Home » Why Toyota Is Building Tacomas With ‘Fake’ Rear Doors

Why Toyota Is Building Tacomas With ‘Fake’ Rear Doors

Toyota Tacoma Doors Ts1
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See the truck in the image above? Its rear doors aren’t actually doors. That’s right, the Access Cab Toyota Tacoma, which followed the same formula of extended cabs that have existed for decades — that formula being that the front doors open normally, and the shortened rear doors hinge from the rear like suicide doors — is dead. And replacing it is a lookalike with not only no rear doors, but also no rear seats. It’s bizarre, but I spoke with the Tacoma’s Chief Engineer Sheldon Brown, and he explained his company’s rationale.

In the automotive world, there are two types of engineers who show up to media days: Those who have strict “messaging” guidelines from which they refuse to deviate, and those far too nerdy to stick to those guidelines. I recall being at the Ford Mustang Mach-E’s launch event, and when I asked basic questions like the battery cell geometry, Ford engineers literally told me “sorry, that’s not part of our messaging.” Weird stuff. Meanwhile, at the Porsche Taycan’s technical showcase in Atlanta, and the VW MEB electric platform’s in Germany, engineers were willing to tell me the real story, or at least what felt like the real story.

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And the real story means compromise. That’s what engineering is. Anytime an engineer tells you that every decision improved the product, you know they’re bullshitting you. The true development story behind a vehicle involves sacrificing some things to make improvements to other things. So yes, that means you have to admit you sacrificed some things, which can be a challenge for some automakers. But again, that’s literally how engineering works.

That’s what I like about VW and Porsche engineers; they’re often nerds who will just tell you “Yeah, we had to sacrifice X in order to improve Y.” That’s also why I’m a fan of Sheldon Brown from Toyota (and his predecessor, Mike Sweers); while, like all engineers at media events, I’m sure he had some messaging guidelines, and of course he had to slant most things in a positive way (I’m not convinced that bolts are the right fastener for an air dam that’s meant to be easily removed), he comes off as a nerd who’s just gonna tell you how the truck was engineered, compromises and all.

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That hideous air dam at the front of the truck? Did he pretend that it looked good? Hell no, he admitted that he wasn’t a fan. I know some automakers who would have a fit if one of its team members said that on the record. I respect it. When I asked about why the new truck’s leaf springs are so low to the ground, he readily admitted that the chassis had been built with coil springs in mind, and that they had to adapt it to make the leaf springs work — leaf springs that were primarily offered as a low-cost option for consumers. There was no pretending that it was perfect: It was a compromise to make two different suspensions work with he same frame. When I asked about why the manual transmission’s redline was so low, he told me there were some noise and vibration issues, and lowering the redline was basically the easiest way to fix them.

It was the same thing with this new XtraCab truck. It’s there to be cheap, and the rear doors don’t open in order to save Toyota (and the customer, theoretically) money, as it takes quite a few resources to develop rear-hinged doors that meet American safety requirements.

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“We noticed that as the market continued to grow, all the expansion was happening in the double cab…we took a specific look at our customers who were still buying the access cab, and most of them were buying them with rear seat delete — more than 50 percent,” Brown told me. “So we recognized that, hmm, our customers aren’t necessarily hauling people, they’re hauling goods and tools and things they need in their everyday life.”

So, in order to still offer a cheap Tacoma, the team brought back leaf springs, and began looking at building a regular cab long-bed (well, 6-foot bed) truck, but decided to add a bit more storage.

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“Candidly as we see regulations increase … side impact becomes increasingly difficult to meet … so we did look at the rear hinge door. Of course we lose all the structure of the B-Pillar … which means we need to really truly reinforce the upper structure of the roof and the rocker panel, which meant that we were going to have to carry the structure across all of our frames in terms of not just the access cab but our double-cabs as well,” he told me, saying there are some common structural bits across all Tacomas, and forcing that added weight into the higher-volume Double-Cab didn’t make a ton of sense to his team. (Note: I think he probably meant “body” and not “frames,” there).

