Sport trucks were a big hit in the late 80’s. Almost every manufacturer made a compact pick up and it seemed like the youth were taking them and fixing them up by installing louder exhausts, big tires and lowered suspensions. Well, that craze faded over time as have the sales of compact pickups. These days only a few manufacturers even make compact trucks and you rarely see one that is modified. Now everyone is focused on the full size trucks. Maybe it was the cheap price of gas in the years past that drove people to the full size trucks with their V8 power. With the recent price hikes in gas, it will be interesting to see if the compact pickup (which has been growing up in size and weight) makes a comeback. Toyota certainly hopes so. They are one of the few people that still make a compact pickup and the compact Tacoma still enjoys strong sales.
For 2005, Toyota has introduced an all-new Tacoma. There are actually eighteen different Tacoma model configurations. Our favorite is the X-Runner, which is the sports car of the line up. The X-Runner is the replacement to the 2004 S-Runner, which featured a 190 hp 3.4 liter V6 with a standard 5 speed manual transmission. The 2005 X-Runner derives its name from the X-Braced reinforced frame underneath that provides enhanced rigidity.
Toyota calls the X-Runner “The Muscletruck Meets Sports Car.” That is a pretty good way to describe the X. While other sport trucks such as Dodge’s SRT-10 offer 500 hp V-10 engines, the X is much less exotic. The X-Runner is powered by the 4.0 liter DOHC V6 with VVT-I valve control that puts out 245 hp. The exclusive transmission choice in the X is a 6-speed manual. That combination coupled with a smaller and lighter body makes the X-Runner a much more usable package over say an SRT-10. 500 hp in a truck results in a truck that is a beast that you have to be very careful with. On the other hand with 245 hp and a lighter truck, the X-Runner becomes a truck that you can drive hard with ease. Toyota says that the X-Runner will do 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds and that sounds about right. The motor is smooth all the way to the 5500 rpm redline yet can easily come away from a stop sign in second gear. The 6-speed manual has good ratios that are well placed. If you want to go fast, you can use all gears. If you are just cruising, you can easily skip third and fifth gears and there will be no complaints. The one thing that really dampens the excitement is the shift linkage. There is way too much slop in the linkage and if you try to shift quickly, it either won’t let you or worse it results in gear grinding noise.
Just as impressive as the acceleration is the handling. Our X-Runner came with 255/45-18 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires which are very grippy. The lowered suspension with stiffer shocks and springs results in a harsh ride that will remind you that it is a truck. And if you decide to go fast around come turns, better make sure that the road is smooth. If there are bumps in the middle of the turn, they could upset the truck and send it into the next lane. However, on a smooth road the X is incredible. The X communicates with its driver better than some sports cars. You can easily push the X to its limits with confidence.
The other complaint about the performance aspect of the X that we have is regarding the brakes. They feel spongy and there is very little feel. It is so bad that the first few times that you come to a stop for a light, you end up stopping past the point where you thought you would stop. An amazing thing these days is the drum brakes on the rear of all Tacomas.
Inside the X, the world is a great place. While the interior is not a like that of a Lexus, it is by no means cheap looking. There are typical high quality Toyota materials throughout the interior and there are even some nice touches such as audio controls on the steering wheel and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel column. The dash layout is clear and simple. The driver seat bottom angle is not adjustable and started to get uncomfortable on long drives.
The back seat is a different story. The X-Runner is only available in the Access Cab version, which is extended cab to you and me. While there are two seat belts back there, one cannot imagine putting an adult back there. There is not really a seat back there either. The “seat” is more like a cushion with the back going up at 90 degrees. The back is OK for small kids, pets or luggage but do not think you can get your mother in law to crawl back there.
The X-Runner is a pretty good package. It has a few negatives that really deter the driver from having a good time but it has many features that are wonderful. The best feature is the price tag of $23,110 that makes you overlook a lot of small flaws. For $23,000 you get a pretty well equipped truck that is a blast to drive and can haul all your stuff with its 73.5 inch bed and still tow 3500 pounds. That is an amazing bargain. When we asked people how much they thought the truck cost, most guessed in the $30,000 range. And the X-Runner is not built by some company you have never heard of either. It has the typical Toyota quality and resale value so you can be confident about buying one and it is even built right here in California at the NUMMI plant in Fremont. If more people knew about it, Toyota would sell millions of these things.