2005 Toyota Tacoma Expert Review:Autoblog
Recently Toyota has been in the news for either hybrid vehicles or contemplating what to do with the gobs of money at their disposal; usually it isn't about performance. Enter the X-Runner, what I see as the anti-Toyota: a torquey six-speed Tacoma with some handling upgrades and lots of attitude. I'm happy to give it a home for the next week.
The 2005 Tacoma is in the battle to become America’s best selling mid-size truck for this year and if my initial impression of the X-Runner is any indication, it most likely will pull it off. Let me introduce you to the X-Runner package.
The X-Runner comes as only a two-wheel drive Xtracab with the 4.0-liter DOHC V6 with VVT-I and a six-speed manual. The engine cranks out a healthy 245 horsepower @ 5200 rpm and 282 lb-ft of torque @ 3800 rpm. The truck gets power to the road via 18-inch alloy wheels fitted with 255/45R18 Bridgestone Potenza rubber.
This truck isn’t just about straight lines either. The X-Runner gets what Toyota calls the X-brace tuned suspension with gas Bilstein shocks and a rear stabilizer bar that helps keeps the Tacoma firmly planted around corners.
Outside the X-Runner gets a healthy dose of ground effects all around and a big, but non-functional hood scoop. The bed is made of a composite material and contains multiple cubbie holes, adjustable tie downs and a 115v/400W power point. Some nice features on a mid-size truck.
Inside you get the standard Toyota fair, which is to say very nice and well put together. The rear jumper seats are pretty small (as are many in this size range) but fold down nicely to reveal more storage.
The Speedway Blue color really brings this truck out, as if all the “look at me” add-ons already didn’t attract attention. This truck stickers for $23,769, not that bad for what you get. Tomorrow I’ll get you a better look at the interior, until then I’m going to take this out for a few more spins around the block.
So the boy-racer package gets jeers from some readers. That won't matter much for today's focus: the interior. The gauge cluster is pretty simple; black face, white lettering in an italic-type font trimmed in a silver-finished plastic. Tach, speedo, temp and gas, that's all you get. Everything is at least easy to read while driving especially since they are LED-lit.
The center stack breaks up the “divot” dashboard graining with a silver radio/HVAC control area. Button feel is good and materials look better than in past Tacomas. The design is “truck-like”, even giving off some RX vibes.
Toyota must think Tacoma drivers love to drink. We’ve got seven cup holders for four passengers: two on the doors, three in the console and two for the jump-seats. The rear cup holders have what happens to be my favorite warning in this truck, “capped bottle only.” Thanks for the reminder; we sometimes leave open containers when we’re out looking for rabbits, George.
The rear seat passengers are going to need alcoholic beverages in the cup holders to ease the pain of the jumper seats. All mid-size extend-cab trucks are plagued by these little seats and the Tacoma is no exception. In fact, they don’t even look like seats on first glance. There are child seat Latch points, but don’t condemn an adult back there for any length of time.
The jumpers do fold forward to reveal a full width storage area that would be good for tools or emergency supplies. The jack is also stored in the compartments. The Tacoma Xtracab comes with clamshell doors on both sides and I like that the door handles are inside, instead of in, the doorjamb. The rear window is a slider and the front windows have a driver-side only express down feature.
The seats have a netting-like center material that keeps the butt planted and the eyes occupied. The sport seats are bolstered pretty aggressively for the X-Runner. The driver seat gets manual lumbar control, but no power seats in this one. The steering wheel is tilt and telescopic so with all the manual controls for the driver, I found it pretty easy to get comfortable to use the six-speed.
I haven’t used the radio at highway speeds yet, but around town the 6 speaker, 6 CD changer sounded good. I’ll report more on that later in the week. The dash also has the dreaded “black-outs” making sure you are reminded that you have a 4x2 with a couple missing options. No biggie, they just stick out.
