Road Test: Comparison Test
2005 Tough Truck Shootout
By Ed Hellwig
Date posted: 11-08-2005
The sign read, "You may find crickets and/or beetles in your room. Sorry, there's nothing we can do, the entire state is infested with them. Please, enjoy your stay."
Not the welcome mat we were expecting at the Motel 6 in Beatty, Nevada, but a fitting start to a weekend of roughing it.
We drove the 350 miles from Los Angeles to Beatty, a small town on the outskirts of Death Valley National Park, to test trucks, specifically the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Tacoma. We've compared them before, but not like this.
This is a good old-fashioned grudge match. To the death. Winner takes all. Instead of calculating price points and comparing features lists, we wanted to see how these trucks tow up hills, run on the sand and race over washboard fire roads. You know, like you see in the commercials.
And they would have to do it all in the relentless triple-digit heat of California's Mojave Desert. These trucks claim to be tough. We were going to find out how tough.
In our 2005 Midsize Truck Comparison Test, the Toyota Tacoma finished in 1st place with the Nissan Frontier just a few points behind. The other three trucks in the test were good but the Nissan and the Toyota were better, much better.
They also offer dedicated off-road packages for those who want that kind of hardware, or at least that look.
To judge the effectiveness of such packages, we brought along two versions of each truck — one in full off-road trim and another dressed for the street. All four trucks were four-wheel-drive crew cabs with V6 engines and automatic transmissions. Prices ranged from $29,730 to $31,630.
On the Toyota side, the street model was our current long-term Tacoma, a long bed version with the TRD Sport package that swaps in retuned springs, Bilstein shocks and a set of Dunlop Grand Trek tires along with a few cosmetic upgrades. The TRD parts are designed to give the Tacoma improved on-road handling without reducing its ability off-road.
The other Toyota was a short bed with the TRD Off-Road package. It gets progressive rate springs along with Bilstein shocks, a thinner front sway bar, more aggressive BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, skid plates, and a locking rear differential.
Our long-term Frontier with the NISMO packages stood in for Nissan's off-road entry. Like the Tacoma, the NISMO Frontier gets Bilstein shocks, Rugged Trail tires, retuned springs, skid plates and a locking rear differential. It also adds electronic Hill Descent Control and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Nissan's version of stability control.
Nissan doesn't have an equivalent to the TRD Sport package, so we used the closest thing possible, a Frontier LE equipped with 17-inch street tires.
A True Test
To see what these trucks could do under load, we hooked up a 5,000-pound trailer and headed up a long, steep pass in Death Valley with the outside temperature hovering around 115 degrees. There was one passenger in each truck and we kept the air conditioning on at all times. We noted how fast the trucks climbed, how they sounded doing it and whether they heated up in the process.
full story here: http://www.edmunds.com/apps/vdpconta...4/pageNumber=1
The Tacoma is no longer their top pickup. The Nissan Frontier, which came in second place in the midsized truck comparo last year, is now the top dog.
Last year's test:
Proof that edmunds has brain farts.