Remember how street trucks whipped so much ass? From the insane Dodge Ram SRT-10 to the attainable Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme, the era of dropped and kitted trucks for everyday performance use ruled, and Toyota hasn’t forgotten. At this year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas, the Japanese automaker showed off a brand new Tacoma X-Runner concept, and it has us all salivating. With lowered suspension, proper street truck visuals, and a massive power upgrade over the standard Tacoma, this concept is a total heritage play that deserves to see customer driveways.
The best part? Lots of stuff on this concept seems production feasible. Not only was it developed in-house by Toyota’s Calty design studio in California, it features extensive parts bin raiding (Toyota wanted to point out the versatility of its TNGA-F platform) to keep things functional and theoretically faster than ever before. Oh, and the trucks that led up to this are properly awesome, so let’s get into the history of the X-Runner for some context on this badass concept.
Before the X-Runner, there was the S-Runner. Just a few thousand of these monochrome beauties painted in either Black Sand Pearl or Radiant Red made it out of NUMMI between model years 2001 to 2004, each sporting a wicked set of 16-inch alloy wheels, a proper street truck body kit, and a host of performance upgrades. As per Motor Trend:
To create the S-Runner’s sport truck look, Toyota lowered a 4×2 Xtracab pickup truck by an inch and fitted performance-minded Tokico gas shocks. Other S-Runner suspension mods include increased-rate springs, front and rear anti-sway bars, and modifications to the power steering to increase effort and feel. Toyota’s 3.4L/190-hp DOHC V-6 is bolted to a five-speed manual gearbox, and its exhaust system is tuned to evoke musclecar memories.
Competing directly against the Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme, the Tacoma S-Runner was more niche, more refined, and far rarer than Chevrolet’s popular compact street truck, but Toyota had struck the right nerve. For the next generation of Tacoma, things would get even bigger.
When the 2005 model year rolled around, so did a new Tacoma. I’m talking new engines, new bodywork, a new frame, and a new street truck trim level. If you walked into your local Toyota dealer in 2005 with $23,675, or about $37,312 in today’s money, burning a hole in your pocket, you could’ve driven out of there in a Tacoma X-Runner. At the time, it was the most expensive two-wheel-drive Tacoma money could buy, but it came with a raft of tasty upgrades.
From the factory, there were only three ways to order a Tacoma X-Runner: In Speedway Blue, Radiant Red, or Black Sand Pearl. You either knew how to operate this street truck’s six-speed manual gearbox or learned, and four-wheel-drive was out of the question entirely. The only engine was a 245-horsepower four-liter 1GR-FE V6, a torquey, punchy unit that motivated the X-Runner with reasonable authority. Toyota claimed a zero-to-60 mph time of seven seconds flat, which certainly isn’t bad for a V6 pickup truck.
However, the Tacoma X-Runner was never meant for straight-line speed. It was meant to give Miatas a hard time when the road got twisty. Toyota went to town on this truck, bracing the rear leaf spring shackles, dropping the ride height by an inch, amping up the spring rates, controlling those springs with Bilstein dampers, keeping body motions in check with bigger anti-roll bars, and employing a sticky set of 255/45R18 tires. Topping it all off was a limited-slip differential, because nobody likes spinning one tire out of hairpins. The result? A claimed 0.90 g on the skidpad, which should theoretically best what Car And Driver got out of a 2003 Nissan 350Z Roadster. Now that’s cooking with gas.
Toyota has a certain reputation for finding something that works and sticking with it forever, and the X-Runner stayed in showrooms far after most marques had abandoned the street truck genre, disappearing from the new market in the lower 48 after 2013. It hung around in Canada for 2014, but by 2015, the third-generation Tacoma was on the horizon. Needless to say, we never got a third-generation Tacoma X-Runner.
This X-Runner concept features an automatic transmission, although I’m not even mad because you won’t find just four spark plugs under this hood. Forget the 2.4-liter turbocharged four-banger that’s going into everything, this functional concept gets the 3.4-liter twin-turbocharged V6 from the Tundra, with output boosted to 421 horsepower and 479 lb.-ft. of torque. Oh yes, that ought to do nicely.
The boosted V6 and ten-speed automatic transmission aren’t the only family components on the Tacoma X-Runner Concept. Since the new Taco shares a common TNGA-F architecture with the Tundra, Toyota was able to use that truck’s front brakes, rear axle, and rear air suspension. Combine raiding the Tundra parts bin with a few key extra treats like stiffer front springs, a wider track, custom-valved Bilstein dampers, and glorious 285/45R21 Michelin meats wrapped around some wild carbon fiber wheels, and you should get a one-off that goes, stops and turns like no other fourth-generation Tacoma out there.
Of course, performance is just one facet of the Tacoma X-Runner concept, as this thing leans into street truck fantasies with a chunky body kit designed by Toyota’s Calty studio, Speedway Blue paint that throws things back to the original X-Runner, black accents for a pop of contrast, and upgraded lighting. After all, street trucks are about looking good just as much as they’re about being fast.
While this reborn Tacoma X-Runner Concept is simply a one-off for SEMA, it deserves to enter production. It’s been years since we’ve seen a new factory-built street truck from any major manufacturer, and with 20-year nostalgic trend cycles currently landing on the era of nu-metal, the time feels right to cash in. Sure, the Tundra V6 swap probably isn’t production feasible from an emissions and certification standpoint, but a new X-Runner with the 2.4-liter turbocharged four-banger and a manual would be awesome. After all, off-road pickup trucks are cool, but some of us want to haul both ass and spare parts for project cars.
(Photo credits: David Tracy, Toyota)
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