The Tacoma has been completely re-designed for 2005. Still looks OK but some may think its lost a bit of its quirky appeal. Significantly bigger in every dimension, the new Tacoma looks way more brawny than its predecessor. Three cab configurations - regular two door, suicide door and double door. Sophisticated and very powerful new I-4 and V-6 engines are offered. Available with both 4x2 and 4x4 drive systems. MSRP range $13,415 - $23,110; Warranty: 3/36,000.
The re-designed Tacoma clearly demonstrates Toyotas intent to grab itself a bigger much bigger - piece of the extremely lucrative North American light truck market, which includes pick-ups, SUVs and minivans. In some North American markets, it has already nudged Ford out of its traditional second place position in new car sales. Now it wants to do the same to Fords trucks. If things go as Toyota-San figures they will, were talking like 3 million total units for this continent alone. The Tacoma is only the first step in a grand plan for North America. The plan includes a Toyota truck to challenge each of the GM, Ford and DCX models. The new Tacoma line-up includes three cab configurations the base model with two conventional doors; the Access Cab with two suicide doors and the Doublecab with four full size doors. Both 4x2 and 4x4 drive systems can be ordered on the Access and Doublecab models. With the 4x4 you get to choose between a 6-speed manual and a 5-speed auto. With the 4x2, youre offered either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed auto.
In the Drivers Seat
This is a compact? Has Mcdonalds taken over the Toyota design studios as well? No wonder traffic moves so slowly through intersections these days. Hey guys, North American vehicles are already too big! These new models are anywhere from 10 inches to 19 inches longer than the models they replace. Lots heavier too. Theyre roomier, sure. But were the old models all that cramped? When youre inside the Tacoma, it feels huge. It felt huge to me, anyway. My test vehicles large cabin sported two half-size suicide doors. These allowed surprisingly easy access to the rear seats, or rather seatlets. Although one 180 lb adult can sit back there for short times, this area was really intended for parcels or small children. My Access Cab model came with the optional towing package - 3,500 lb capacity. Towing capacities up to 6,500 are available with the 4x4. Your new Tacoma can be loaded up with every manner of luxury and convenience goody. A bigger, much thirstier engine (a 4.0L V-6 punching out 245hp and 282 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm) is optional on the Access and Doublecab.
On the Road
Worldwide, the Tacoma has traditionally been sold on its rugged, go-anywhere capability and comfort be hanged. However, this new Tacoma with independent, double-wishbone type suspension and air shocks provides as smooth a ride as many passenger cars. Even though my test vehicle an Access Cab 4x2 was a strippo with the base 4 cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission, all-round driveability was first rate. Were I buying a Tacoma myself, however, Id want power door looks and windows. I cant imagine buying a motor vehicle these days without them. Anyway, this new 2.7L, 4-cylinder Toyota engine is a beautiful piece of machinery. It produces 164hp (183 lb-ft of torque) and features 16 valves, DOHC, and variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-I). Unless youre into street drags or you have 33 Cigarette boat you haul around, this is certainly all the engine youll ever need. The Tacoma comes standard with two airbags, ABS (front disc, rear drum) and brake assist, as well as anchor points for child restraint seats. It also comes with a front tow hook, rear step bumper, a six-foot cargo bed made of lighter, more durable composite materials and cargo bed tie downs. Clearly this one can also be used as a real truck.
The acid test for the new Tacoma isnt Kansas City but Kandahar. Will the Tacomas traditional customer base there be looking elsewhere? Has the new Tacoma, in other words, lost its Taliban edginess? Will we soon be seeing news shots of it hurtling over sand dunes with a box full of dentally-challenged Charlie Manson look-alikes waving Kalashnikovs? Not if Toyotas marketing people have any say in it we wont. The new Tacoma takes dead aim at the mainstream North American consumer. While the basic tradesman special such as my test vehicle offers perhaps the best value for dollar, if youre so inclined you can get your Tacoma tarted up with all manner of alloy wheels, huge P265 tires, hood scoops, sports badging and other custom extras. However you choose to equip yours you can be sure of one thing: youll be buying legendary Toyota build quality and reliability. History has shown youll also lose a lot less money on a Toyota, any Toyota, come trade-in time than on almost any other vehicle you can buy.