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Durable Toyota Tacoma pickup earns premium

Here's a B-movie horror concept: we humans are growing larger.

  • The image of cars in a showroom

Here’s a B-movie horror concept: we humans are growing larger.

Coffins are getting bigger while, paradoxically, airline seats and condominiums are getting smaller.

According to the Journal of Experimental Biology, the average adult today is almost 5 cm taller than persons living a century ago.

Sadly, the compact truck is becoming an anachronism as manufacturers supersize their trucklets. The lone holdout, the Ford Ranger, is expected to be out of production in 2011.

Chief among the new breed of larger, “mid-size” trucks designed to accommodate bigger people and payloads, is the Toyota Tacoma.

CONFIGURATION

All new for 2005, the second-generation Tacoma was made substantially larger than its predecessor – which had been around since 1995 – growing wider by 11 cm and longer by 13 cm.

Riding on the same chassis underpinning the Toyota 4Runner, it featured a thick box-section front member, seven cross-members and reinforced steel C-channels to boost frame stiffness.

Unfortunately, all that heavy metal contributed to the Taco’s 160 kg weight gain.

To ensure its success, there were three cab styles: regular, extended Access Cab with rear-hinged mini doors, and the Double Cab with four conventional doors. Regular and Access Cabs came with a six-foot cargo box, while Double Cabs had five- or six-foot boxes.

In an attempt to reduce weight, the boxes’ interior walls and floor were made of a tough composite plastic, making a box liner unnecessary.

Toyota sweated the details inside the cabin, creating space where it counted. Accessed through large doors, the Double Cab’s back seat accommodated three people well, with a 23-degree seatback rake that was positively La-Z-Boy-like.

“There is a lot of room inside for two car seats in the back and all the stuff that we have to have available for (the kids),” wrote the owner of a 2005 Double Cab.

Regular cabs had bucket seats or a three-place bench; the others seated five via front buckets and a folding three-place rear bench.

On the down side, the seats were mounted close to the floor, and the driver sat with legs outstretched – not the best driving position. A manual tilting and telescoping steering wheel adapted to most drivers.

The base engine was a new DOHC 2.7 L four-cylinder making 159 hp and 180 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

The optional motor (standard on Double Cabs) was a 236 hp DOHC 4.0 L V6, good for 266 lb.-ft. of grunt, which worked with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

Both engines powered the rear wheels or, optionally, four-wheel drive that could not be left engaged on dry pavement (it did offer low-range gearing, however). Anti-lock braking was standard for all Tacomas. An anti-skid system was optional, as was a limited-slip rear differential.

Off-road enthusiasts could order the TRD package, which included an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein monotube shocks, all-terrain tires and sport seats.

Toyota specified softer bushings and damper settings than in previous models, making the ride much less jiggly on smooth roads – a godsend.

Not much changed in subsequent years. All 2007 Tacos got larger front seats, redesigned radios and bright dashboard trim.

ON THE ROAD

Despite the Tacoma’s heft, structural rigidity didn’t match that of its platform-mate, the 4Runner. Large bumps can send shivers through the chassis, which belies the truck’s spendy price tag.

Auto critics disliked its imprecise, wallowing suspension and numb steering. It leaned excessively in turns and tended to porpoise over road undulations. “Fun to drive” doesn’t come readily to mind.

On the other hand, the V6 Tacoma ran zero to 96 km/h in 7.1 seconds, the quickest truck in its class – beating a V8 Dodge Dakota handily. The V6 could tow 6,500 pounds (2,950 kg), though fuel economy wasn’t its strong suit.

“My full-size truck gets as good fuel economy as this vehicle. This makes me question the point of a smaller V6 truck,” posted the owner of a ’06 model.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

Tacoma owners are a happy lot. They list the truck’s comfy interior, versatile storage, beefy V6 and smooth ride as pluses.

“I drive typically 250 kilometres per day and the comfort and reliability are astounding,” wrote the owner of a 2007 Tacoma.

There weren’t a lot of dependability issues with the trucks, which were assembled in Tijuana, Mexico and Fremont, Calif.

A few reported transmission problems, but more often it was the manual gearbox that was faulty (short-lived clutches, bad synchros), rather than the automatic.

The original tailgate may bend under heavy loads; Toyota made an improved, reinforced tailgate available.

Other gripes centred on faulty air conditioners, batteries and front wheel bearings – all in small numbers. The most common complaint had to do with scratch-prone paintwork.

All in all, the Tacoma is a durable workhorse that’s worth the considerable premium it commands in the used-truck market.

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Dodge Magnum and Kia Rio.

Email toljagic@ca.inter.net.

 

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