2005 Toyota Tacoma

More means more

Toyota's Tacoma has turned a corner. Back when it was introduced in 1995, this tough little truck endeared itself to a wide range of pickup enthusiasts, resulting in it having one of the highest resale values on the market. Tampering with success, Toyota wisely noted the general trend of the truck market, where bigger means better. So the new Tacoma is much beefier and more brawny. Instead of a compact pickup, the new Tacoma is a midsize truck that almost looks like a full-size rig.

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That change in size is no illusion or trick of styling. Compared with the previous design, the Tacoma is nearly half a foot longer, four inches wider and roughly two inches taller, depending on the model (Regular, Access and Double Cab). Most interior dimensions have increased as well, notably the crew-cab models where the back seats are now comfortable enough for adult passengers.

For 2005, the Access Cab gains rear-hinged rear doors; the Double Cab retains four conventional side doors. Both have front bucket seats and a 3-place rear bench seat for 5-passenger capacity. Regular cabs come with front bucket seats or a 3-passenger bench.

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the versatility of the lineup, with 18 model configurations across four cab-bed combinations. The wheelbase lengths range from 109.4 to 140.9 inches, and cargo beds extend from 60.3 to 73.5 inches, with various combinations of those lengths available. All of these variations come in either in 2- or 4-wheel drive.

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Moreover, if you like the look of a 4x4, but prefer two-wheel drive, the Tacoma also continues with the very popular PreRunner models. They have the lifted suspension of the four-wheel-drive trucks sans the actual four-wheel-drive running gear.

Other new styles for 2005 include a long-bed version of the Double Cab and the high-performance X-Runner. The latter, designed as a sport truck for street duty, features a special X-shaped frame reinforcement (hence the name), tuned suspension and aero body styling.

This new model is far sportier than any truck ever offered by Toyota, with a cornering grip in excess of 0.90 g, more than a Nissan 350Z, the engineers' handling target. They achieved this surprising feat by lowering the suspension an inch, and adding 255/45R Bridgestone Potenza tires on 18-inch wheels, along with Bilstein shocks, stiffer springs and a rear anti-roll bar. A special brake package is also included on the X-Runner. The chassis feels a tad tighter than on the other Tacoma models, especially in hard cornering, and the suspension grips like a limpet on decreasing radius turns.

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For power, the X-Runner boasts a 245-hp 4.0-liter V-6, also found under the hood of the Double Cabs. This larger engine supplies 55 horses more than the 3.4-liter engine, which was the previous max power offering. Such a substantial increase isn't surprising, considering the increased bulk of the new design.

Not only that, when equipped with the V-6 engine, the Tacoma's maximum tow rating is now 6,500 pounds, up from 5,000 pounds in the previous model. Toyota claims that a 4x4 V-6 equipped with the automatic transmission can run from 0-to-60 mph in just 7.5 seconds, and on the manual-tranny X-Runner, that time drops below seven seconds.

While the Double Cab offers either 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmissions, the stick-shift is the only option on the X-Runner. That makes sense, given the performance persona of this model. In addition to allowing you to divvy up the powerband, the tranny's overdrive is remarkably tall. You can cruise at 75 mph with the tach showing only 2,500 rpm, and at 90 mph the revs still stay well below the 3,000 mark. This setup makes for smooth running and a comparatively quiet highway cruiser. (If there was anything to fault on the older Tacoma, it was that the engine seemed a bit buzzy at high speeds.)

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On the low end of the engine lineup, an all-new 2.7-liter, 4-cylinder engine replaces both the 2.4-liter and 2.7-liter engines used previously. Producing 164 horsepower and 183 lb.-ft. of torque, the new 2.7 offers an increase in output while maintaining equivalent fuel efficiency.

For safety features, the Tacoma comes standard with ABS enhanced by Electronic Brake-force Distribution for smoother slowing and BrakeAssist for improved performance during panic stops. All Tacoma models have dual-stage front airbags, but the Double Cab also offers optional full-length head curtain and front-seat side airbags.

In addition, the Tacoma now offers electronic stability control as an option on all models, except the X-Runner. Toyota's Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) works in concert with an electronic traction control system with brake intervention to provide an added level of dynamic control in emergency maneuvers and low-traction situations.

For even more handling prowess in the dirt, the TRD Off-Road Package adds retuned springs and shocks, a thicker front sway bar, oversized BF Goodrich tires, and a locking rear differential. Taking that capability even further are options for Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) on all models equipped with an automatic transmission.

The remarkably diverse range of features and upgrades is a strong part of this pickup's appeal. Which means that for 2005, the Tacoma not only has turned a corner, but also is way ahead of the curve. (www.toyota.com)

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