March 8, 2006
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By Jil McIntosh
Photos by Jil McIntosh and Grant Yoxon
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In this world, there are two types of trucks: them what works hard, and them what don’t. Toyota covers both with its Tacoma, offered in a variety of packages including my tester, the tuner-style X-Runner.
Owners turning their mini-trucks into tuner vehicles seemed like a fad at first, but they’ve grown into a full-blown sub-sect; while most manufacturers have pretty much ignored the market, Toyota has embraced it, both with its TRD aftermarket equipment and now, with a truck that’s ready to go cruising, straight out of the box.
The Tacoma’s range includes two- and four-wheel drive, and Access and Double Cab models. The X-Runner’s configuration is unique in the line-up: it’s built on the base 4×2 Access Cab, which normally comes only with an inline four-cylinder, but uses the 4.0-litre V6 that’s standard equipment on the 4×2 PreRunner Double Cab. The engine is also used across-the-board on all 4×4 models, but the X-Runner is strictly two-wheel drive, and is also only offered with a six-speed manual transmission. The name refers to its exclusive frame, which has “x-brace” reinforcement for enhanced torsional rigidity.
The rest of the X-Runner package includes a lowered suspension with Bilstein shocks and rear stabilizer bar, limited-slip differential, 18-inch performance summer tires, full skirt package, hood scoop, fog lamps, power mirrors, 115-volt outlet in the box, and interior accessories such as in-dash six-CD changer, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter knob, cruise control, and power windows and locks with keyless entry. (Surprisingly, for all that, the X-Runner retains the rear drum brakes found across the rest of the Tacoma’s line-up, instead of the discs I’d expected.) It’s a complete package, and none of the individual items can be substituted or deleted. Its $9,220 price-tag may seem hefty at first, but the combination of cab configuration, engine and transmission isn’t available otherwise, and tricking out a base Access Cab to anything close would run far more than that at a performance shop.
The truck’s heavy nose and full skirts aren’t to all preferences, of course – no “customized” vehicle ever is – but that said, I should have had this thing when I was young and single, as it proved a magnet for most of the twenty-something young men who saw it. It’s only available in my tester’s Radiant Red, or in blue or black. And while it’s officially rated with a towing capacity of 1587 kg (3500 lbs) and a payload of 412 kg (910 lbs), don’t expect to see any of them doing a lick of real work, not with all that plastic hanging off the ends. This truck is all about the style when you’re cruisin’ the strip.
The 236 hp V6 is a powerhouse in this small truck; the six-speed’s short gears mean that you’re constantly shifting, but keeping the hands and feet busy is all part of the tuner experience.
The engine cranks and starts with a huge roar that makes it sound carbureted, and it remains fairly noisy, but I wasn’t taken with the buzzy exhaust note, which needs a fuller, gruffer sound. It’s also relatively thirsty, returning 15.6 L/100 km (18 mpg Imp) in combined cold-weather use. Clutch take-up is near the top of the travel, and it takes a bit of practice to obtain smooth shifts. There’s a quick beep when the transmission’s put into Reverse; it’s to the left of First and can be easily confused if you’re not used to it, so the warning will be appreciated by new owners or multi-vehicle families.
Despite the lowered suspension, it still sits too high for a tuner truck, but there’s only so far a manufacturer can take a consumer product, and a visit to the aftermarket shop should fix it. Still, the ride height, stiffened frame, tuned shocks and thick rear stabilizer bar give this little truck incredible handling for what it is; you simply don’t expect a pickup to handle hard corners the way the X-Runner does. The ride is supple and comfortable on the straightaway, and the steering is light, but not so much so that it loses confidence at speed. My vehicle was fitted with winter tires; you’ll have to budget for them, as the package only includes summer radials.
The Access Cab has two sets of doors, but the small back ones are rear-hinged, and can only be released once the front doors are open. Since there’s no B-pillar, you naturally get the odd bump or squeak where the doors lock together when driving on rough pavement, but it’s not unbearable. The rear door windows don’t open, but the back window has a manually-operated sliding panel. In theory it’s a four-seater, but it’s hard to imagine hating anyone enough to make them ride back there; the jump seats are simply thin, flat cushions stuck onto two risers and the back of the cab. Those risers can be unfolded to form a flat cargo area, and there are two covered storage compartments under them.
Despite their size, many smaller trucks are still set up for tall drivers, but the X-Runner works well even for we vertically-challenged folks, and I could reach all three pedals easily without sitting too close to the wheel. The cluster is a simple but attractive three-gauge arrangement, and the intuitive HVAC and radio controls are set in a metallic insert in the centre of the dash. Fit and finish are excellent, but more backlighting is needed; only the driver’s window switch lights up, and you have to fumble for the lock button in the dark.
Overall, the interior makes a good impression, but with its soft fabrics and light-coloured carpeting, it’s obvious that this isn’t a vehicle meant for muddy work boots and dirty coveralls. This is basically a car with a pickup box, but for many buyers, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The X-Runner isn’t going to appeal to everyone; its out-there appearance, lack of an automatic transmission and its price premium will probably keep this package a relatively low-volume seller. But if you’re in its target audience, it’s still cheaper than what you’d spend to build one from the ground up, and you can simply get in and drive it home, with all the grunt work done and covered by a warranty. Not only that, but if you do get the bolt-on bug, there are plenty of additional Toyota TRD items that you can add to it to make it your own. Screw your hat on backwards, and let’s go cruisin’.
Technical Data: 2006 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner
|Options||$9,220 (X-Runner Package)|
|Price as tested||$33,165 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives|
|Type||2-door, 4-passenger midsize pickup|
|Layout||Front engine/rear-wheel drive|
|Engine||4.0-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||236 @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque||266 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Tires||P255/45R18 summer radials|
|Wheelbase||3246 mm (127.8 in.)|
|Length||5286 mm (208.1 in.)|
|Width||1835 mm (72.2 in.)|
|Height||1670 mm (65.7 in.)|
|Curb weight||1567 kg (3455 lbs)|
|Towing capacity||1587 kg (3500 lbs)|
|Ground clearance||190 mm (7.5 in.)|
|Payload||412 kg (910 lbs|
|Fuel consumption||City: 14.6 L/100 km (19 mpg Imp)|
|Fuel type||Regular unleaded|
|Hwy: 10.3 L/100 km (27 mpg Imp)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/ 60,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|