Richard Russell at the wheel of the 2005 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab V6 during press preview in October 2004. Click image to enlarge
by Richard Russell
Photos by Grant Yoxon
Toyota has an enviable reputation for building tough trucks. It’s hard to find television coverage of a war-torn or poverty-stricken country without noticing a Toyota truck in the scene. Toyota knows trucks and sells them in major numbers around the world.
But here in North America we tend to use our trucks for everyday commuting on smooth paved roads. North Americans want size, power and luxury in their pickups – in the pickup world at least, bigger is usually better. With GM, Dodge and Nissan all increasing the size of their “mid-sized” pickups, Toyota took the opportunity to give the new-for-2005 Tacoma a dose of growth hormones as well.
The Tacoma name has been a stalwart in the compact and more recently mid-size pickup segments for many years, representing typical Toyota quality and reliability.
Twenty years ago Toyota had a pretty decent slice of the pickup pie, but Americans started to think big in the nineties and looked to pickups crammed with luxury and amenities more befitting a car than a truck. The Tacoma was Toyota’s answer, but in the face of newcomers from the domestic makers, it did not fare as well as it predecessors. After all, pickups are the last bastion of automotive loyalty.
Toyota did not get to where it is today by ignoring trends or putting up with declining sales in any of its product lines. Some are dropped when that appears to be a trend.
But pickups and North America are twinned, dropping the Tacoma was never a consideration. Toyota did not get to be the second or third largest automaker in the world by abandoning such major markets and segments. Maintaining steady growth here requires a pickup and Toyota knows this all too well. It has even entered the stock car racing wars with a pickup.
The new Tacoma is the result of some serous soul searching and an intensive effort to address any perceived shortcomings. It is bigger, more powerful and less expensive – a true triple threat. The 2005 Tacoma rides on a longer wheelbase and both four and six cylinder engines produce more poke. And in a neat twist of magic – use less fuel.
2005 Toyota Tacoma 4X2 Access Cab, 4-cylinder
Everybody loves a bargain and the new lower price will certainly grab attention among truck shoppers. Toyota has always been associated with unmatched quality – but that reputation has commonly been attached to one of higher prices. The new Tacoma is less expensive than the version it replaces – by hundreds of dollars, despite the fact the new truck is larger and has more standard equipment as well as a rust-free composite cargo box, eliminating the need for a liner. Standard features include ABS, a six-speaker CD sound system, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and full carpeting on even the least expensive model.
The base model is now a four-cylinder Access cab, priced at $22,250, a cut of more than $400 from last year. The price reduction becomes more impressive as you climb the price ladder. A V6 double cab equipped with an automatic transmission comes in at $33,650, $1,500 less than before.
Toyota has an international reputation for building tough trucks and the new Tacoma will most certainly add to that lore. From its blocky appearance to the new suspension and four-wheel-drive system capable of handling the worst off-road nastiness, the ’05 Tacoma has grown up in more than size.
Its cargo bed is sheet-moulded composite (SMC) attached directly to the frame and wrapped in sheet metal to ensure uniform paint quality and appearance. Because it is moulded, the designers were able to give it some neat features like a quartet of built-in storage boxes and a rail-like tie-down system with adjustable cleats. Our tester even had an optional, grounded 400-watt, 115-volt electrical outlet incorporated into the cargo bed’s rear quarter panel.
Click image to enlarge
But as much as Toyota is capable of playing the “tough” card, it knows most Tacoma buyers spend the majority of their time on smooth roads using their truck for normal day-to-day activities. To address this reality the new Tacoma has a wider track, repositioned and re-valved shock absorbers and a longer wheelbase, which together contribute to a vastly more civilized ride. Compared back-to-back with other newcomers in this class, the Tacoma comes across as the limo of the bunch. Yet it gives up nothing when asked to tow, haul or get seriously off road.
This car-like impression continues inside the new, larger cab. It is a Toyota, so you expect nothing less than precise fit and finish with panel gaps that are all but invisible, and switches and controls that work with watch-like precision. There is a considerable more upscale feel about the interior with instruments contained within circular tunnels and the audio and HVAC system set in a new centre stack trimmed in metal-look plastic.
The seats are supportive for even big people and thanks to the increased width, there is a big jump in shoulder and hip room. The rear seat in our Double Cab tester was noticeably more commodious with room for three. Those rear seats fold flat when added or protected cargo space is needed.
Beneath the hood rest a herd of new ponies. The base four-cylinder displaces a whopping 2.7-litres, big for a four, and produces 164-horspower and 183 pound-feet of torque. The six in our tester was a new 4.0-litre unit, boasting 245-horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque – up considerably from last year, and don’t forget the lower price tag. Our tester also provided an opportunity to play with the new six-speed manual gearbox available with the V6.
With more cogs, the gear-ratio spread can and does provide better coverage. The shift lever, although long, moved easily through well-defined gates and the clutch take-up was smooth and progressive. Instead of the old transfer-case control lever protruding through the floorboards, the Tacoma now has a modern solution to engaging the extra axle – an electric switch on the instrument panel.
The Tacoma is rated to tow up to 6,500 pounds and while we didn’t put this particular vehicle to that test, we have pulled a 4,000-pound trailer with a new Tacoma and it was certainly up to the task.
2005 MSRPs are as follows: 4X2 Access Cab $22,125 – $26,495; 4X4 Access Cab $29,240 – $35,860; 4X2 Double Cab $31,215 – $35,250; 4X4 Double Cab $31,990 – $38,580.
The eighth generation Tacoma is bigger, thriftier, more powerful and less expensive. What’s not to like?
Technical Data: 2005 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 Double Cab V6
|Price as tested||$39,840|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger midsize pickup truck|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/ RWD / 4WD|
|Engine||4.0-litre V6, 24-valves, DOHC|
|Horsepower||245 @ 5,200 rpm|
|Torque||282 lb.-ft. @ 3,800 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed manual (5-speed
||1873 kg (4129 lb.)
||3,570 mm (140.5 in)
||5,621 mm (221.3 in)
||1,895 mm (74.6 in)
||1,781 mm (70.1 in)
||Towing Capacity (max)
||2,948 kg (6,500 lb.)
||1550-litres (61 cu. ft.)
||12.7 L/100 km (22 mpg)
||9.7 L/100 km (29 mpg)
||3 yrs/60,000 km
||5 yrs/100,000 km