Also the lighter colors on the floors are getting dirty quickly. The dual tone interiors look good, but sometimes wonder about the durability of the lighter hues. Otherwise I like the ‘Tacoma’ stitching on the floor mats and the anchors that make sure there are no “clutch creeps”.
It’s an attractive, if not a little simple interior space but if I was looking to purchase a sport truck like this, power seats and other electronic gizmos are low on my list of needed items. Tomorrow will be a nice day to give the outside a once over and show why I am really impressed with the composite pick-up bed.
The composite bed on the 2005 Tacoma is a winner. A few years ago, General Motors made a composite bed optional on their full-size trucks only to have it killed by dealers that made more money peddling aftermarket spray-in bed liners. Toyota learned from GM's mistake and made it standard.
The bed isn’t completely composite, just the inside where it counts. The outer fenders and tailgate (the painted parts) are still steel. The composite material made it easy for Toyota to mold in two separate covered storage compartments that could hold smaller objects like bungee cords, jumper cables: stuff like that. The only option on this Tacoma is a rubber bed mat with the Tacoma name molded on it. Keeps things from sliding around back there. Not a bad $119 option.
Also included in the X-Runner package (and optional on other versions of the Tacoma) is an 115V/400-watt power outlet so you could power tools or a frozen margarita blender, which ever is your style. The truck also adds in a deck rail system that makes a peninsula of adjustable tie downs with rails on both sides and the back of the bed. The tie downs can be loosened and moved anywhere on the rail. A nice feature that comes standard.
It might be the showboat in me, but I really like the X-Runner’s additional go-fast laundry (and it looks really easy to open that hood scoop and make it functional). That stuff aside, the Tacoma, of course, is all new for 2005. Larger headlights and a more aggressive grille gives the truck a bigger visual stance.
The little upturn of the windows on the Xtracabs gives the side of the truck a little more visual flare. It was a design feature my eyes were quickly drawn to. The X-Runner gets a side-exiting exhaust with a chrome tip and body colored door handles.
The 18-inch wheels fill out the wind-swept shaped wheel-wells (I happen to have a thing for the tilted wheel wells as designed by Raymond Loewy for the 1963 Studebaker Avanti I own. Loewy designed it after the reentry curve of a space capsule dropping to Earth) and the design is a clean five spoke design.
While the overall X-Runner package isn’t everyone’s cup of java, the trucks stance (and the killer blue color) is what’s turning heads. There’s a reason this truck only comes in 4x2 and a six-speed: It’s not meant for everyone. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the performance and ride characteristics, including the dreaded “disconnected” steering feel.
So how is it to drive? Just like what it is, a sport truck. It takes the bumps a little hard, the rear is easy to get squirrelly and the steering a bit vague. The strong engine and six-speed keeps driving interesting and the upgraded suspension and tires keep things firmly planted in the corners. That's it in a nutshell.
Underneath it is easy to see the bracing that Toyota calls the “X-Brace”. Not just a clever name, the X-Brace crisscrosses two braces from the rear leaf springs to the last chassis cross member to create less flex. Toyota states a lateral acceleration of 0.9 Gs. To help in those left-right transitions so the truck doesn’t lean too much the rear stabilizer bar has been beefed up to 30-mm. You have to push the truck hard to get body roll. Underneath you can also see the full-size spare with the same alloy wheel that is used on the X-Runner. Nice.
Firmer bushings hold specially tuned Bilstein shocks that keep the ride firm, but not too firm as to cause complaints from passengers. Work was also performed on the leaf springs to allow for a stiffer ride but allow payload to not upset the ride of the truck. I did not pack the truck up with anything more than a few flats of flowers so I didn’t get to test that claim.
Toyota did add a separate diagonal brace to enhance steering feel from the more pedestrian Tacomas, but the steering wheel still feels disconnected with the road. There isn’t enough feedback to evoke confidence right away with new drivers in the turns. It takes some getting used to. Not a game breaker, but definitely something that Toyota needs to work on.
