The Toyota Tacoma
Instantly a hit with the young and hip, the Tacoma made an unforgettable entrance onto the automobile market. Though it started off small, the Tacoma grew in physical size and legend soon after its release in the 1990s. Each generation of the Tacoma has boasted incredible improvements over its previous iterations. With a history of being one of the best and most reliable trucks on the market, the Tacoma even holds the distinction of being a preferred vehicle for military special forces. As a mainstay on the pickup truck market, the Tacoma has more than earned its reputation for dependability and quality.
By the Numbers
The first generation's specifications ran long and wide, even for the smallest Tacomas: For Regular Cabs, the 1995-97 two-wheel-drive was 174.8 inches in length; between 1998 and 2000, the four-wheel-drive was 183.8 inches, the PreRunner two-wheel-drive was 183.8 inches, and the 1998-2002 two-wheel-drive was 184.5 inches; and the 2003-04 four-wheel-drive was 184.4 inches. For the Xtracab, the 1995-97 two-wheel-drive was 193.3 inches long, the 1995-97 four-wheel-drive was 199 inches, the 1998-2002 four-wheel-drive and PreRunner were 202.3 inches, the 1998-2002 two-wheel-drive was 203.1 inches, and the 2003-04 V6 Double Cab was 202.9 inches. The Tacoma's width was 66.5 inches, except for the 2001-02 Crew Cab, which was 70.1 inches wide, and the 2003-04 Crew Cab, which came in at 70.3 inches. The height for the two-wheel-drive version was 61 to 64.1 inches, while the four-wheel-drive clocked in at 66.3 to 67.7 inches. This truck's first generation was a sturdy vehicle that weighed in at 3,155 pounds as a two-wheel-drive and 3,877 pounds as a four-wheel-drive.
Tacoma's second generation of trucks were much more streamlined in size. The Regular Cab was 190.4 inches long, the Access Cab and Double Cab Short Bed were both 208.1 inches in length, and the Double Cab Long Bed was 221.3 inches long. Corresponding widths made them a presence on the road; the two-wheel-drive Regular Cab was 72.2 inches wide, the two-wheel-drive Extended was 74.6 inches, the four-wheel-drive was 74.7 inches, and the X-Runner was 74 inches. Heights made a lasting impression, as the Regular Cab two-wheel-drive was 65.7 inches, the Double Cab was 70.1 inches, and the Extended Cab and four-wheel-drive Regular were 69.9 inches. The 2005-06 X-Runner model was 65.2 inches high, and the current X-Runner is 72.2 inches in height. Weights for the Tacoma were impressive at 3,550 to 3,950 pounds.
New Beginnings: The First Generation
From the very beginning, Toyota had a singular vision for the Tacoma. Between 1995 and 2004, it was designed to be used mainly for personal transportation rather than as a lean and mean workhorse. The first generation of the Toyota Tacoma boasted three engines: the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 142 horsepower and 160 pound-feet torque, a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with 150 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, and an enviable 3.4-liter V6 engine with 190 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. For the two-wheel-drive vehicles, consumers had the options of automatic and manual transmissions with 2.4-liter and 3.4-liter engines. Four-wheel-drives had a 3.4 V6 engine with a R150F manual transmission or an A340F automatic transmission.
Single-cabs had an interesting bit of mix-and-matching happening under the hood. Tacomas made with single cabs from 1995-97 could be purchased with a 3.4 V6 engine and a manual transmission. Specialty single-cab versions, like the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) model, came with a 3.4-liter V6 engine that clocked in at an impressive 254 horsepower and a torque rating of 270 pound-feet. Standardization came in 1997, when single cabs were offered on the market with just 2.7-liter or 2.4-liter engines, which narrowed down the choices consumers had in their Tacomas.
A technical upgrade was added in 1996 in the form of a distributor-less ignition, and bigger rear leaf springs were introduced in 1997. Superficial refreshing of the Tacoma occurred in 1997 and 2000, which mainly involved switching out grilles and company-related emblems to better fit with the times. In 2000, a four-door Crew Cab was incorporated in the Tacoma design in an effort to offer more space in the interior. Toyota rose to the occasion when it came to safety by adopting the life-saving passenger-side airbag in its Tacoma models in 1997.
From 2004 to 2015, the Tacoma was upgraded to become more muscular. Between the Regular Cab, Access Cab, and Double Cab, 2.7-liter 2TR-FE four-cylinder and 4-liter 1GR-FE V6 engines, five- and six-speed manual transmissions, four- and five-speed automatic transmissions, and 5-foot and 6-foot beds, consumers had almost 20 ways to create the perfect truck. A total of 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque in the 3.4-liter 5VZ-FE V6 engine and 159 horsepower with 180 pound-feet of torque in the 2.7-liter 2TR-FE four-cylinder gave the Tacoma more bang for its buck. The 4-liter engine's 6,500-pound tow rating and 1,650-pound payload capacity also made it a steal for drivers who were looking for a lot of might in the ever-steady Tacoma.
Refreshing of the exterior and superficial upgrades followed in subsequent years. Options and packages meant to appeal to the off-roading crowd came in the form of the X-Runner trim level and in the TRD package, which adopted Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) features. Beginning in 2006, Toyota began incorporating previously optional features in the Tacoma as standard components and renewed their commitment to safety by dropping the mechanical limited slip differential that had been installed until that point. For some Tacomas, 2009 brought a new grille and tail lamps of the LED variety. Toyota also revised its standard Tacoma package by including an auxiliary audio input, a backup monitor, and ceiling-mounted speakers in the Access and Double Cab models.
The Third Generation Is Born
Starting in 2015, the Tacoma began reflecting its inner power in its exterior shell. Toyota designed the Tacoma to appear even more masculine and built it to own the road. Among the components of its new look were an intimidating grille, headlamps with projector beams, an air dam, an infused spoiler, and a tailgate and bed that were redesigned to accommodate all of the needs of a no-nonsense driver. Consumers could choose between a 2.7-liter I4 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission or a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a five-speed manual, six-speed automatic, or six-speed manual transmission. Drivers could rest assured that the 3.5-liter V6 engine would rise to the occasion with its 278 horsepower rating and 265 pound-feet of torque.
While the Regular Cab was discontinued, consumers now had a choice between the Access Cab and Double Cab. Toyota invested in the overall quality of the Tacoma by insisting on designing the body of the truck using a higher-grade and stronger steel. The adoption of premium materials extended into the interior, where consumers were given the choice of leather for the upholstery. The mechanics were updated as well, improving the Tacoma's rear axle, rear differentials, and suspensions. As concerned as Toyota was with the nuts and bolts of the truck, the company also paid attention to comfort: Acoustic windshields, weather-stripping, insulated doors, and dual climate control made sure that consumers could go up against any element.
Special Editions and Unique Applications
Toyota responded to the popularity of the Tacoma by offering several different optional packages, including the TRD Off-Road and TRD Sport starting in 2005, the X-Runner beginning in 2005, the Ironman Edition in 2008, and the TRD Extreme and the T/X Baja starting in 2012. The TRD supercharger gave the Tacoma an extra boost in performance for those consumers who decided to indulge in its power. With the arrival of 2015, the TRD Off-Road gave drivers the ability to configure their trucks for use on specialized terrain, like mud, sand, or loose rock. For some, an investment in semi-automated operation made a perfect vehicle even better when Toyota incorporated a maneuvering mode called Crawl Control, which allowed the trucks to adjust their acceleration automatically while drivers steered their way along especially challenging terrain.