A stellar remake of an old favorite
When Toyota unveiled the '05 Tacoma at last year's auto shows, so began a strategy designed to expand Toyota's presence in the American truck market. One of Toyota's goals was to overtake Ford's slumping Ranger sales to better fortify its position in the midsize pickup segment while continuing a tradition for top-notch quality.
Impressed by what we saw, we asked Toyota to loan us a long-term test vehicle for 2005, and they graciously offered us a brand-new Tacoma Access Cab in TRD trim. We ordered ours with a six-speed manual transmission and the optional 240hp V-6. Needless to say, our staff was salivating the day it was delivered to our West Coast headquarters. Long favored by youthful buyers, we knew the '05 Tacoma would fit nicely into our L.A.-based fleet. Fortunately, the new Tacoma has matured a bit in size, boasting roomier proportions than ever before. This was perfect for our staff's weekend jaunts and camping trips. Valuable first-in-class features such as a 115-volt AC power outlet and a composite inner bed with integrated storage compartments help distinguish the truck from the competition, and the TRD off-road package-which includes Bilstein shocks, skidplating and tow hooks, BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, and a rear locking diff-suggest to us that 'wheeling-savvy engineers designed this truck.
We like the low-end torque of the newly revised 4.0L VVT-i V-6, though we are not quite as impressed by the six-speed manual gearbox, which can be a difficult transmission to drive with in traffic. Cluttered by narrow gates and lengthy throws, the busy-feeling manual is our only real area of complaint on the Tacoma. Patience is a virtue while letting each gear fully mesh before transitioning through gates. Otherwise slight grinding can occur. We questioned our dealer about this and were told, "All 2005 sticks were like that." While we like the lower 4.17:1 First gear the manual offers for low-speed 'wheeling, we'd probably recommend the automatic transmission if you plan to use this truck extensively in city driving.
We were surprised to learn that the '05 Tacoma shares the same platform with the Lexus GX 470 and Toyota 4Runner. The frame is fully boxed up front, while the middle and rear are an open C-channel design. Couple this stiff chassis with the impressive V-6, and the Tacoma can willingly pull up to 6,500 pounds. Stopping this much mass, however, should be assisted by trailer brakes, as we can attest after towing our project TJ several hundred miles with the Tacoma.
Previous reports: First report
Base price: $23,870
Price as tested: $29,450
Four-wheel-drive system: Electronically engaged two-speed transfer case
Miles to date: 7,751
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 16.5
Test best tank mpg: 18.2
Test worst tank mpg: 12.4
5,000 -mile service, cost: $54.95
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not:
Hot: The Tacoma sports a rear electric locker that proves very effective when negotiating muddy roads and slippery slopes. The well designed interior, which looks too upscale for a truck that will see dirt.
Not: The Tacoma's high hood line and low ride height can make it difficult to judge where the front of the truck is, and a cargo bed light would be a nice option. We have also noticed a small exhaust leak when the truck is cold. We'll have it checked out at the next service.
* "Great ride, shock valving is right on."
* "Nice torque curve; plenty down low in rpm band."
* "HVAC system is sealed very well, keeps the stink out."
* "No cargo-bed light, what gives?"
* "These are some of the most comfortable seats available!"