I've got a '00 Jeep TJ with a 4" lift and 33's that I really enjoy. Of course it's not very practical when it comes to hauling much more than a couple of people and very little extra gear. I understand that a properly set up a Taco should keep up with a TJ quite nicely in the trails we have here in Colorado, so I'm beginning to look around.
I know Toyota has a great reputation for reliability but honestly neither of my Jeeps has ever given me a moment of trouble.
I know I want the V6 over the 4 cyl.
Ambivalent on stick vs auto - unless the auto is short-lived like some others are known to be.
Both the auto and manual transmission in the older gen tacomas have great reputations.
I'm living w/ my gas mileage now just fine - so if it gets better w/ a Taco then that's just gravy as far as I'm concerned, but don't want to go backwards.
Expect a extracab tacoma with stock tires and gearing, with the v6 to get anywhere from 17-20 mpg.
I do not want the 4dr. - personally just don't care for the look nor the shortened bed. But not the standard cab either - the access cab is just fine. Best would be if there's half-door like on my buddy's Tundra, but that's not a deal-killer.
Tacomas don't come with a suicide door like on the tundras, the only option for an additional door is the 4-door.
I prefer the body style pre-05, but not sure what changed year-to-year in that time. Currently looking at '00 - '04's but if the late 90's are still the same may go that route and put the cost difference into the lift/tires.
The tacoma name started in 95.5 year, and the grills changed in 95.5, 98, 2000. Watch out for some early 3.4L as they had head gasket problems, many of which were fixed through a TSB Toyota put out (years affected 95.5-97, 3.4L tacomas)
If the standard bed is 6', I may opt for the long bed - but they seem to be hard to find. I need to be able to haul up to a single motorcycle without the rear tire being supported by the tailgate.
The only size beds you can get depend on the body style in the older tacomas. The extracabs and standard cabs only come with a 6' bed. The 4-door tacomas (pre-2005) only come with a 5.5' bed. You will most likely won't be able to fit a motorcycle in the bed with the tailgate up, unless you have a really short bike.
It looks like it's worthwhile to hold out for a TRD if only for the locker.
Me personally says that if you are planning on taking it offroad, then yes wait for a TRD with the locker. If you are going to be doing some hardcore crawling, probably pickup a non-locked tacoma, as the diff is stronger (8.4" vs 8" rear).
Even with it's short wheelbase, my TJ has been able to get around very well on snowy roads regardless of how much we've had (and need some now!). My experience with pickups is that they're very light in the rear unless you add sandbags so they tend to be squirrely in snow - so how does the Taco do on the road in the snow?
Both of the tacomas I have owned have done great in the snow, I have had in both trucks an over the rails toolbox loaded with about 100# of stuff, which probably helped.
I know it's no land yacht, but how comfortable is the Taco on road trips? -- regional, not cross-country type. I might as well not answer the phone in my TJ and road trip can wear you out.
Don't plan on having anyone in the back seat for an extended period of time in and extracab. The double cabs are pretty comfy in the back (for a mid-size pickup), I must say.
Does the 3.4L have enough guts to load the bed w/ gear and still pull a motorcycle trailer with three bikes w/o lugging it in the mountains?
Yes. And I say that if one knows how to utilize it's powerband. On hills, if you keep a heavy load at 3400-3600 RPMS it will pull nicely. Just don't lug the engine with low RPM's when pulling, not only is it bad for the engine, it won't produce the power needed.
Is the Tundra so much bigger that it won't follow a Taco offroad?
Depends on the trail and the tundra you are talking about. The older gen tundras, are about the same size as the new tacomas. The new tundras, good luck getting one past a trailhead.
Thanks Guys! Please feel free to correct any misconceptions, opine on these and other considerations I may have missed.