He said getting an Access cab to pass side-impact safety tests meant beefing up doors, hinges, and latches. “As a result of that we were adding a lot of cost and a lot of mass to the overall cabin,” he told me. “So we thought OK, let’s go back to a [regular] cab and maybe we can offer that as a value proposition.” Toyota refers to a regular cab as a “B-Cab.”

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Instead, they came up with what you see here — a vehicle that looks a lot like the old Access Cab.

“Our development theme was B-Max. Basically think of it like a B-cab [regular cab] … but basically extend this area and utilize it for … functional storage.” So that’s what Toyota has built; if you think of it as an access cab, you will be sorely disappointed. The rear “doors” don’t open, and there are no seats. But if you think of it as a regular cab, you’ll either A. Be delighted by the additional storage or B. Hate the fact that you lose the regular cab look and you still don’t get rear seats.

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In any case, that’s what Toyota has done, here — basically offered an extended regular cab. And Brown readily admits that there are compromises. “As you can see … that rear area … becomes increasingly less efficient in terms of getting people in and out,” hence why the team didn’t bother with rear seats. Even in terms of getting stuff into and out of the rear area, not having doors is a bummer, and Brown told me straight up: “We’re giving up some functionality when you don’t have the door.”

Still, he showed me how one would get larger things in the back — basically, you just fold the front seats forward like you would on a coupe:

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In the rear, there are actually some clever storage areas. In fact, that’s the one thing about this “B-Max” or “XtraCab” that I quite like: cubbies. Lots of them. There’s a big one at the very rear of the cab — one that I call the “shotgun storage bin.” Check it out:

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See the silver handle at the top? It stretches all the way across the truck, and is similar to a mechanic’s tool-box drawer handle, even featuring a lock:

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Check out the room inside, including a pegboard so you can create your own custom rack:

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Also back there on the floor are two bins:

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The one on the driver’s side is a rather large and could easily fit a small backpack or laptop:

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The passenger’s side bin has a car jack in it, but still has a bit of room for some stuff:

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Off to the left of that bin is a little storage cubby at the base of the gigantic B-pillar-that-looks-like-a-door:

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There’s a similar bin on the other side:

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Up front, the passenger’s seat folds completely flat, and features rather strong tie-downs. I was surprised by how little slop there is once the seatback is folded down — it is a firm place to tie things down:

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In addition, there are all the other storage bins found in every new Taco. There’s the one below the passenger’s side airbag, just above the glovebox:

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There are the cubbies on the center tunnel, including the deep slot to the right of the shifter, the phone-holder ahead of the shifter, and the cupholder behind the shifter:

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There’s another cupholder behind the center console, whose cubby under the armrest isn’t particularly large or deep:

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There’s this little cube-shaped hole to the right of the steering column for your … caramels, I guess:

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And there are the door pockets:

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I also noted this storage … thing on the driver’s side, though I can’t remember what it’s for:

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“Most of our competitors have gotten rid of this altogether,” Brown told me in reference to a cab configuration that isn’t a crew cab. And he’s right. The new Chevrolet Colorado is only offered with a Crew Cab, short box. The new Ford Ranger? Only offered with a Crew cab. Same thing with the Jeep Gladiator.

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Image: Nissan

Of course, there is still the Nissan Frontier holding it down for extended-cab (or “King Cab”) lovers. There’s no doubt Toyota could have just plunked down the cash and figured the rear door thing out, and on some level, this does seem lazy. But like Sheldon Brown admits, it was a cost thing. With so few folks buying extended cabs, and even fewer using the rear for seating, his team decided it made sense to cheapen the truck as much as possible. It still ain’t cheap at $31,500 plus destination, but that’s about what trucks are going for these days, and the Taco is the one with the best reputation. People will buy it regardless.