There are no complaints with the powertrain. The engine feels very competent and works well with the six-speed to keep the power sweet spot. The extra torque allows quick work of launching the truck. The limited slip differential used in the X-Runner is always a welcomed addition for any vehicle where you’re looking for more traction. The exhaust note does intrude into the cabin, but it is tuned more for the street-scene and announces the truck almost as much as the color and body-kit does.
I did get one “Hey nice truck” in the parking lot yesterday and haven’t run into a Tacoma X-Runner on the road yet. I’ll have to agree that the truck does make a statement. I have one weekend with the truck and will come back on Monday for a wrap-up.
A week with the current mid-size truck sales leader (April numbers are out and the Tacoma has taken a 4,000 unit lead on the Chevy Colorado) has proven one thing: It's easy to see why it is in the lead. Now I picked the X-Runner edition to test because it was the Toyota sport-truck and pretty "in-your-face" about it but a lot of what I liked about is standard in ever Tacoma.
More thought has gone into the details of this truck than other mid-sizers I’ve been around, even the newest ones. The standard composite bed, with four adjustable tie-downs, two storage compartments and an optional power plug is just a great feature that Toyota dealers can boast about to all buyers.
The X-Runner’s go-fast bits and aerodynamic trimmings definitely hooked the showboat in me. The six-speed was smooth and easy to keep the V-6 at maximum power. The rear-end was a little hoppy and care needs to be taken in the rain as torque becomes fishtailing pretty quickly with no weight in the back. A great fair-weather truck but no so good for those in the snow-belt. Go for a 4WD or make sure you have a winter vehicle.
Everything inside was screwed down tight and looked and worked well. Radio sound was excellent at higher speeds. Storage compartments were plenty, as well as cup holders. As mentioned on Day 2, go for the crew cab if you are going to be bringing more than two people around regularly if you still want them to be your friend. The Xtracab’s jump seats are not for long range trips.
With the six-speed and some more spirited driving I saw about 19 mpg. The EPA estimates are 16 city and 21 highway. If more effort was used to save fuel, I’m sure it’d be better.
The biggest complaint seems to be from the steering. I’ve seen 4WD reviews that complained about the lack of feedback. Even though the X-Runner adds another brace to boost steering feel, the truck still comes up short. It didn’t kill the driving experience, but would definitely made the truck feel sportier with a more point-and-turn feel in my hands.
For $23,769, the X-Runner is priced right where I’d imagine it should be. The Chevy Colorado optioned out the same with the sport suspension is $23,900 and the Nissan Frontier Nismo optioned out at $23,900 also. In neither case can a six-speed be chosen (only a five-speed in the Chevy) and the Nissan only allows a manual in 4x4, which takes it out of the race for those that want to row their own. The Dodge Dakota with the V-6 and the same option grouping stickers at $25,900. Of course all these prices are before incentives that would take the Chevy and Dodge under the X-Runner’s price. But no sport truck seems to offer up the over-the-top looks, good V-6 power, six-speeds and suspension tweaks all in one package under $24,000. In the X-Runner, and Tacoma in general, Toyota has an all-around good mid-sized package.
New Car Test Drive
All-new pickup is bigger, better, more refined.
Toyota has introduced an all-new Tacoma for 2005. It's new from the ground up and it's a winner. The 2005 Toyota Tacoma improves on all the attributes its loyal owners have cherished in past models, while increasing interior roominess and refinement.
Nearly the entire class of compact pickups is new. Nissan, Dodge, Chevrolet and GMC all have new models, redesigned from the ground up. (Only the aging Ford Ranger remains from the old school, competing almost entirely on price.) This newest generation of trucks is no longer compact, and many manufacturers now consider them midsize.
