Truck Paradise

May 1st, 2019

By Don Armstrong

The midsize truck market is on fire and with two more manufacturers joining the segment, there’s going to be an all-out war. Bay Area Houston Magazine had the chance to drive a couple of contenders and it appears the gloves are coming off.

Toyota Tacoma
Dominating the midsize segment for more than a decade, the Toyota Tacoma is finally feeling the heat from competitors.

The 2020 Tacoma made its appearance at the recent Chicago Auto Show and at first glance, not many changes. But digging a little deeper, Toyota heard owner grumblings and is now offering a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat along with tech goodies that include Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa voice.

There are no changes in the powertrain, you choose from a 4-cylinder – for the not too serious tucker – or the V-6, which we recommend. A 6-speed transmission, manual or automatic, is available, depending on the trim level you select, of which there are no fewer than 6.

The Toyota Tacoma has earned a great reputation so to pick the nits would be silly, and with a “Built in Texas” sticker on the window, what Bay Area Texan wouldn’t be proud to own one.

2019 pricing starts at $25,550. The 2020 won’t be available until the last quarter of this year.

Ford Ranger
It’s back and looking better than ever, albeit much larger than the old one, last built in 2011.

The 2019 Ford Ranger is all-new, kind of. Think of it as the Americanized version of the Australian Ranger, a very capable midsize built since 2015.

If you’re a Ford fanatic, the new Ranger might check all the boxes on your wish list including the ability to fit in the garage.

The Ranger’s shape is modern and attractive including its hexagonal grille. And, depending on the trim level you choose, a nice set of factory wheels that strike a chord with your design tastes are readily available.

There is only one engine assigned to it, the 2.3-liter turbocharged, inline 4-cylinder that delivers 270-horsepower. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. We averaged almost 23-MPG during our 400-mile test week.

Who would have ever thought a little 4-banger would be up to towing 7,500-lbs and hauling 1,860-lbs.? That’s impressive.

Pricing starts at $24,300, add a few extras and it will run you closer to $40,000.

Summer Ready: Toyota Tacoma & GMC Canyon

April 1st, 2018

By Don Armstrong

Trucks are all the rage. They move the kid’s dorm furnishings, go camping and make hauling a load of mulch a breeze, all while whisking the kids to soccer, baseball or softball. In this months review we focus on a couple of hot mid-size offerings.

Toyota Tacoma
You see them everywhere, and for a reason. The Toyota Tacoma not only looks good but has built a reputation for dependability. And with no fewer than 30 variations, how could you not find one that checks off every box on your want list?

The latest edition of the Tacoma was completely redesigned 3-years ago. 2018 updates include a revised grille and a new enhancement called Toyota Safety Sense P. This feature packages a pre-collision system with lane departure alert and sway warning, among others, that place the Tacoma ahead of the pack in safety.

A 4-cylinder engine is available, but we recommend the 3.5-liter V-6 and 6-speed automatic transmission. This combo increases the towing capability, gives you more oomph wherever you need it and power for passing.

Whether you are an off-road enthusiast or not, you’ll love the TRD Pro edition. This bad boy includes bigger springs, a 1-inch taller stance, Fox shocks, hefty skid plate and fog lights, among others, to enhance the Tacoma’s capability.

Entry level Toyota Tacoma pricing starts at $25,130.

2018 GMC Canyon Denali​

GMC Canyon
The GMC Canyon and its Chevy twin, Colorado, are the latest entries in the mid-size truck segment. But parent company General Motors has taken a “less is more” approach with packages and options. We count two beds and two cab configurations along with six trim levels. Like the Toyota, GMC offers a 4-cylinder and V-6, but for those that want to maximize capability there is even a diesel option, a 2.4-liter I-4 that can tow up to 7,700-pounds and get up to 30 MPG-highway.

The Canyon is offered in an off-road-inspired All Terrain package that includes the Z71 suspension, automatic locking rear differential and standard transfer case skid plate but if you want to step up to the TRD Pro level, you’ll have to head to the aftermarket.
As you would expect, the Denali version gets premium appointments.

GMC has one of the better performing infotainment systems on the market so whatever trim-level you decide on, get the 8-inch screen with all the bells and whistles.

Pricing starts at $22,095.

Hot selling mid-size segment surprises manufacturers

December 1st, 2015

Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma

By Don Armstrong

When mid-size truck sales all but dried up a few years back, most left it for dead, but with gas prices low, it seems that Bay Area buyers have rediscovered its advantages over full-size models.

Toyota Tacoma
The Tacoma has been one of the few trucks that not only survived the downturn in sales but actually flourished.

The 2016 Tacoma is all-new from the ground up starting with a larger, taller grille and headlights that are much smaller in size and positioned at the top of the fenders. You’ll also notice more modern taillights and a lockable tailgate.

Interior of the 2016 Tacoma.

Interior of the 2016 Tacoma.

This new Tacoma features an interior that exudes a real sport truck feel. A large, mid-dash rectangular pod contains an easy-to-use touch screen with radio controls. Below it are the climate controls.

There are two engines available; a 4-cylinder with 159 horsepower and a 3.5-liter V-6 with 278-horses. Both get similar mileage; 19-city and 24-highway when mated to the 6-speed automatic transmission. Get the V-6, it’s a perfect match.

On-road ride quality improves and so does off-road ability when equipped with the TRD off-road package. You’ll also find a much quieter cabin than before thanks to an acoustic windshield and more sound deadening materials.

Other trim levels include the base SR, SR5, TRD Sport and Limited.

Pricing starts at $25,385

2016 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel

2016 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel

GMC Canyon
All-new last year are the twin, mid-size entries from General Motors, the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado.

These trucks are identical under the skin. Brand specific wheels, front and rear fascias and some interior bits define the two models.

The GMC boasts a more aggressive grille opening with high mounted, projector-beam headlamps. Wheel well openings are carved into big-shouldered fender flares. The rear tailgate features a torsion bar enhancement to help ease it open and close.

Comfort is enhanced with technologies, connectivity and other features that support owners’ daily and recreational lives, including a 3.5-inch-diagonal driver information screen in the instrument cluster.
The big news for 2016 is the available 2.8-liter, 4-cylinder, Duramax Diesel engine that generates 181-horsepower and 369-lb.-ft. of torque, giving the Canyon enough grunt to tow 7,700 pounds – 700 more than the gasoline V-6.

There are 3 trim levels available; the base, SLE and SLT in either 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive. Choose from extended or crew cab and short or long bed.

Pricing starts at $20,955 for the extended cab model.