, we set out to gobble up some pavement and go see the West… the Grand Tetons, maybe even some Buffalo.
The fourth longest north-south transcontinental Interstate highway in the U.S. lay ahead of us as I looked over at my co-pilot wondering if we had forgotten anything… Our trip would take us up Interstate 15 from Southern California, through Las Vegas and into Salt Lake City Utah, turning right at Idaho down Route 89 and eventually dropping us into Jackson, Wyoming. This trip would take us from 9 feet to around 8,000 feet in elevation and change our definition of rush hour traffic, from Plymouths to Pronghorn Antelope (who can do 0-60 faster than the Plymouth, but top out just over 60mph as the second-fastest land animal).
The plan was to leave Southern California late at night, for two reasons. First, the traffic would have subsided and second, the temperatures going through the desert would be much lower, both of which reduce the chances of negative effects on the vehicle and its occupants. Leaving Southern California at 10:17PM we headed out I-15 with the temperature a stable 87 degrees.
Through the Desert
Cruising around 65 to 70mph the tachometer never broke 2K. We stopped for a late dinner, our last IN-N-OUT burger for a while, in Barstow California and headed through Death Valley around 1:20AM where the temperature was 101 degrees Fahrenheit (That’s right, in the middle of the night!). Driving through Las Vegas at 3AM, truly a town that never sleeps, they had left all the lights on for us and the freeway still had some light traffic.
Tacoma Fuel Economy
Around town in southern California the Tacoma pulled in pretty respectable fuel economy numbers. After each fill up we would crunch the numbers (17.3/17.5/17.25mpg) but I wasn’t too sure about how it would perform out on the open road without stop signs, signalized intersections, or cell phone users.
Filling up with 91 octane in Las Vegas we found that we were pulling better than expected fuel economy numbers with 22.15mpg. We had been taking it pretty easy but we were really expecting the highway mileage to be closer to 20mpg. The Tacoma is a 4X4 with a 4.0L V6 and we were filled to the gills with gear. The original window sticker had noted 17 city 21 highway. But we really thought those things lied…
The Tacoma’s ride was very smooth, especially with a few hundred pounds now in the bed. It soaked up bumps and potholes pretty well, better than most compact/mid-size pickups we’ve driven, but full size trucks would probably have the Tacoma beat. The last GMT 900 full-size pickup (2007 GMC Sierra) we evaluated at AutoPacific felt more solid with a collected response to imperfections in the roadway. That could be a number of factors from the vehicles weight to its suspension geometry.
It’s not just people driving minivans anymore. People towing trailers, private citizens, are doing 80mph without batting an eye! People with boats, RVs/Motorhomes, and trailers are definitely not slowing down out there. The average speed was probably about 75 for most people.
Utah Welcomes You
After a brief stint through Arizona and past the towering cliffs of Zion National Park, through Cedar City, Utah but before the sprawling city of Salt Lake the drive was peaceful. It was very serene … There was very little traffic, various mountain ranges, and a beautiful skyline. The terrain changed colors often; from red and white topography to green with dark mountain ranges while farmers fields would sometimes highlight the landscape.
Although it was beautiful, it isn’t until you get past Salt Lake City and turn right onto Route 89 that you start to feel as though you are really on vacation. Route 89 turns into a two-lane highway (ONLY one lane in each direction!) and etches its way through the mountains until you circumnavigate Bear Lake, which straddles the Utah/Idaho state line. Bear Lake Valley’s lowest elevation is 5900 feet. Getting into and out of Bear Lake Valley is no easy feat. It is surrounded by mountain ranges and grades through the passes are around 8%. Some motorists found themselves trapped behind RVs and Huge Tractor Trailers for miles, slowly creeping up the grade and around the mountains. Vehicles that had overheated from the steep prolonged climb up the mountain would sometimes be found off to the side of the roadway. I kept looking down at our temp gauge, but it hadn’t moved…
Through the Mountains and Over the Hill
Driving up through these mountain passes is when I really started to notice the Tacoma’s VVT-I and ETCS-i. Charging up these grades, because the Electronic Throttle Control System (with Intelligence) helps optimize fuel economy, we were still in 5th gear at 2K RPM (but the RPMs were dropping). It would take the Tacoma a little longer than I would have liked to figure out it should downshift and stay in 4th. By that time we were around 50mph at 1200RPM. Our solution was to manually drop the truck into 4th and keep it there until we crested the top of each mountain range.
