Drive: 2005 Toyota Tacoma
With the old Toyota Tacoma poised to overtake the Ford Ranger in the compact/midsize truck market, can you image the assault the new Tacoma will make on the venerable sales leader?
Just before the turn of the century, Ranger outsold Tacoma by more than 2-to-1. But with Ranger sales tumbling—including a 20-percent drop this year—and Toyota picking up market share every month, the Tacoma could overtake Ranger by year’s end. And with Ford not expected to bring out a new Ranger for a few years, don’t look for any comeback soon.
But this story isn’t about Ford’s self-inflicted demise; it’s about the refinement, power enhancement and increasing stature of the eighth-generation Toyota Tacoma. Always a favorite of youthful buyers, the 2005 Tacoma has also matured in size and capability to meet more complex and upscale needs. While other manufacturers have cut their small-truck portfolio, Toyota has expanded and diversified its lineup. There are 18 model configurations across four cab-bed combinations:
cab on 109.4-inch wheelbase with a 73.5-inch cargo bed
All configurations are available in 2- or 4-wheel drive, and the popular PreRunner model with its desert-inspired suspension returns across the board in the 2WD lineup. New to the Tacoma roster is the X-Runner, a sporty 2WD model featuring a special frame, tuned suspension and radical body package.
A new 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 164 horsepower is standard in all models except the X-Runner and Double Cabs. They come with a revised 4.0-liter V6 rated at 245 horsepower. The 4-banger is linked to a standard 5-speed manual transmission with a 4-speed automatic optional on 2WD models. The V6 is mated to one of two new transmissions: a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic, although both may not be available on some models.
The familiar SR5, TRD Off-Road and TRD Sport packages will be available on many models. These packages tie popular options and specific equipment together in easy-to-order groupings and price structures. The SR5 adds a lot of chrome while the Sport package offers a color-keyed look. The Off-Road package beefs up PreRunner and 4x4 models with Bilstein shocks, skidplate, sport seats and locking rear differential. Toyota also offers a basic Enhancement Package and Convenience Package to add popular items such as air conditioning and power windows without getting the upscale options.
Toyota officials were adamant about increasing the size and performance of their pickups pickups when they started developing future strategies for the Tacoma and the fullsize Tundra. “In anticipation of where we know we have to go with Tundra, and I knew the next-generation Tacoma would need to move well beyond the compact truck dimensions of the previous models,” said Tacoma Chief Engineer Yuichiro Obu at the truck’s introduction in Alaska.