Drive: 2001 Toyota Tacoma
don't normally associate passionate, cutting edge design with Toyota trucks.
Rather, Toyota has made its reputation among buyers from a conservative
tradition of high quality and good performance.
Toyota must be feeling more confident these days after the success of
the Tundra full size pickup because 2001 marks the introduction of two
new models - the Double Cab and S-Runner - to broaden the appeal of the
conservative Tacoma compact truck lineup and bring to 17 the total number
of body styles offered.
recently had the opportunity to take each for a brief spin.
the Double Cab.
Tacoma Double Cab jumps into the compact crew cab fray with both feet
and four full size doors.
the Double Cab, Tacoma buyers who needed a larger truck to accommodate
more passengers would have been forced to move into a competitor's truck,
like the Nissan Frontier,
into an SUV, where they would have lost cargo carrying capabilities, or
into a full size truck like the Tundra. Now they can stay within the Toyota
compact family where Toyota expects the Double Cab to make up at least
30% of all Tacoma sales.
Double Cab is actually quite similar at first glance to its close cousin
from overseas the Toyota Hi-Lux. The Hi-Lux originally sold in the United
States from 1969 to 1975 as a two door pickup but was discontinued as
a nameplate after the introduction of the SR5. Outside the United States,
where Hi-Lux production has continued, it has earned a reputation as a
solid, commercial-grade, four door truck, especially in countries like
Double Cab takes the 'commercial' out of the Hi-Lux and combines its four
door attributes with a new design unique to these shores based on the
Xtracab chassis. The Double Cab offers a longer wheelbase and bed than
its foreign Toyota counterpart. In fact, at 61.5-inches, the Double Cab's
bed is longer than just about every other truck in the compact / mid-size
segment with the exception of the notably larger Dodge Dakota Quad Cab's
tested a 4x4 Tacoma Double Cab with the SR5 Chrome trim package priced
at approximately $23,000.
the outside, the Tacoma Double Cab sports a new front end common to all
Tacomas for 2001. We can't say we were all that crazy about the styling
because the chrome framed 'waterfall' grille seems a little out of place
compared to the rest of the Toyota truck lineup - all the other grilles
run horizontally. The parking lights along the front bumper and the bumper
itself have also been redone for 2001. Strong body lines along the sides
provide muscle while optional 16x7-inch alloy wheels added a touch of
the Tacoma's cabin significant improvements have been made that were long
overdue. Noise levels have been reduced by adding additional insulation
to the truck. The doors have been redone and look and feel much more substantial
than last year's model. The HVAC controls have been overhauled to three
sensible dials from the previous truck's assortment of dials, buttons
and sliders and white faced gauges add to the instrument panel's contemporary
looks. We wish the clock and passenger airbag cutoff switch would swap
positions so it would be easier to glance at the time while driving. The
Double Cab's dash also includes a button to lock the rear differential
on demand for any precarious off-road situations. The diff can only be
locked while in 4x4 mode on the 4x4 truck or while moving at 5mph or less
in the Pre-Runner version.
we didn't get to drive off-road or test any of its four wheel drive capabilities,
the Double Cab performed with typical Toyota aplomb.
truck had the 3.4-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 engine. While its 190 horses
are quite adequate for the smaller Xtracab model, the heavier Double Cab
seems to be missing a little oomph, especially relative to archrival Nissan's
Frontier Crew Cab and its new 210 horsepower supercharged engine.
Toyota's build quality really shines on the road where there is nary shake,
squeak or rattle. Even at speeds up to 60 mph road noise seemed to barely
penetrate the cabin - quite good for a 4x4 truck with its larger wheels
quality revealed the Tacoma still retains much of its pickup heritage
even though its front half looks like an SUV. The passenger compartment
quickly offers a bouncy ride on poorly maintained roads. If we had our
choice we would have liked to have driven the Double Cab with the optional
Toyota Racing Development Off-Road package. The TRD Double Cab comes equipped
with Tokico shocks and larger front stabilizer bar. Its firmer suspension
would probably have provided better handling. Even without the TRD package,
the Double Cab's class leading ground clearance provides a commanding
view of the road and extra margin during off-roading.
the Double Cab's longer bed, large amount of interior room and superior
fit and finish add up to a strong offering in the compact crew cab segment.
we drove the 2001 Tacoma S-Runner.
S-Runner is the sleeper hit of the Tacoma family of trucks. We were even
surprised to see it because the S-Runner has been somewhat lost in the
shadow of the Double Cab.
it a Chevy
S-10 Xtreme fighter, the S-Runner is pitched right at the same audience
the Xtreme has done so well to address. Aimed at young truck enthusiasts
the S-Runner features a 1-inch lowered suspension and Tokico shocks containing
low-speed valves to reduce body roll. Also, like the Xtreme, the S-Runner
arrives with a color keyed exterior and choice of stepside or fleetside
bed. For fans of the dark side, Toyota Racing Development offers a dealer
installed body kit that would make Darth Vader proud to add with its aggressive
chin and side skirting. Though not as wide as the Xtreme's 16x8-inch wheels,
the S-Runner's 16x6.5-inch five spoke rims still look sharp and offer
lots of traction clad in Bridgestone P235/55R16 Potenza tires.
the S-Runner's V6 up you immediately become aware of the great exhaust
note Toyota worked hard to create for the truck. Though it does nothing
for performance it sure sounds cool.
five speed manual ensures the S-Runner will stay strictly in the hands
of enthusiasts - its short throws and V6 power offer quick starts and
great performance at a bargain basement price. If you really want to play
with power, you can order an optional dealer installed TRD supercharger
kit for the S-Runner which will really turn this truck into a genuine
streetfighter boosting horsepower to 260 horses! At $2800 though this
is an option for the well-established enthusiast.
spent less time in the S-Runner than in the Double Cab but we enjoyed
the ride and handling much more.
interior is well appointed with the updated instrument panel and comfortable
seating that includes power lumbar support for the driver. One item sorely
missed on the S-Runner was an optional third door on the Xtracab. You
can order an S-10 Xtreme with this option and it makes for a much more
pleasant experience when stowing gear behind the back seat.
at under $20,000 we expect the S-Runner to be more popular than Toyota
expects once it gains exposure in the marketplace.