Many vehicles float in and out of the Truck Trend and Motor Trend long-term fleets, and occasionally, one slips through before we get a chance to fully acknowledge its abilities and strengths. (Things get a little hectic around here.) Such was the case when our 2005 Truck of the Year winner, the Toyota Tacoma, came and went. To rectify this, especially since the Tacoma is the vehicle that leads all other competitors in its segment (by a wide margin), here's a recap of how the vehicle fared while in our possession.
Competition was fierce during our 2005 Truck of the Year test, but from the outset, we knew the new Toyota Tacoma was going to be a serious player: bigger and bolder looks, a strong powertrain, a vast improvement over the previous model that offers a spectrum of choices. In the end, it took home the well-deserved honors, which earned it a place in our long-term fleet for a one-year evaluation.
We opted for the PreRunner with a TRD package--it offered the tough looks of a hard-core 4x4, but saved the weight of a transfer case, extra driveshaft, and all the front-axle parts that would've added almost 400 extra pounds. The weight savings provided a good amount of extra throttle response and better overall fuel economy. Our only regret was opting for the runningboard step rails ($369). They weren't practical, didn't fit with the truck's stance, and left dirt on the back of several drivers' pant legs. Regardless, when our long-termer rolled into Truck Trend headquarters, there was plenty of fighting for seat time.
In its first six months in our fleet, our Radiant Red RWD Tacoma proved so popular, the odometer clicked up another 5000 miles every 60 days, with trips to Reno and Phoenix, and it spent hours of torture duty in Southern California traffic. As you might imagine, our PreRunner also spent much of its time as a support vehicle on large and small road tests for Motor Trend and Truck Trend.
Testers noted the vehicle felt tight and solid from the beginning, with only a single comment made about the seals around the rear doors, a typically troublesome spot for air leaks in extended cabs. Beyond that, most logbook entries focused on how strong the engine and transmission felt, visibly raising the front end when starting from a full stop.
Staff members had high praise for the interior, with its numerous cupholders and large lockable storage bin, with even a few hidden compartments under the rear fold-down seats. Staff photographers liked the built-in 115-volt inverter, which allowed them to plug in their laptops to download photos immediately following a shoot. It also helped keep camera batteries charged--though a plug inside the cab, as well as the one in the bed, would've been even more helpful.
The Tacoma performed several towing stints, where we found it susceptible to some tail waggle with a 3500-pound Fleetwood camper in back. The truck's soft rear springs required precautions regarding tongue weights to avoid pointing headlights into oncoming traffic during night driving. Fuel economy averaged 13.8 mpg when towing, the center console shifter making for easy maneuvering between third and fourth gears to help keep the engine revs in the strongest part of the powerband--a good thing towing up grades at altitude. Other towables included a rented U