The new Toyota Tacoma received an automatic invite to join our long-term-test fleet after capturing the 2005 Truck of the Year trophy. Toyota has employed the traditional domestic truck formula--lots of cab, trim, powertrain, and accessory variations--to good effect in this well-executed midsizer, something Ford and GM should note. This is a terrific urban truck--large enough to be useful and compact enough to drive and park anywhere. It mixes adequate comfort and feature levels with meaningful ratings and capacity.

We opted for the PreRunner, which has the look and off-road abilities of a 4x4, but without the weight, cost, and fuel penalty of four-wheel-drive hardware. This also could be of financial interest for those interested in minimizing their insurance and fuel bills. We ordered our extended-cab unit in Radiant Red with the TRD Off-Road Package #2 ($4405), carpeted floormats ($130), runningboards ($369), and door-sill protector ($40) for an out-the-door total of $25,459. In addition to the tough, raised-ride-height look, the TRD package includes important components: tuned Bilstein shocks, 16-inch wheels with BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, locking rear differential, engine skidplate, tow hook, and a Class-4 hitch.

Toyota engineered a composite material for the bed, so it won't ever rust; no additional liner is required to protect it from the scratches and damage that would befall a metal bed. Time will tell how the high-tech plastic cargo box survives--indeed, the whole darn truck--but rest assured we'll give it some abuse with that issue in mind.

From The Logbook
"Toyota hasn't reinvented the midsize truck here, but the Tacoma is an example of a superb execution of conventional themes."
Matt Stone