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There are two keys to the much improved handling abilities of the X-Runner: chassis design and sticky tires. The frame features diagonal braces in the front and an X-brace to reinforce the rear. These improvements increase the torsional rigidity of the frame and improve transitional response and overall stability. X-Runner specific springs are used, including front coils that are 50 percent stiffer than stock.

The suspension is lowered one-inch compared to a standard 2WD Tacoma but the actual ride height is lowered only a half-inch. That’s due to the bigger 255/45R18 Bridgestone Potenza tires installed on 18x8 alloy wheels at all four corners. The front 30mm anti-roll bar is left alone but the rear receives a 25mm bar.

The X-Runner suspension is also treated to Bilstein 36mm monotube high-pressure gas shocks and unique bushings that increase roll resistance. Standard brakes are 10.8-inch discs up front and 10-inch drums in the rear.

The front brakes seem a little weak when compared to the 12.5-inch discs found on Tacoma 4x4 models. But TRD has a “big-brake” kit that offers 13-inch discs with 4-piston calipers made just for the X-Runner. My test vehicle didn’t have these massive binders but I did drive a big-brake X-Runner briefly at the press introduction and was very impressed with the stopping ability and looks.

The X-Runner has also grown considerably with new generation of Tacos, especially when compared to the old S-Runner. The X-Runner’s wheelbase is 127.2 inches, up from 121.9 inches while the track width grew from 57.1 inches to 62.2 inches. With that large footprint, handling is sure to improve. But the weight also went up from a svelte 3190 pounds in the old S-Runner to a sweltering 3690 in the new X-Runner. Horsepower was needed.

Motivating the X-Runner is the 1GR-FE DOHC V6 engine rated at 245 horsepower with peak torque of 282 lb-ft. The engine block is aluminum but the steel cylinder liners are cast-in-place. This engine made its first appearance in the 2004 4Runner and is also the base engine in the Tundra. Notable features include variable valve timing and electronic throttle control. Toyota also tuned the exhaust for a more aggressive note.

The RA60 6-speed manual is an all-new design. In other words, Toyota didn’t just tack 5th and 6th gear on the back of an existing 4-speed. First gear is a neck-snapping 4.17:1 and the 0.85:1 overdrive helps with mileage. The tranny is also built for the Tundra. Too bad it’s not built for the Celica GTS. Okay, I know the Celica is front-wheel-drive, but my point is that the X-Runner’s transmission has room for improvement in shifting speed and smoothness if it’s going to feel like a sports car. Heel-toe operation was a little awkward but it’s not a good idea to have truck pedals in close proximity. Power is eventually sent to a limited-slip rear differential that holds 3.15:1 gears.

From a styling standpoint, Toyota certainly made sure the X-Runner stood out from the Tacoma line and any other sport truck in or out of this world. Body bolt-ons include a front spoiler, hood scoop, fender flares, rocker-panel extensions and a rear spoiler. To be honest, the blacked-out grilles don’t do much for me. They look like some kind of space-invader costume. While a pure monochromatic look may give the impression Toyota designers forgot about masking tape in the paint booth, it does offer a cleaner appearance. And someone has to do something about that wimpy hood scoop.

The interior meets most expectations, especially seat comfort and noise isolation. The tilt/telescoping steering wheel is great for securing the best seating position. I find the dash layout uninspired but effective. My biggest complaint is the lack of availability of the JBL sound system that can be found in the Tacoma Double Cab. The X-Runner is obviously intended for the younger generation but the 270-watt stereo with the 8-inch subwoofer isn’t offered. I guess Toyota thinks this buyer is more likely to install a booming aftermarket sound system anyway, so why engineer the Access Cab for the extra speaker.

The pickup bed features the same composite inner liner found on other Tacomas. The X-Runner also has the 115-volt power outlet in the cargo area that is optional on other models. Not that the X-Runner is built for hauling. The GVWR of 4600 pounds is down from the standard 4850 on a regular 2WD Access Cab and 5250 on the 2WD PreRunner Access Cab. Max payload is listed at 910 pounds versus 1535 on the PreRunner. Towing capacity is 3500 pounds, compared to 6500 pounds available with the PreRunner.

Although it’s been about 15 years since I drove a pickup in an SCCA-sanctioned amateur solo event, I would love to return to action in an X-Runner. I’m not sure what class it would race, but I did notice a provision in the rules that allow the event coordinators to ban vehicles with a wheelbase longer than 116 inches at their discretion. The X-Runner certainly has the potential to upset unsuspecting sports cars. Guess they’re worried about the embarrassment.

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