Although there are alternate routes into Jackson, Route 89 is the rational choice. It is scenic and passes through National Forests while at times paralleling the Snake River. It is the highway that took us through the steep mountain passes from Bear Lake and then down into Jackson Wyoming, Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park and eventually Yellowstone. It was early morning as we entered Wyoming.
On Route 89 between 3AM and 5AM we noticed at least a dozen deer, a coyote and what we believed to be a porcupine. At times 35mph was the norm as we passed deer literally inches from the roadway… and where there was one, there was bound to be another.
Pulling into Jackson, Wyoming the Toyota Tacoma was spattered with bugs, moths, butterflies, and bees. The best investment of the trip had to be the ‘Colgan Custom’ Bra (or ‘Mask’ for some of you). It prevented road rash (from rock chips / flying debris) while either detouring insects with the built in ‘air foils’ or catching them in the mesh netting protecting the front fog lights, grille and radiator.
While in Jackson, what did we do? Well, being self-proclaimed ‘car enthusiasts’ we checked out every vehicle that drove through town. We noticed every truck in Wyoming was four-wheel-drive, while about 90% of the cars were 4WD. The pickup truck demographics were all over the chart; boy’s, girl’s, grandmothers, pig farmers, you name it. Within the first two hours of being in town we saw eleven Audi allroads, a bunch of Subaru’s and an Isuzu Vehicross. Bottom line, four-wheel-drive is a must. These vehicles were needed for the below freezing temperatures Wyoming encounters more than six months out of the year. It just so happens we were there just in time for the one month out of the year the weather is nice (end of July/early August).
Yellowstone National Park
After lunch it was up to Colter Bay along the base of the Grand Tetons, crossing the continental divide (or Great divide) and then into Yellowstone. We took the 100-mile loop counter clock-wise past geyser basins, hot springs and mud pots, stopping at Lower Falls for a rest stop and then on to Old Faithful. Along the roadway were herds of Buffalo and even some Elk.
Yellowstone National Park was the centerpiece of our journey, considered to be the largest and finest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 States. From bison, black bear and mountain lions to elk, moose (if you see multiple, my co-pilot calls them Meese) and bald eagles. Pulling off at the Old Faithful exit we took in the typical tourist sights, sounds and pungent sulfur smell. They said that the smell is actually from trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas that rise up through cracks in the earths crust from buried magma in the Yellowstone area.
A Grocery Getter May be All I Need?
Any self-respecting cowboy in Wyoming would probably tell you that the Toyota Tacoma is really just a ‘grocery getter’ and the only reason they let us leave town alive was the fact that the truck was a real 4X4. But the Tacoma really fit our needs on this trip. The cubby holes in the bed helped store trashbags and tie downs, while the rear bench seat in the Double Cab allowed for a place where weary drivers could rest. The ride was smooth enough and the interior cabin quiet enough that passengers could sleep. The deck rail system allowed for the precise placement of ‘cleats’ where tie downs could be cinched down. On a few dirt and gravel roads there was no loss of traction (thanks in part to the Limited Slip Differential), while the AC blew strong and cold as the engine temperature gauge remained stable.
So Why a Tacoma?
Living in an urban environment and needing the most versatility in a commuter package the Toyota Tacoma appealed to me. The Tacoma over the Tundra due to size, a Double Cab so that four full-size adults (not jockeys) can go for a drive, the long bed to transport bicycles, surfboards, auto parts, or deliver four bales of hay and the 4X4 just in case we ran into trouble.
Why not a Frontier?
I considered a Nissan Frontier, noticing the iPOD jack, fully boxed frame, four-wheel disc brakes, available power leather heated seats and sun roof; none of which are offered on the Tacoma. Some prospective buyers may in fact turn down the Tacoma due to the lack of options as it retains a somewhat premium price. But, it was the PERCEIVED quality that brought me back to the Tacoma. I sure wish that Toyota would build a few Tacomas with power leather heated seats and an iPOD jack but I think they know they don’t have to.
