The 421-hp Toyota Tacoma X-Runner Concept is the truck America deserves
Remember how street trucks whipped a lot of ass? From the crazy Dodge Ram SRT-10 to the attainable Chevrolet S-10 Extreme, the era of drop-top, performance-oriented everyday trucks ruled the roost, and Toyota hasn’t forgotten about it. At this year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Japanese automaker showed off the new Tacoma X-Runner concept, and it had us all drooling. With a lowered suspension, visuals fit for a street truck, and a massive power upgrade over the standard Tacoma, this concept is a complete heritage play worthy of seeing in customers’ driveways.
The best part? It seems that a lot of things related to this concept can be produced. Not only was it developed in-house by Toyota’s Calty design studio in California, it features an extensive parts raid (Toyota wanted to point out the versatility of its TNGA-F platform) to keep things running and theoretically faster than ever before. Oh, and the trucks that led to this are really cool, so let’s delve into the history of the X-Runner to get some context on this cool concept.
Before the X-Runner, there was the S-Runner. Only a few thousand of these monochromatic beauties painted in either Sand Pearl Black or Radiant Red were built from NUMMI between model years 2001 to 2004, each sporting a wicked set of 16-inch alloy wheels, a proper street truck body kit, and a host of performance upgrades. . According to Motor direction:
To create the S-Runner’s sporty truck look, Toyota lowered the 4×2 Xtracab pickup by an inch and fitted Tokico high-performance gas shocks. Other S-Runner suspension modifications include increased-rate springs, front and rear anti-sway bars, and modifications to the power steering for increased effort and feel. Toyota’s 3.4-liter/190-hp DOHC V6 is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, and its exhaust system is tuned to evoke memories of muscle cars.
The Tacoma S-Runner competed directly against the Chevrolet S-10 For the next generation Tacoma, things are going to get even bigger.
When the 2005 model year began, so did the new Tacoma. I’m talking new engines, new chassis, new frame, and a new level of street truck. If you went to your local Toyota dealer in 2005 with $23,675, or about $37,312 in today’s money, burning a hole in your pocket, you could have walked out of there with a Tacoma X-Runner. At the time, it was the most expensive two-wheel-drive Tacoma you could buy, but it came with a bunch of tasty upgrades.
From the factory, there were only three ways to order a Tacoma X-Runner: Speedway Blue, Radiant Red, or Black Sand Pearl. You either knew how to operate this street truck’s six-speed manual gearbox or you learned, and all-wheel drive was completely out of the question. The only engine was the 245-hp 4-liter 1GR-FE V6, a powerful torquey unit that propelled the X-Runner with reasonable authority. Toyota claims a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of seven seconds, which is certainly not bad for a V6 pickup truck.
However, the Tacoma X-Runner was never meant for straight-line speed. It was supposed to give the Miatas a hard time when the road got twisty. Toyota went to town on this truck, beefing up the rear leaf spring shackles, lowering the ride height by an inch, increasing spring rates, controlling those springs with Bilstein dampers, keeping body motions under control with larger anti-roll bars, and using a set Sticker from tires size 255/45R18. And on top of that there was a limited-slip differential, because no one likes to spin a tire on a hairpin. Results? Claimed 0.90 g On a skateboard, which should theoretically be the best Car and driver I got out of a 2003 Nissan 350Z Roadster. Now the cooking is done with gas.
Toyota has a certain reputation for finding something that works and sticking with it forever, and the for 2014, but by 2015, the third-generation Tacoma was on the horizon. Needless to say, we never got a third-generation Tacoma X-Runner.
The X-Runner concept features an automatic transmission, though I’m not even mad that you’ll only find four spark plugs under that hood. Forget the 2.4-liter turbocharged inline-four that goes into everything, this functional concept gets the Tundra’s 3.4-liter twin-turbocharged V6, with output boosted to 421 hp and 479 lb.-ft. of torque. Oh yeah, that should be done well.
The boosted V6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission aren’t the only family-friendly components of the Tacoma X-Runner Concept. Because the new Taco shares a common TNGA-F architecture with the Tundra, Toyota was able to use that truck’s front brakes, rear axle, and rear air suspension. Combine raiding the Tundra parts bin with some major add-on goodies like stiffer front springs, wider track, custom-valved Bilstein dampers, and awesome 285/45R21 Michelin beefies wrapped around some wild carbon fiber wheels, and you should get a one-time shot. That goes, stops and shifts like no other fourth-gen Tacoma.
Of course, performance is just one aspect of the Tacoma Accents to add a touch of contrast and enhanced lighting. After all, street trucks are about looking good as much as they are about going fast.
While the reborn Tacoma X-Runner concept is just a one-off model for SEMA, it deserves to go into production. It’s been years since we’ve seen a new factory-built street truck from any major manufacturer, and with 20-year nostalgia trend cycles currently landing in the nu-metal era, it seems like a good time to take advantage. Sure, the Tundra’s V6 swap might not be production feasible from an emissions and certification standpoint, but the X-Runner’s new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder and manual would be great. After all, off-road pickup trucks are great, but some of us like to haul the backs and parts for our project cars.
(Image credits: David Tracy, Toyota)
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