Saturday, September 25, 2004

Tacoma bigger, badder

Revamped '05 pickup smooth, strong, comfortable

By Carol Traeger
Enquirer contributor
Toyota Tacoma
Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma 2005 X-Runner can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds.

Engines: 2.7-liter in-line 4-cylinder producing 164 horsepower and 183 lb-ft torque; 4.0-liter V6 producing 245 horsepower and 282 lb-ft torque

Transmissions: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic with 4-cylinder engine; 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic with V6 engine

Bed lengths: 60.3 or 73.5 inches

Maximum towing capacity: 6,500 pounds

EPA mpg city/highway: 22/28 (4-cylinder, 4x2, manual transmission); 18/22 c-cylinder, 4x4, manual transmission); 18/21 (V6, 4x4, automatic transmission)

Safety: Dual-stage front air bags, LATCH child-seat anchors. Optional: front and rear curtain air bags, downhill assist

Warranty: Basic: 3 years/36,000 miles

Cool: 245-hp V6, slick 6-speed shifter, loads of storage cubbies, newly available long bed for Double Cab, standard composite bed liner

Uncool: Chunky exterior styling, fake hood scoop on X-Runner

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The once-compact Tacoma pickup has morphed into a midsize truck. It's 5 inches wider, 6 inches longer, has a longer wheelbase, a wider track, and even wider door openings on access and double cab models.

Designed exclusively for the U.S. market, the 2005 Tacoma goes on sale next month.

Toyota expects 70 percent of Tacoma buyers to opt for the new 4.0-liter V6, which boasts 55 horsepower more than the previous 3.4-liter V6. The new power plant produces 245 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque, and raises the Tacoma's tow rating to 6,500 pounds (over the previous model's 5,000 pounds). The V6 can be matched to a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission.

The base engine is a new 164-horsepower 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder, offered with a choice of a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

In addition to two engine and four transmission choices, the Tacoma menu includes three body styles (regular cab, access cab and double cab), two bed lengths (60.3 inches and 73.5 inches), two special editions (the Pre-Runner and the X-Runner), and two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

As for the special editions, the PreRunner is a two-wheel-drive model dressed up in four-wheel guise.

Muscle-truck enthusiasts will want to check out the X-Runner. This V6-powered, rear-wheel-drive access cab model, offered only with a six-speed manual, rides on a lowered sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks, stiffer springs, 18-inch wheels and Bridgestone performance tires.

The X-Runner loses a few points for its fake hood scoop. Toyota will produce only 3,500 units of this "halo vehicle," named for its X-braced crossbar. According to Toyota, the X-Runner can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds, and boasts 0.9 g lateral grip (on par with many sports cars).

I didn't get to test an X-Runner, but I did spend an afternoon tackling paved roads and off-road trails in a V6-powered, 4x4 access cab. The six-speed manual shifted smoothly, and the Tacoma expertly clambered up steep hills, straddled craggy gullies and traversed deep ditches. During hairy descents, I used the optional downhill assist in first low, and it held so well I had to punch the throttle to get us moving again. Back on the highway, the Tacoma felt smooth and strong, comfortable and compliant.

The 2005 Tacoma sports a new look inside and out. If you like the flared fenders and chunky lines of the current 4Runner, chances are you'll like the Tacoma's exterior, too.

Featured on all new Tacomas is a composite bed liner, which is both lighter and more dent-resistant than steel. The bed comes with four adjustable tie-down cleats and an integrated deck rail that's compatible with optional crossbars, a fork-mount bike rack and diamond-plate storage boxes.

Toyota hasn't revealed prices, but it's a fair guess the new Tacoma will cost more than the truck it replaces, which ranged from $13,000 to $24,000.


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