Their increased size brings roomier cabs, improved ride quality and increased stability. But manufacturers have gone well beyond that. More power and increased refinement are now part of the picture as well. All of them are available in the increasingly popular crew cab configuration, and their larger size makes this a more compelling choice; the newest crew cab models are practical alternatives to a sedan, something that wasn't really true with the previous generation of compact pickups. These trucks still offer more maneuverability than a full-size pickup, while providing serious hauling and towing utility.
With so many good trucks available, this is a fine time to be shopping for a compact pickup. And the Tacoma may be the best of them, with its comfortable cab, excellent handling, and rugged off-road capability. The Tacoma also enjoys Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability. Properly equipped V6 models are rated to tow up to 6,500 pounds.
The 2005 Toyota Tacoma comes in a wide range of models and body styles, ranging from a $14,000 work truck to a 4x4 Double Cab that tops $30,000. The TRD PreRunner models may make you feel like Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart getting ready to win another Baja 500, while the sporty X-Runner may make you feel like Rod Millen preparing to blast up the Pike's Peak Hillclimb.
Regular Cab, Access Cab (extended cab) and Double Cab (crew cab) body styles are available. All come with six-foot beds; Double Cab is available with a six-foot bed or a five-foot bed.
The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine comes with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The 4.0-liter V6 is available with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Both engines are available with two-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive.
The base Tacoma, a 4x2 Regular Cab, comes standard with anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist, a full-size spare, AM/FM/CD four-speaker sound system, tachometer, coolant temperature gauge, digital clock, two powerpoints, fuel warning light, dome lamp and rear mudguards. Access Cab and Double Cab models add more standard features, including bucket seats and a center console. Double Cabs get upgraded seat fabric and power windows, mirrors and door locks. Access and Double Cab models also get upgraded audio systems, including an AM/FM radio with an in-dash six-CD changer and six speakers; Double Cabs also offer a JBL premium audio system with seven speakers, including an amplified subwoofer. Both audio upgrades feature steering wheel audio controls.
Options revolve around five packages: An Enhancement Package for the 4x2 Regular Cab adds air conditioning and styled steel wheels. The Convenience Package for the 4x2 Regular Cab adds cruise control, remote keyless entry, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. The SR5 Package bundles styling and comfort features, including color-keyed overfenders and front bumper, chrome grille surround and chrome rear bumper, center console, intermittent wipers and upgraded interior features and trim. In Access Cab and Double Cab models, the SR5 package also adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
The redesigned 2005 Toyota Tacoma exudes a stronger appearance than before, with its big, bold headlights and grille. Flush rear surface glass and flush surface structures between the bumper sides and body give the Tacoma a more sophisticated and higher quality appearance. PreRunner and 4x4 models are distinguished by bold overfenders. Overall, it's a very attractive truck, perfect for Toyota, though not overly stylish.
The length of the Tacoma varies by body style: Regular Cab trucks are the shortest, measuring 190.4 inches overall on a 109.4-inch wheelbase. Access Cab and Double Cab short-bed models share the 127.2-inch wheelbase and 208.1-inch overall length. Double Cab long-bed models are quite long at 221.3 inches overall on a 140.9-inch wheelbase. All models have six-foot beds except the Double Cab short-bed configuration, which has a five-foot bed.
How to choose: Regular Cab models lots of cargo space in a relatively small package, good for maneuverability in the big city; because they are shorter, PreRunner and 4x4 Regular Cabs have the best break-over angle and therefore offer the best capability off road. Access Cab models feature large dual rear access doors, no good for people but very good for gear. Double Cab models have long rear doors that open 80 degrees for ease of entry or loading gear. Double Cabs offer the comfort of a sport-utility; the long-bed Double Cabs can carry more stuff but are unwieldy in tight places.
The 2005 Tacoma features a composite inner bed, lighter than steel yet tougher and more durable. The bed features two-tier loading and integrated deck rail utility with four adjustable tie-down cleats. The rails are compatible with Genuine Toyota Accessories, including cargo bed cross bars, a fork-mount bike rack, and diamond-plate storage boxes.
