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Toyota thinks big with new Tacoma

October 31, 2004|by TIM SPELL/Motor Matters

Toyota is thinking big when it comes to pickups. Its compact 2005 Tacoma sends the first signal of a more aggressive approach to building trucks. The all-new Tacoma is considerably beefier - so much so that one might be tempted to label it a "midsize" pickup.

The 2005 Tacoma is 4 inches wider and grows up to 6 inches in overall length. Wheelbases are stretched more than 5 inches. It's available in Regular Cab, extended Access Cab and four-door Double Cab configurations. Toyota bucks an industry trend toward deleting regular cabs from the lineup.

Based on the three cab types, Tacomas are offered in 18 model configurations. Two- and four-wheel drivetrains are offered, along with the 2WD PreRunner model that stands tall on the same suspension and tires as 4WD Tacomas. Regular Cab and Access Cab models are fitted with a 73.5-inch bed, and Double Cab buyers have the choice of a 60.3- or 73.5-inch bed.

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Along with bigger dimensions, 2005 Tacomas offer greater engine output with all-new 2.7-liter four-cylinder and re-engineered 4.0-liter V-6 engines. The 2.7-liter replaces the 2.4- and the former 2.7-liter four-cylinder engines. It delivers 164 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 183 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3,800 rpm. Toyota credits the engine's Electronically Controlled Throttle System with Intelligence for its improved throttle response.

A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission can be bolted to the new four-cylinder. The revised 4.0-liter V-6, which is the base engine in Toyota's 4Runner and 2005 Tundra, is available in 4x4 and PreRunner Access Cab and cranks out V-8-style output: 245 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, a more than 50 horsepower increase; and 282 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3,800 rpm.

Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and five-speed automatic. The new X-Runner sport truck is powered by the 4.0-liter, exclusively partnered with the six-speed manual transmission. This pickup is ripe for the picking by youthful Gen-Y consumers wanting to make a powerful statement on the streets. Importantly for young buyers looking for an edgy ride, the X-Runner has the appearance of a ready-to-race street machine and the performance to back it up.

The truck's name comes from an "X-braced" reinforced frame that boosts torsional rigidity for better stability and handling during aggressive driving. Complementing the beefed-up frame are firmer, shorter springs and specially tuned Bilstein gas shocks positioned outboard of the frame rails.

Toyota Racing Development will offer a dealer-installed, factory warranted supercharger that boosts horsepower to about 300. The supercharged kick shaves more than 1 second off the X-Runner's 7-second 0-60-mph time.

Cosmetically, the X-Runner is enhanced with a hood scoop, integrated fog lamps and wraparound ground effects. TRD is offering a special "Big Brake" kit that puts the stops on the X-Runner with larger 13-inch rotors.

Of course, for the average buyer, 2005 Tacomas offer practical and convenience features to enhance everyday driving comfort. Entering the larger, more spacious interiors is made easier for back-seat passengers with dual rear doors on Access Cab models, and Double Cab rear doors that are 3 inches longer and open to a greater 80-degree angle. Double Cab rear 60/40-split seat-backs recline to a more comfortable 23 degrees. Rear seats also tumble and fold to create a flat, hard-surface cargo floor.

Most noticeable among interior improvements is a restyled dashboard. It's far more stylish and sophisticated, with a bold three-ring gauge cluster and a prominent, wedge-sided center control panel.

The Tacoma also raises the bar on cargo box design. Boxes are sheathed with standard fiber-reinforced sheet-molded composite material. Toyota boasts Tacoma's bed is 10 percent lighter than a steel bed, dent-resistant, corrosion-proof, and can endure greater impact than a steel bed. Securing cargo is more efficient with a standard deck-rail utility system, which includes protective bed-rail caps, two-tier loading slots, removable tailgate, four adjustable tie-down cleats and two rear tie-down points. A deck-mounted AC power outlet is available. Smaller items can be tucked away in four storage boxes integrated between the bed and fenders.

The cargo box's exterior reflects Tacoma's stronger appearance, with a curved tailgate and bulging fenders. Front and rear over-fenders add muscularity to PreRunner and 4x4 models.

Up front, a bolder grille and headlamp design give Tacoma a more modern and powerful look - fitting for a much more formidable 2005 offering.

Tim Spell is auto writer for the Houston Chronicle Cars & Trucks section.)

© Motor Matters, 2004

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