Vehicle Overview
Toyota redesigned and enlarged its smaller pickup truck for the 2005 model year and offered it with a more powerful V-6. The wheelbase was extended by 5 inches, and the track widened by 4 inches. Shoulder and hip room increased by nearly 4.5 inches. In its new form, the Tacoma has a higher towing capacity and a tighter turning radius. A performance-oriented X-Runner model is also available.

A tire-pressure-monitoring system is installed on 2006 models, and Tacomas equipped with a front bench seat now have advanced, dual-stage front airbags like models with bucket seats. Four-wheel drive is available with each powertrain. Downhill Assist Control and Hill-start Assist Control are available.


Exterior
Tacomas come in three body styles: regular cab, Access Cab with rear-hinged half-doors and Double Cab with four front-hinged conventional doors. Beds range from 5 to 6 feet in length.

All Tacomas have bed rails and adjustable tie-down cleats. Cargo beds contain a 115-volt power outlet and accessory storage boxes. A TRD Sport Package includes a sport suspension, 17-inch wheels and appearance upgrades.

Sitting an inch lower than other models, the X-Runner has 18-inch alloy wheels. Firmer and shorter springs, Bilstein shock absorbers and large-diameter stabilizer bars are used on the X-Runner. A limited-slip differential is standard. Dealers can install a TRD "Big Brake Kit" on the X-Runner.


Interior
Depending on the model, buyers can choose a front bench seat, bucket seats or sport seating. Access Cab models have two tumble-flat rear seats. Double Cab trucks hold a three-passenger, 60/40-split tumble-and-fold rear seat.

Under the Hood
Using new Society of Automotive Engineers testing standards, the Tacoma's base 2.7-liter four-cylinder is now rated at 159 horsepower. Borrowed from the 4Runner, the available 4.0-liter V-6 produces 236 hp and 266 pounds-feet of torque. The four-cylinder teams with a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission, while the V-6 works with a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. When properly equipped, a Tacoma can tow up to 6,500 pounds.

Safety
Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are standard. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are optional in Double Cab models.

Driving Impressions
Energetic response is a bonus of the Tacoma's V-6 engine when it teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission. This engine snarls during hard acceleration, but not in a distressing way.

When equipped with a TRD Sport Package, in particular, a Double Cab Long-Bed Tacoma 4x4 copes well with unpaved roads. The ride is undeniably taut and fairly stiff, though it's comparable to other small pickups.

Front occupants have ample space. The seats are snug, supportive and well-cushioned.

The performance-focused X-Runner doesn't provide much excitement; it's not very stimulating when the gas pedal is pushed hard. The Tacoma's notchy manual gearbox makes shifting gears more difficult than in some other trucks. In short, the X-Runner is more show than go, and it actually has a lighter steering feel than a regular four-wheel-drive Tacoma.