Fifty Years… and Counting
Toyota knows their reputation and understands the dynamic between their fixed expenditures, variable costs and overall complexity. They practically wrote the book on efficiency and their shallow gene pool reflects it. They don’t have to spend the extra money tooling up for sun roofs, power leather heated seats, or any other option that may only boost their sales another 2% and their engineers can focus on less. They are at the top of their game and they realize how strongly prospective buyers feel about quality, durability and reliability. Those traits trump options like iPOD connectivity and power seats every time. For some it even trumps better engineering (e.g. Frontiers Four-wheel disc brakes, fully boxed frame, 261 horsepower @5600RPM vs. Tacoma’s 236 HP @5200 RPM).
Which ever vehicle you choose, the bottom line is that you’re pleased with your decision. I hope you are happy with yours…
– All 2005-2007 Toyota Tacoma Double Cabs use the 4.0L DOHC V6 (w/ VVT-I) which turns over 236 horses and 266 lb-ft. of torque.
– All Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runners are two wheel drive.
– Toyota Tacoma’s have been around since 1964. They are known the world over, typically as a Toyota Hilux.
– Today, the Tacoma accounts for about 10% of Toyota sales here in the U.S.
– Smooth ride / Suspension and drivetrain
– Oil Filter placement (Although not everyone changes their own oil. Having the filter placed at the top of the engine for those that do really brings a smile to my face… ahhh)
– Quality interior build materials
– 115 volt / 400 watt built in power converter in the bed (w/ TRD pkg.)
– SMC bed (Sheet Molded Composite) – Some people will still prefer a steel bed. Especially people who really use their bed for heavy equipment, supplies, etc. We liked the lower weight, no rust, easy clean up of the SMC and it seems to suit the Tacoma. This is NOT a bed liner, it bolts directly to the frame.
– Exterior Temperature Gauge
– Hood scoop (although not functional it really adds a bold, aggressive character to the otherwise dimensionally boring hood.)
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:
– Cost reduced Carpet
– No iPOD connectivity / Aux. Plug ($100. + time to rectify)
– ETCS-I (Electronic Throttle Control System with Intelligence) seems to think it’s smarter than it really is? It communicates with the Tranny and when I’m going up a steep grade I would prefer to stay in 4th instead of having the transmission hunt for gears now and again. Dogh! Don’t drop the RPMs until I’ve crested the grade.
– The turning radius on a Double Cab Long Bed Tacoma sometimes requires a Reverse gear.
– Interior Door Panel arm rest material… this cloth material is probably more at home in an Avalon and NOT at work truck.
Awesome review! So you got a new Tacoma? I was looking into getting one. One question…I noticed you used 91 octane and I’ve read that this truck requires premium. Is that true or can it run on regular grade fuel?
Posted by: Kenneth | January 1, 2008 01:49 PM
Response by Keagan:
Thanks Kenneth! In response to your question, the 2007 and newer Toyota Tacoma’s “recommend” premium fuel, but it is not required. There is a difference. You could use a lower octane fuel. We chose to use 91 octane because we were fully loaded and going up steep mountain ranges and didn’t want to experience any ‘pinging’ coming from the engine. Premium fuel tends to alleviate that issue.
Do you think the shocks/suspension on the double cab is a little mushy? I’m thinking about boosting it.
Posted by: Mac | September 29, 2007 10:37 AM
Response by Keagan:
Hi Mac. I do think the shocks/suspension on the Double Cab are a little mushy. There is a difference however between the TRD ‘Sport’ Package and TRD “Off-Road” package suspension. You could solve this ‘mushy suspension’ issue by changing out t he coil-overs in the front or the leaf springs in the back. When you go to ‘boost’ or lift your truck you can do any number of things to stiffen the ride (consult your off-road shop or fabricator). Depending upon how high you’re ‘boosting’ your truck, you may decide to put larger wheels and tires on it. Depending upon the size of those wheels and tires you may want to think about larger rotors and calipers because you’ll have greater rolling mass (with larger wheels and larger heavier tires) and now your brakes may feel a little mushy…