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Doug Schaefer
Doug Schaefer
4 months ago

As others pointed out, the dash compartment says accessory ready in morse code. Evidently this was in the press release:

“A hidden side pocket on the driver’s side dashboard has a QR code that directs owners to the Toyota website for dimensions to design and 3D print their own accessories such as a lantern, multitool, or toolkit.”

Space
Space
4 months ago

An optional jumpseat would be good, you never know when you need to shove an additional human back there.

Tsorel
Tsorel
4 months ago

If I was to buy a truck, I would want it to be a truck, not a car. All the comments are about putting stuff behind the seats. Hello?!? You have a truck with a giant storage space behind the cab. I would take a short cab and long bed, I4 or V6 with a manual transmission. I recently saw a Toyota truck commercial where they had their motorcycles… in a trailer. I would be more happy with a Toyota truck from the late 80s.

VanGuy
VanGuy
4 months ago
Reply to  Tsorel

Maybe I’m not the best to offer an opinion here, as a certified van-lover, but I strongly prefer to store things inside a vehicle. At least inside offers some level of climate control, and reduces or eliminates any moisture buildup.
If I had a need for a pickup, I would definitely appreciate interior storage capacity. I think this is a decent compromise situation, but my ideas for use cases likely differ from yours.

Xaaronx
Xaaronx
4 months ago
Reply to  Tsorel

I would take a short cab and long bed

Would you accept a short skirt and long jacket?

Jerry Thomas
Jerry Thomas
4 months ago

Sheldon Brown, named after the Raleigh Master

Xaaronx
Xaaronx
4 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Thomas

The patron saint of cycling.

NoiseVibrationHastiness
NoiseVibrationHastiness
4 months ago

That little side cover for the dash panel says “ACCESSORY READY” in morse code!

Rubbit
Rubbit
4 months ago

So, delete the seats because your tools need to fit there? What about the cave in the back? Why’s that empty? Maybe a tool box across like I see for work trucks. The problem is that if you don’t have a toolbox out back, which kills half the bed space, you put groceries, tools and crap in the back seat, but now it’s a pain in the ass as you can’t even reach in properly by opening a half door. The ladies at the grocery store are going to have a field trying to reach up and in across that leaning seat!

The reason trucks are not as cheap as they need to be for someone using it as intended is because they’ve turned them into a Rolls Royce, then you need a “refined” ride, at which point the thing is too cool to work with. So yeah, life is full of compromises and they’ve tried to make Trucks do things not meant for.

Dan Leithauser
Dan Leithauser
4 months ago

I owned a 1997 xtra cab Tacoma and now a 2021 access cab TRD OffRoad Tacoma. There were two reasons I wanted this configuration. A six foot bed fits an easily removed cot for quick camping trips and this particular configuration has a body length that fits in my garage. Sheldon, in another video, claimed that this sizing was important to maintain as Tacoma owners expressed as much in focus groups. Fair enough.

When I purchased the 2021 access cab it was for those side doors and improved access in addition to 20 years of updates to the model. Taking the easy access with a door is a back to the past move. Toyota also has a fan base that includes over landers. Those people also find utility in a 6 foot bed and easily accessible storage behind the passenger seats. They put a refrigerator in that spot. To say nothing of pet owners who also like that previously accessible space in the cab.

Even if I wanted an xtra cab, Toyota is not offering it on the upper trim models, notably 4×4 Sport and OffRoad models. Some would say buy the 4 door with a six foot bed. That will not fit in my garage!

Fruit Snack
Fruit Snack
4 months ago

There are no fake doors here, and it doesn’t even look like there would be. Extended cabs came like this for decades.

I don’t blame them for going back to this. Seeing side impacted king cab Frontiers would make you never want get into one of those with rear doorlets.

Last edited 4 months ago by Fruit Snack
ExParrot
ExParrot
4 months ago

I really like this concept for midsize truck segment, the short wheelbase is maintained while getting a more capable bed. The “back seats” in the access cab were anything but conducive to human occupancy – as someone who’s been crammed back there as a child and college student, and then later on crammed the subsequent generation.

