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2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner

You can tell Toyota is serious about getting the X-Runner into the hands of real enthusiasts. First, the automaker limited production to just 3500 units. But more important: no automatic transmission. If you can’t shift, you don’t get it. If you can’t heel-toe; well, you will never be able to experience the true potential of this spirited performance truck.

The X-Runner is much more than an appearance package with badging, hood scoop and low-profile tires. Toyota engineered a special frame as the foundation. X-braces can be found front and rear to increase torsional rigidity. Up front the extra frame stiffness helps steering response; while in the back, mid-turn stability and transitional response are improved. Toyota has so much faith in the X-braces that the company applied for the patent on the rear brace.

To take advantage of the improved frame, Toyota gave the engineers a seemingly impossible target vehicle for handling goals: a Nissan 350Z. According to Toyota, the X-Runner can pull 0.9g on the skidpad, which certainly puts the little truck on the same track as the two-seater sports car.

Tied to the frame are specific suspension components to give the X-Runner a cool, low stance and firm ride through the corners. The rear gets a full 1-inch thick solid anti-roll bar, and the leaf springs are arched to sit the truck down ¾-inch from the stock ride height. The non-linear rear spring rate is set for a flatter progressive curve when compared to stock, meaning the rear gets tight sooner than expected. The front coil springs are 50-percent stiffer than stock and let the nose ride a full inch lower than stock. Front anti-roll bar remains at 1.18 inches diameter. Bilstein 36mm high-pressure gas shocks are mounted at all four corners as are P255/45R18 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires wrapped around 18 x 8 alloy wheels.

Toyota didn’t go all out on the X-Runner chassis. A limited-slip differential is standard but the nifty electronically actuated locking rear differential available on the PreRunner is not an option. Nor is Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). However, the TRD “Big Brake” is an optional package designed only for the X-Runner that features massive 13 x 1.25-inch vented rotors with direction turbine fins for the front. They’re clamped by 4-piston forged aluminum calipers that are retained by vertical rather than horizontal bolts for increased rigidity. The package also includes braided steel lines. The TRD brakes offer 23 percent more swept area for shorter stopping distances and reduced brake fade.

The X-Runner comes only as a 2-wheel-drive Access Cab. Setting it apart from the rest of the Tacomas are full surround ground effects, front spoiler, hood scoop, fender flares and rear spoiler. It’s offered in just three colors: Speedway Blue, Black Sand and Radiant Red. The suspension changes lower the GVWR to 4600 pounds, 250 pounds under a standard 4x2 Access Cab. Curb weight comes in at just under 3700 pounds.

Toyota says the X-Runner can go from zero to 60mph in less than seven seconds, thanks to the new 245-horsepower V6 and stout 6-speed transmission. With a 4.17:1 First Gear, the X-Runner is very quick off the line. Shifting is adequate for sporty driving, but we found some difficulty getting into reverse at times. Our driving was limited to a few open stretches of road along Alaskan coast. The firm cornering potential was apparent through a few twists, and there is enough power for smokey burnouts. We had the big brake package and noted how well it was mated to the standard drum brakes in the rear. While I’m not a big fan of the styling package, the truck drew considerable attention along the fishing stream while stopping for photos. I definitely need more time in the X-Runner. Maybe the looks will grow on me and maybe I’ll find the proper element to test out the suspension. Look for an updated and more in-depth report soon.

—Mike Magda

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