Agreed on all the points mentioned. I have an 07 DCLB TRD sport. It is pretty much a fullsize truck to me...(coming from a '91 standard cab 4x4 toy) You cannot get a LB with an E- locker or manual transmission (both avail. w/ TRD OR package).
Honestly for my use (same as everyone else.... 'yakking, rafting, skiing,mtn bikes, and lots of dumploads and occasional dirt or gravel loads) the LSD tranny and LB are SO much more useful I wouldnt even consider a short bed. And I can still run a tool box and have room in the bed.
The SB ORs are very popular with the serious offroaders for the wheelbase and locker, but I have issues with romping the shit out of a 25-30K truck just yet. only when necessary. give it a few years. lol.
The 5 speed automatic transmission is sweet. its super smooth, and responsive. I dont really miss manual so much any more, and /or i am growing up a bit, and dont 'need' to torch it off the line very much anymore. Plus i can still downshift pretty close to how i used to. So that is another plus. sport pkg also has transmission cooler and tow package....which is good. I have hauled yards of dirt and gravel easily. dont own my own raft yet, but dirts pretty heavy.=]
Upgrading to a heavy duty leaf spring is next on my list as well. The Old Man Emu Dakar 7 leaf is what i am eyeing... meant for loads and offroad, and gives 1.5" lift. I have some other suspension mods ready to go new shocks, upper control arms, etc...
Anyone on here who owns a Toyota should check out Toyota Tacoma Forums - Tacoma World
-its my other favorite interweb time eater. I have learned a ton about Tacos there. There is lots of tutuorials with pics- for brakes and anything else you'd want to do yourself... there is a section devoted to cheap and free mods, (very cool) and a Buy/sell/trade forum to get parts,and even TW member discounts with Toytech lifts and other vendors. I got seatcovers,floormats, UCAs and bilsteins all through there at very healthy discounts 7-20%. Its like the 'buzz...for trucks. but when I am broke, or its river season, I have to stay away from TW. It always makes me want to spend $$ on the truck.
...Also for options on a purchase check autotrader.com and Craigslist all over the west -esp. cali, denver, and phoenix... I had to look for a while, but i got mine barely broken in with 37000 miles for a very good price.
here is the Taco loaded up for our Colorado trip to the Ark and a wedding near CB. two kids, dog, pregnant wifey, and a lot o carcamping crap... truck was plenty happy with the load. Except the pinche leafsprings of course...
yes, I need some racks