I would love to see a front bench option here though as a three seater.

VanGuy
VanGuy
4 months ago
Reply to  ExParrot

Serious question, are there any vehicles in the U.S. still offered with a front bench seat?

It has to be nigh impossible to make a front middle seat meet crash standards.

But I do know some U-Hauls brag about having 3 seats, right?

ExParrot
ExParrot
4 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Half ton trucks can still be had with a front bench, and I think base Tahoe and Suburban. I have a bench in my 15 F150, now with working paddleshifters too lol.

Mr E
Mr E
4 months ago

I’m assuming they didn’t offer larger doors on this model for greater ease of access to the rear storage since the door design is shared with the larger cab style?

Ben
Ben
4 months ago

The back seats in an extended cab mid-size are basically unusable for anything but cargo anyway (hence the high take rate of the seat delete option), so getting rid of them makes sense.

Getting rid of the doors that allow access to the cargo you stow in back is…less good. I drove a coupe for quite a few years and one of the things I did not miss when I moved to a four door was reaching over the front seats to get at stuff I put in the back. It’ll be interesting to see how this does (although given that the Tacoma market is completely irrational, I expect 90% of the ones they sell to be this spec 😉 ).

Saul Springmind
Saul Springmind
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben

That’s my take as well. The rear seat cushions are never actually in my extended cab midsize truck (Ranger 5g) unless I need to haul around another butt or two, but I like the option in a pinch. I wouldn’t trade away the opening rear doors though, they’re too nice for accessing whatever isn’t a butt that I put back there.

Ian Marvin
Ian Marvin
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben

I looked at all that storage and visualised the twisting of my body required to actually use it. That and as soon as you just dump something there you can’t open the locker doors.

RustBucket67
RustBucket67
4 months ago

to knit-pick (because that’s what the comments sections are for)

implying that there are “fake doors” is misleading. there are no seams, no places for the panels to open, etc.

it’s just sheet metal and structure. it’s all welded together. the Access Cab comparison is more accurate.

I had a ’03 ranger access cab. I really didn’t like having a rear door. I would’ve loved to have even one. and since the seats were manual, I only loaded things from the passenger side in order to avoid moving the driver’s seat. hopefully the taco has a “seat memory” function for the driver’s seat. mechanical or electrical

Saul Springmind
Saul Springmind
4 months ago
Reply to  RustBucket67

I had an 01 ranger with no rear doors and greatly prefer having them in my current truck!

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
4 months ago

I love having rear doors on my 2009 Ford Ranger extended cab, that means I can put groceries in easily, my gym bag, laptop, etc this toyota solution feels like driving a 2 door coupe.

David Dallas
David Dallas
4 months ago

I don’t understand why you would call the cab as having fake doors. What alternative exterior design would there be for an extended cab with no rear entry doors?

BunkyTheMelon
BunkyTheMelon
4 months ago

I did not realize that “extended cabs” were a new thing that needed to be explained.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/automotocycle/48613457522

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
4 months ago
Reply to  BunkyTheMelon

Exactly. This article describes all of the extended cab pickup trucks from the 70s up until the 90s when they all started making the rear of the extended cab now have a rear hinged door. These types of extended cabs were everywhere when I was in high school.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
4 months ago

Ehh, Ford didn’t have back doors til 97/98, Chevy 96, Dodge 98 or so.

Anybody over about 30 should know that extended cab with doors were fine, and this will be fine too.

That being said it’s not as good as it could be and that’s wack.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
4 months ago

Yeah that lack of access to the rear is a deal breaker, once you have an opening door you aren’t going back. Maybe if they did a tilt and slide seat so you had a bit more access.

Jayson Elliot
Jayson Elliot
4 months ago
Reply to  Oldskool

Heh, heh, “long legs and large loads”

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