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.

Trucks Rule Bay Area

July 1st, 2016

2016 GMC Sierra All Terrain SLT

2016 GMC Sierra All Terrain SLT

By Don Armstrong

On paper, all of the new half-ton, light-duty trucks are within an eyelash of each other when it comes to power, capability and price. If you are brand loyal, then you already know which one to buy; if not, we say, “Start shopping with these.”

2015 GMC Sierra SLT Interior front dash view from the rear seatsGMC Sierra
Detroit iron still rules America and one of the sharpest looking is from General Motors – the GMC Sierra SLT 1500 Crew Cab.

Our test truck came with the All-Terrain X Package with Onyx Black Paint and a Jet Black interior that included 18-inch black painted wheels and a black “Sport Bar” – a factory-installed, bed-mounted roll bar. All of which instilled thumbs-up, head nods and parking lot questions from trucker’s young and old.

New for 2016 are projector-beam headlamps and a new grille that is specific to each of the different trim levels available.
A sharp-looking interior adds to the glamour level on our beauty. The well laid-out dash makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, like the GMC Intellilink system with 8-inch touch screen and Apple CarPlay.

Our “Jimmy” featured a 5.3-liter V-8 and the new 8-speed automatic transmission. Numbers tell the story; 355-horsepower that can pull up to 11,000 pounds and gets 15 MPG-city and 21-highway.

Our model’s MSRP was $56,695 with options.

2015_Toyota_TRDPro_Tundra_003Toyota Tundra
Toyota may have its roots in Japan but the Tundra is assembled in San Antonio. With that said, let’s talk about the “other” player in this battle of the big boys.

We were supplied the TRD PRO Crewmax Tundra, a loaded up off-roader that truly looks the part in its military-like “quicksand” livery and black 18-inch wheels. Like the GMC, we received lots of “Atta boy” acknowledgements.

2014TundraLtd011This TRD – which stands for Toyota Racing Development – comes with special dual exhaust, front skid plate, 2.5” Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, and leather trimmed, 10-way, power adjusting, driver seat.

The Tundra boasts a 5.7-liter power plant that is one of the smoothest V-8’s we’ve driven. It gets 13-MPG city and 17-highway. The automatic 4-wheel drive system is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The comfortable, roomy interior features Toyota’s Entune infotainment system that gets a 7-inch center-dash touch screen.

What we really like is Toyota’s packaging of accessories. Our Tundra TRD Pro Crewmax has no add-on’s and starts at $46,255.