Today, if you make and sell trucks, and you want to add a performance variant, there’s apparently only one option: making an off-road monster. Hot trucks are all about maximum ground clearance, giant tires and plenty of body armor. Sometimes more power if you’ve got the cash. But it wasn’t always that way. Hot trucks used to be about going lower with better handling and more body styling. And one of the rare examples of applying that strategy to a smaller truck was the 2005 to 2014 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner.
It’s technically not the first sporty Tacoma. That goes to its predecessor, the S-Runner. But the X-Runner looked much more the part of a sports truck with its big hood scoop and aggressive side skirts and front fascia. It picked up other improvements from the new generation, such as more power.
Why is the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner a future classic?
The thing about the Tacoma X-Runner is that it combines a pickup truck with almost everything we, and likely you, love about sporty cars. Rear-wheel drive? Check. Six-speed manual transmission? Check. Limited-slip differential? Check. Stiffer, lowered suspension? Check. Sporty styling? You guessed it, check.
And it’s not just a case of a cheap lowering kit and some extra plastic. Toyota proudly proclaimed the fact it benchmarked the Nissan 350Z for handling. It also claimed that the truck could manage 0.9 lateral g on a skidpad.
To achieve this, Toyota fitted an X brace (the reason it’s called X-Runner instead of carrying on the S-Runner name), stiffer springs and shocks that lowered it by 0.6 inch and a rear anti-roll bar. Its 255-mm Bridgestone Potenza tires, the widest available on a Tacoma of that generation, didn’t hurt either.
We already mentioned that it came with a six-speed and a limited-slip differential, which improve the fun factor, but we haven’t touched on the engine. It’s a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. That’s a solid improvement over the 195-horsepower 3.4-liter engine of the S-Runner, though it’s not any different than any other V6 Tacoma of the era. Still, a 0-60 mph time of around 7 seconds isn’t too shabby. Without extra power, the untouched brakes don’t seem like as much of an oversight, either.
And if you wanted more, there was a factory-supported option. TRD sold a supercharger kit for all the Tacoma 4.0-liter V6s that could be installed by the dealer that would bring power up to 304 horsepower and 334 pound-feet of torque. Sadly, you can’t get it from Toyota anymore. But there’s a company called Underdog Racing Development that still makes and sells the same basic kit. So if you do find yourself an X-Runner, you can still punch up your pickup.
And like we said, it’s still a pickup truck. It’ll tow 3,500 pounds and has a big bed with an 875-pound payload capacity. OK, that’s not great, but good luck fitting a book case or yard’s worth of mulch in a Z or an 86.
What is the ideal example of the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner?
Over the near decade that the X-Runner was offered, it never really changed much. That means that the cleanest example you can find for the money is your ideal choice. And one with a supercharger already installed will surely be the most fun.
But if you’re picky, something to keep in mind is that the Tacoma line got a refresh for the 2012 model year. Styling was very slightly tweaked, but the big bonus was the addition of USB and Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio. It’s definitely nice to have, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for us.
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Are there any good alternatives to the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner?
One of the things that distinguishes the X-Runner is that it’s a smaller sports truck at a time when the main alternatives were full-sizers such as the Dodge Ram SRT-10 and Chevy Silverado SS. And the manual transmission was relatively unusual.
But there was one other sporty small truck alternative: the first-generation Chevy Colorado. There was an option package called ZQ8 that offered lowered suspension and some styling tweaks. It was also available on both the four- and five-cylinder trucks. But the real sweet spot was the 5.3-liter V8 model introduced in 2009 that made 300 horsepower. You couldn’t get it with a manual, but the rumbly exhaust and extra power might make it easy to forgive.