Truck Review: 2005 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 V6


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2005 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 V6

If the desire for ever-larger items is not genetically-encoded in the human makeup, perhaps it's a meme in the collective consciousness of American society. For whatever reason, from clothing sizes to meal portions to car and truck sizes, everything seems to get ever larger.

What brought on that bit of existential musing? It occurred when I parked the 2005 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 that I've been driving for the past week next to a mid-`80s Toyota pickup. The new Tacoma dwarfed its ancestor. Another day, parking next to an example of the previous-generation Tacoma, in nearly identical Double Cab 4x4 form, was more of the same, although not quite as obvious. Small pickups, including Toyota's, have been growing, but the gentle progression from generation to generation has been replaced by a growth spurt this time. Toyota's mini-truck is no longer mini.

But that is not necessarily bad. Pickups, more than any other vehicles, are used for work as well as recreation. And the more stuff you can fit in the bed, and in the cab, the better - for both pursuits. The Tacoma is still smaller than a full-size truck, but not by as much. Call it mid-sized instead of mini.

Little but the Tacoma name carries over from last year. In a reversal of twenty years of Toyota history, the Tacoma pickup is now built on the 4Runner SUV chassis. If anyone was wondering why, when the 4Runner was introduced a year ago, it was on a new and larger platform, here's the answer. This makes the latest Tacoma larger, stronger, and more powerful, yet more maneuverable and more fuel-efficient than before.

And it means that a full model lineup is available right from the start, as there are eighteen configurations based on three cab types - the basic ``Regular Cab,'' the versatile extended ``Access Cab,'' now with dual access doors and tumble-flat rear seats, and the four-door ``Double Cab.'' As before, 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains are offered. The popular PreRunner models, which combine the increased ride height and styling of a 4x4 with a 4x2 drivetrain, continue. Double Cab 4x4s and PreRunners are available in two bed lengths, 60.3 or 73.5 inches. And the street-sport market hasn't been forgotten - the new X-Runner, with its 245-hp V6, six-speed manual transmission, reinforced frame, and sport-tuned suspension, is the muscle-truck performance leader of the Tacoma line. That V6 also powers Access Cab and Double Cab PreRunner and 4x4 models, while an upgraded 164-hp version of the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine introduced last year powers others.

My Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 V6 test truck has the ``TRD Off-Road Package #2'' and other options. It's ready for anything, almost anywhere, and will get you there in comfort, with plenty of room. The V6, matched with a five-speed automatic transmission, has power to spare, and seems relatively economical considering the Tacoma's newfound size. While larger, it's not too large for tight urban parking or wilderness trails, and it has all the virtues that have made Toyota's trucks popular over the years. If you think of the 2005 Tacoma Double Cab as a midsized sedan with lots of power and ground clearance, and a huge trunk, you'll have the right idea about its comfort and versatility.

APPEARANCE: You want road presence? You've got road presence. The angular 4Runner-inspired styling, massive chrome grille, and bulging headlights give the front of the new Tacoma a very aggressive look. And in any form, but especially Double Cab, it's noticeably higher, wider, and longer than any previous Toyota pickup. Clearance is not a problem - this is obviously a body-on-frame truck, as the lower part of the frame rails are visible from the side of 4x4 and PreRunner models. I measured 20 inches to the bottom of the door sills, and 9.4 inches to the bottom of the rear differential. Despite the large 265/70 R16 tires on alloy wheels - part of the comprehensive TRD Off-Road Package #2 that includes just about every suspension, towing, and cosmetic goodie imaginable - there is plenty of clearance for wheel travel and mud in the oversized wheel wells. The cargo bed, while not overly long, is usefully-sized. An SMC composite inner bed with integral storage compartments removes the need for a separate plastic bed liner, and an optional ``bed extender'' fold-down rack, used with the tailgate down, adds more space. It can be a bit of a workout to lift things over the bed extender, however. An optional 115V AC plug in the cargo area is a useful item, and its 400 watt maximum output can do more than recharge a laptop.

COMFORT:It seems that most of the new Tacoma's extra length went into the cab. And despite the 4x4's high ground clearance, access is painless as the seat cushions are at slide-in height for anyone over five and a half feet tall. Because of this, the seating position is more car- than truck-like, with legs outstretched, but it works, and the front seats are very comfortable. Width has noticeably increased. Interior styling owes more to contemporary sport-compact cars than old-style trucks, and features metal-bezeled instruments and silvery plastic trim. Interior materials have been upgraded, and additional soundproofing decreases road and wind noise. Useful storage spaces abound, front and rear. And the rear space promised by real crew-cab doors is delivered, with easy access. When not transporting two or three passengers, the rear seat folds 60/40 for cargo, or for access to underseat compartments.

SAFETY: Standard safety equipment levels are high - all 2005 Tacoma models, even the regular-cab, four-cylinder 4x2, come with anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist. All have dual-stage front airbags; those with front bucket seats also use the ``Occupant Classification System'' to determine the strength of deployment based on occupant weight.

ON THE ROAD: With the heavy-duty, off-road ready suspension that is part of the TRD Off-Road Package, a Tacoma Double Cab unsurprisingly feels like a truck in ride and handling. The unsprung weight of huge tires and a leaf-sprung rear axle sees to that. But it's smoother, more comfortable, and quieter than last year's Tacoma. Control effort is moderate and visibility is good. It's civilized around town and on the highway. When the new Tacoma was introduced to the press, I had the opportunity to drive one on moderately-difficult technical trails at Northern California's Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. No problem, lots of fun in the dirt, and absolutely no clearance issues.

PERFORMANCE: The 4.0-liter V6 found in all Double Cab and most Access Cab Tacomas is a typical Toyota engine. Dual overhead cams per bank, four valves per cylinder, and aluminum alloy construction sound like the recipe for a premium sports sedan engine, but they work as well in a truck. Its 245 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 282 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm are considerably more than the 190 hp and 220 lb-ft of the old 3.4-liter V6, and push it close to V8 territory in power output. Toyota's VVT-i variable valve timing system helps reduce emissions and fuel consumption and improve drivability. There is very good power right from idle to redline, making the five-speed automatic transmission an excellent choice for all-around use. Gas mileage, at around 19mpg overall in mostly city driving, is good considering the Tacoma Double Cab's size.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2005 Toyota Tacoma is bigger, stronger, and more fuel-efficient.

SPECIFICATIONS
2005 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 V6

Base Price			$ 24,750
Price As Tested			$ 30,575
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve V6
Engine Size			4.0 liters / x cu. in.
Horsepower			245 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			282 @ 3,800 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		127.8 in. / 208.1 in.
Curb Weight			4100 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		16.7
Fuel Capacity			21 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline recommended
Tires				P265/70 R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / drum, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone,
				 coil springs /
				  live axle with leaf springs
Ground clearance		9.4 inches
Drivetrain			front engine, on-demand dual-range 4-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 21 / 19
0 to 60 mph				7.5  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
JBL audio system				$ 500
TRD Off-Road Package #2 - includes:
  Off-road-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks,
  16" alloy wheels with BFG P265/70 tires, locking
  rear differential, engine skidplate, front tow hook,
  115v/400W deck-mounted power point, foglamps,
  Class 4 hitch, transmission & supplemental oil
  coolers, heavy-duty battery, 130-amp alternator,
  remote keyless entry, cruise control, variable
  intermittent wipers, interior and exterior 
  upgrades					$ 3,695
Bed extender					$   282
Carpet floor mats				$   130
VIP RS3200 security system			$   479
Front skid plate				$   199

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