All of the newest trucks in this class have decent interiors, but the quality of Toyota's interior materials seems just a little better than that of the other midsize pickups. The dimpled material on the dash and upper panels and the textured material on the lower dash and door trim look and nice; it's hard plastic, but it looks soft. The cloth upholstery is decent in the SR5 trim. Not everyone loves the perforated silver plastic used for the center stack, though. Solid cup holders are provided in the center console area.
The Tacoma offers a comfortable driving position. We found the bucket seats on the uplevel models comfortable, though the seat bottom could be bit longer and have more thigh support. The seats in our SR5 were manually adjustable; lumbar adjustment was provided but there was no adjustment for seat height or the angle of the seat bottom; the power seats available on the new Nissan Frontier have these features. The front seatback on some Tacoma models flips down to form a tray table or to make room for long objects, a nice feature. And big mirrors afford a good view rearward.
The switchgear is easy to operate and everything is where you expect it to be. Big rotary knobs make it easy to adjust cabin temperature even with gloves on; the knobs are electronic, so they're easy to twist. The radio is fully integrated into the upper center stack and it's easy to operate, though the display is nearly impossible to read through polarized sunglasses. CDs sound good through the JBL speakers.
The back seats in the latest generation of crew cabs are far more habitable than those of older trucks. And the rear seat in the Tacoma Double Cab is particularly comfortable for the class, offering good leg room and shoulder room and decent headroom. The seatback is angled back slightly, making it more comfortable. A younger rider should be okay to ride across the state back there and even adults won't complain too much on short trips. The rear windows go all the way down.
The rear seat area in the Double Cab good for carrying cargo as well. The back seat is split 60/40. Flip the seat bottoms forward and fold the two sections down to form a flat platform for gear. It takes two hands to do this and you first have to remove the headrests, a hassle though Toyota has provided a place to store each headrest. The seatbacks are hard, and form a sturdy cargo floor. It's not a bad spot for a dog, better than the bumpy floors in the Nissan and Dodge, but it's a big jump down.
The Access Cab has rear seats, but they're pretty hopeless for humans. It's best used for small cargo that you don't want to put in the bed.
We'd prefer a handbrake lever to the prehistoric pull-out handbrake that comes with manual transmissions. Automatics come with a foot-operated parking brake.
The new Tacoma offers more power, better handling and improved refinement over earlier models. The track (the distance between left and right wheels) on the 2005 Tacoma models is four inches longer than that of the 2004 models, and the wheelbase is five or six inches longer. Even so, the chassis are more rigid and the trucks are more maneuverable than before. They ride nicer than before. And off-road models offer better capability and increased comfort over rugged terrain than before.
The new V6 engine feels refined and delivers responsive performance. Using variable valve technology, the double overhead-cam 4.0-liter V6 produces 245 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque, a 55-horsepower increase over the old 3.4-liter engine. More to the point, the Toyota V6 is more powerful than the five-cylinder engine in the Chevy Colorado or the V6 in the Dodge Dakota. The V6 works well with the five-speed automatic, and it's our first choice. The automatic is super smooth and very responsive, quickly downshifting when you mash the throttle, and it offers five ratios to better keep the engine at the proper revs. The six-speed manual transmission is easy to shift. First gear is a low gear and it seems like a stretch between first and second gears. Toyota recommends 91 octane gas for the V6. Preliminary fuel-economy estimates were 17/21 for a V6 4x4 Double Cab with the five-speed automatic.
The new 2.7-liter VVT-i DOHC four-cylinder engine produces 164 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque, about average for the class but more than the old overhead-valve V6 in the Ford Ranger. Toyota recommends 87 octane. Preliminary fuel-economy estimates were 22/28 mpg City/Highway with the five-speed manual.
