After 15 months and a hair over 18,000 miles, our beloved long-term '05 Tacoma TRD has now gone the way of all sheetmetal: back to the manufacturer, in other words, where it will likely spend some time as a mild-mannered corporate fleet vehicle before being retired to stud. We should all have it so lucky. Here's a brief rundown of the impressions we gleaned over the past year.
What we liked: In terms of ergonomics, the Tacoma is arguably the most comfortable midsize truck on the planet to ride around in. Class-leading seats with outstanding side bolsters and lumbar supports make long-distance highway flogs and bumpy trail forays equally pleasurable. Most testers hailed the good sightlines from the cockpit, though a couple of staffers thought the driver-seat hip point a tad low for their liking. The 4.0L V-6 engine responds crisply to throttle input, and steering feel is nicely and neutrally weighted. And all of us praised the TRD Off-Road package. It's a $3,700 dealer check-off, but if you plan on doing any serious 'wheeling-or serious work-with the Tacoma, it's well worth the added expense.
What we didn't like: At times the engine and six-speed manual gearbox don't communicate as smoothly as they should; the engine tends to "hang revs" between gearshifts, making in-city driving sometimes jerky and inelegant. The tranny shifter occasionally balks at being thrown into Reverse, and the short-throw clutch is too close to the dead pedal for our liking. Road feel is slightly mushy and unexciting; some testers thought the shock valving ideal for this truck, but some of us wouldn't mind a slightly stiffer ride for sportier handling.
We've logged fewer miles on our Tacoma during the last few months. As newer long-term test vehicles have arrived in our stable of late, our already-quite-trail-tested Toy has been mostly relegated to less-stressful duties as a long-distance highway commuter, furniture mover, and parts fetcher. This probably explains the upward trend in mpg we've seen in recent months. Still, the V-6 is rather thirsty, and overall mileage for the entire test period was an unremarkable 16.2 mpg.
On the other hand, while our Tacoma wasn't the most frugal midsize we've ever tested at the pump, it did excel-as Toyotas are wont to do-in overall build quality, bash-ability, and cost-of-ownership. Save three routine dealer maintenance trips (total cost: $270), we can happily report that our long-termer required no additional scratch or replacement parts during its time in our stable. If we could only say that about every other new-model rig we test, our accountants (and our expense accounts) would be oh-so-much happier. We'll miss our long-term Tacoma, but for the next year we can salve our wounded egos with a substitute test Toy, a lowly '06 Land Cruiser (see page 98). Slumming is never easy, but hey, it builds character.
Report: 4 Of 4
Previous report: Nov. '05, March '06, Sept. '06
Base price: $23,870
Price as tested: $29,450
Four-wheel-drive system: VF2A electronic part-time two-speed
Miles to date: 18,199
Miles since last report: 2,170
Average mpg (this report): 16.88
Test best tank (mpg): 18.8
Test worst tank (mpg): 12.4 (towing)
This test period: None
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not
HOT: Superior fit and finish; class-leading creature comforts; TRD Off Road package with BFGs, Bilsteins, and rear locking diff
NOT: Engine and transmission not optimally matched; slightly spongy road manners; mediocre mileage
* "Some of the most comfortable truck seats ever-great bolsters."
* "The engine hangs revs-makes shifts sloppy."
* "Plastic bed is worthless. Stuff slides around too much."
* "Shock valving is right-on for a 4WD truck."
* "Clutch pedal is too close to the dead pedal."
* "Nicely weighted steering."