2005 Toyota Tacoma
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Toyota began making a name for itself with cars in America in the 1970s, but has been selling compact pickups here since introducing its "Stout" model in 1964. Those pickups have a reputation for quality and ruggedness, and Toyota's 2005 Tacoma should enhance it.
The redesigned eighth-generation Tacoma is larger, roomier, smoother and more refined, with additional power and safety features. It replaces a rather dated Tacoma model that, nevertheless, has been one of Toyota's best-selling vehicles, accounting for 10 percent of U.S. sales.
The new Tacoma technically is a compact pickup, although it shares the frame of a rugged midsize Toyota sport utility sold in foreign markets. That component helps provide a ride free of creaks and body shivers. There also are lots of sound-absorbing materials, which contribute to the Tacoma's refined nature.
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Compact pickup trucks were very popular among young drivers a few decades ago, when they weren't especially refined. But they were cheap to buy, operate and insure — and were substitute "sports cars," when regular sports cars had become too dated or costly for young motorists. Moreover, compact pickups were easy to modify with items such as custom wheels and killer sound systems. In fact, high performance pickup trucks are popular again with young males.
Tacomas range from a Base rear-wheel-drive model with a fairly strong 4-cylinder engine and manual gearbox to the top-line Double Cab crew cab version with 4-wheel drive, potent V6 and a 5-speed automatic transmission.
The X-Runner has a specially lowered and tuned chassis, frame-stiffening X brace for better handling, stronger brakes and items such as a hood scoop and extra-wide tires on 18-inch wheels. It comes only with a 6-speed manual gearbox and does 0-60 mph in less than 7 seconds with the Tacoma's new 245-horsepower V6.
Toyota anticipates that the Tacoma Double Cab will be especially popular because it has a comfortable car-like rear seat and four conventional side doors that help allow easy entry and exit.
The PreRunner stands tall to give it the look of a 4-wheel-drive Tacoma for those who don't want the added weight and complexity of that drive system but like the more rugged appearance of such a pickup.
Most Comfortable Back Seat
Tacomas with Regular and Access cabs have a 73.5-inch long cargo bed. The Double Cab is offered for the first time with a choice between a 60.3-inch bed and the 73.5-inch bed.
The Tacoma's new composite non-rusting and non-denting inner bed has a new sheet-molded compound deck and walls said to be 10 percent lighter than steel, but tougher and more durable.
Interior storage has been increased in Access Cab and Double Cab versions via tumble-flat rear seats with underseat storage and, on Double Cab versions, additional storage behind the rear seatback. On Double Cab and models with bucket seats (except ones with especially supportive sport seats), the front passenger seat folds flat.
The comfortable interior is functional, with easily read gauges and large controls that are within convenient reach and operate smoothly.
Variety of Engines and Transmissions
The V6 provides fast acceleration in all versions and works with an exceptionally responsive 5-speed automatic transmission. Other Tacoma transmissions are a slick 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic for the 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual for the V6.
The best estimated fuel economy is provided by the 4-cylinder engine with rear-wheel drive and 5-speed manual transmission: 21 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. The V6 with the automatic provides 18 and 22 — or 17 and 21 with 4-wheel drive.
Anti-lock brakes are newly standard on all Tacomas, and you can get an optional skid control system on all except the X-Runner.
The new Tacoma is exceptionally competitive and — more than ever — is among the best pickup truck buys.