The Tacoma handles well, with surprisingly little body roll (lean) in corners and it feels steady in sweeping turns. The Tacoma feels big on the road when compared with older compact pickups. In fact, it is big, wider and longer than previous-generation models. Parking a long-bed crew cab pickup is particularly challenging. The Tacoma Double Cab long bed requires 44 feet to complete a circle, nearly four more feet than a Double Cab short bed. We'd vote for the shorter bed unless we really needed the long bed. A base Tacoma Regular Cab boasts a turning circle of less than 37 feet.
On pavement, the 4x4 and TRD models seemed smooth and refined. The TRD 4x4 is smooth and highly capable off road. The TRD suspension is excellent on rough, rugged terrain. It handles well on rough dirt trails, something we learned while charging up a ski run at Alyeska. It never bottomed on the rough terrain even when we pushed it well beyond socially acceptable standards. The Tacoma TRD model easily handled an off-road course that featured steep ascents and descents, moguls and a log step. We'd feel comfortable in tackling just about anything in one of these. And all of this is accomplished in relative comfort. These trucks don't generate as much uncomfortable head toss as earlier 4x4 compact pickups.
Switching into 4-wheel drive and 4WD Lo is as easy as twisting a rotary knob. We tried to confuse it by switching the knob around and succeeded. The low-range lights wouldn't turn off until we stopped, shut it off and restarted, the old Microsoft reboot.
The Tacoma's brakes are smooth and easy to modulate and can bring it to quick halt without drama. The rear brakes are drums, however, less desirable than the rear disc brakes that come on some of the other pickups in this class.
The X-Runner is a lot of fun to drive and handles like a sports car. It corners flat and generates lots of grip in corners. We drove it hard up a hill climb and were not able to reach its limits. It tracks well and is very stable in tight corners even when spinning the inside rear tire under full throttle. The ride is firm, but seems to ride better than our recollection of the SVT Lightning. However, we didn't care for the feel of the clutch pedal, t.
The all-new Toyota Tacoma is among the best of a crop of new midsize pickups. The Tacoma features a comfortable cab trimmed with quality materials. The 4x4 models offer crisp handling, a nicely balanced ride quality, and excellent off-road capability. The TRD models are terrific trucks for rugged terrain. The new X-Runner drives and performs like a sports car.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough filed this report from Alyeska, Alaska.
Toyota Tacoma Regular Cab 2.7-liter 5-speed manual 2WD ($13,415); w 4-speed automatic ($14,315); Access Cab 5M ($16,855); 4A ($17,755); PreRunner Regular Cab 5M ($14,285); PreRunner Access Cab ($17,615); PreRunner V6 Access Cab 6M ($19,070); 5A ($19,950); PreRunner V6 Double Cab 5A ($21,675); PreRunner Long Bed V6 Double Cab 5A ($22,175); 4x4 Regular Cab 2.7-liter 5M ($17,360); 4x4 Access Cab 5M ($20,690); 4x4 V6 Access Cab 6M ($22,245); 4x4 V6 Access Cab 5A ($23,125); 4x4 V6 Double Cab 6M ($23,870); 4x4 V6 Double Cab 5A ($24,750); 4x4 V6 Long Bed Double Cab 5A ($25,250).
Options As Tested
curtain airbags for head protection ($650); JBL AM/FM/CD6 w 6 speakers, subwoofer and steering wheel audio controls ($500); SR5 Package 5 ($2,965) includes limited-slip rear differential, Class IV hitch, transmission and supplemental oil coolers, heavy-duty battery and alternator, 7-pin connector, 16-in. alloy wheels w P245/75R16 tires, fog lamps, remote keyless entry, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, chrome grille surround and rear bumper, color-keyed front bumper and overfenders, sliding rear window w privacy glass, metallic tone instrument panel trim, leather steering wheel and shifter, sunvisors w mirrors and extenders; daytime running lights ($40); 4-pc. carpet floor mats ($130).
Toyota Tacoma 4x4 V6 Double Cab Long Bed ($25,250).
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