Pros: Versatile and basic transportation for materials and miscellaneous missions.
Cons: Hard, unforgiving suspension, rear cab area unsuitable for seating. Unsuitable for long trips.
The Toyota Tacoma 2004 5-Speed Manual, Xtra Cab Pickup- Bumping, Pounding, Punishing Throwback to ancient times.
WHY A PICKUP IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Utility in the most primitive manner. Bulk purchases are economical. If you need a half yard of planter mix or decomposed gravel, an 8 foot length of lumber, a 6 foot live Holiday Conifer, or a dozen bags of pre-mix concrete; a Prius simply will not do. This pickup model has a sliding rear cab window through which can be poked 8' length materials and potted trees.
After a year without one of these handy vehicles, I surrendered and bought what I hope to be the last one of them in my lifetime. For, you see, I have what is called “The Curse of the DIY Green Thumb Syndrome”. It is incurable; especially when one is Steward of 6 hillside acres and has a companion who loves gardening.
I had looked for several years for something to take the place of a 1996 Ford Ranger extended cab that had replaced a 1979 Datsun short cab I had purchased in another life. I had kept the Datsun for 13 years; the Ranger for another 5. It happed that a family member needed a wheelchair that just did fit into the back of the Ranger cab but it was an immense struggle to load and retrieve that chair.
Then one magic day, I saw a Toyota “Access” cab; the one with those Suicide* (half) Doors to the back of the cab. It was the perfect solution but the family member got better and it seemed that people loved parking close to me in order to prevent the “Access” door deployment. Although the 2008 “Access” was an automatic drive and rode like a magic carpet might and my lovely partner (MLP) could drive it with Elan; it was just too darned big – I could not see over the hood, it got 22 mpg, and MLP required a rappel line to dismount.
Thus, the Prius;
Thencely, the older but wiser choice of an older Tacoma.
TOYOTA TACOMA PICKUP:
2004 Year, Xtended Cab -
Articulating driver & Passenger Seats
Salutory cushions & Seat Belts in Rear
“Half Ton” (1,525 pound payload) (6') cargo bed
4 Cylinder, 2RZ-FE Engine (Lesser Displacement Horsepower Rating)
87 Grade Gasoline 16.0 USGallon Capacity*.
5 Speed Manual transmission - Tachometer
Factory Air Conditioning
Best Feature - Rear side windows pop out: Ventilates Cabin without inviting exhaust fumes through the Rear Sliding openings.
Worst Feature - Large turning radius.
Two power outlets for Electronic Devices
Dark Green (same as the long-lost Ranger) with SR5 trim package.
Truck Bed Liner
118,000 odometer, dings, a deep 'kiss” on rear bumper, inoperable radio (replaced by seller).
Previous owner transported caustic materials, truck bed paint etched/destroyed.
Tires, Brakes, Clutch all within safe limits.
Price: $11,129.00 – Including Tax and License Fee (02 Feb 2012)
Insurance: $680 per year (Farmers')
Mileage: 20 - 22
“Catch-Up Tweaking Services” Toyota Dealer, $155
Replace rear Bumper - $445
Miles at 6 months use: 215 miles per month (Previous Owner 1,200 miles/Month)
Uses 87 Grade Fuel – Never use alcohol mix – 20 mpg
No oil consumption evident
EXPERIENCES, COMMENTS, OBSERVATIONS
A luxury for Country Gentle Folk, a necessity for services use, such as delivery or pool service.
These "courier" design pickups were virtually discontinued in 2005, the larger models appeared in 2006. I wanted the latest model “courier” available. The Toyotas last a long time and the owners hang on to them. I searched the used car ads for months, never saw one for sale and probably missed some private party offerings. Current KBB* values for the 2004 hover around that of 106,000 miles; that is low. My own shopping experience confirmed a scarcity in the North Bay Region. This one showed up on a local lot in Napa, CA and I saw it several times. When I finally inquired, I acted quickly; which was the harbinger of several offers later that first week of February 2012. Money changed hands and it was mine.
So much for supply and demand. I got just what I had wanted to replace the 2008 “Access” design and I was happy for that.
THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE
Nearly all of my vehicles have been powered by 4 Cylinder engines. I never expected to win any contests, an attitude forced upon me by a fellow in a Volkswagen Rabbit who easily waxed my BMW 2002. So, I have time to pay attention to the cost per mile driven. The 2004 Tacoma makes plenty of noise except on new asphalt pavement. And we have little of that in latter day California.
My Ford Ranger was a 5 speed manual so I expected no problems with the Toyota but I was wrong. I had been away from shifting for several years, so there were new leg muscle strains and discomfort. Coordination between Clutch and Gear Selector was difficult; for a while it was grinding gears, leap frog starts, and surprising stalls. This and 5 gears to master! The shift pattern is standard but finding 3rd and 5th was difficult for me at first.
The starter block switch is closed when the clutch pedal is very close to the metal. I actually had to point my toe to make it work. Here was a human engineering problem. I could have tried sleeping in a tree like a bat but decided to move the driver's seat forward for a quicker fix. That brought me forward to what I felt was too close to the steering wheel. Then visibility while backing was poor.
In time, familiarity overcame my growing displeasure with this choice of a vehicle. The crossover point occurred eventually and that part of a ride became somewhat tolerable to MLP.
I aways thought a Tachometer was silly but it has become useful while running through the gears: my target is the 1,200 rpm marker; First to 10mph, Second at 20, Third at 30, fourth at 40 and then fifth. Stomping on the accelerator makes more noise and uses more $4.00 + fuel.
RIDE (a legend)
This is the hardest riding vehicle I have owned. It pounds the occupants to jelly, even with a thousand pounds of decomposed gravel aboard. Which will cause the truck to bottom out readily. Even with that kind of load, the Tacoma can detect a toothpick, or so it seems. Earlier reviews of these pickups are almost sure to criticize this characteristic.
Rough ride goes with rough service; which sould not be a surprise. Whereas the 2008 Tacoma and the 1996 Ranger would glide over the pavement and keep the occupants comfortable; the 2004 XTRA cab is unforgiving as it behaves as a UTILITY vehicle should.
RECOMMENDED (But only for experienced and more adventurous owners.)
* The Toyota Owner's Manual is strangely vague about the Horsepower rating. It could be calculated using Number of Cylinders, RPM, Stroke, Bore, Fuel Coefficient.
* Many early 4 door sedans had rear hinged rear doors that would act like a dive brake when opened at speed. The unlucky person could wind up out on the edge of the road, clutching to the door.
* Kelly Blue Book online price estimates as of August 2012.