If I was to stick myself in a car group, I would have to say that I am a sports car kind of guy. I have more in common with other sports car guys than with truck guys, old guys in Buicks or minivan-driving soccer moms.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate other types of vehicles for what they offer-luxury cars to cruise in, trucks to haul stuff in, etc. However, since I like to build motors and am obsessed with horsepower, my natural preference for cars lies in the sporty two-seater variety.
I was shocked to see the lines blur between such dichotomous vehicle types recently, and I am not talking about a Matrix or xB, but rather with a truck-the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner. My driving experiences with trucks has been limited to driving other people's vehicles to haul my motors or other various car parts I couldn't fit into my speedsters. I have been doing so much borrowing lately that I'm in the market to buy a truck.
Now, unlike my friends who spend a million dollars (OK, maybe not millions but still quite a lot) lifting their trucks and adding monster tires, I am looking for a beater truck for less than $1,000, something to get my precious engines and trannies from point A to point B.
My game plan recently changed when my father-in-law came to town. He was telling me about this X-Runner he was considering purchasing. Being the dutiful son-in-law I borrowed an X-Runner from Toyota so we could try it out. The X-Runner is billed as a sports car in a truck. Right there I was skeptical. I was reading over the specs and the X-Runner is reported to perform better on lateral acceleration than a Nissan 350Z! Now that caught my attention.
We picked up our six-speed right away. First off, I noticed the power and throttle response didn't feel so typically truckish. The low-profile body kit also struck me as sporty-you don't feel like you need to climb up into the damn thing and the sideskirts make the vehicle look lowered.
Something else that caught my attention was the serious rubber under the X-Runner. It sports 255/45-18 Bridgestone rubber all around.
The entire chassis of the Toyota has been heavily braced from the front to the rear. The X-Runner also sports front and rear sway bars, not a common item found on trucks. To further aid in the handling, the truck's overall weight has been significantly reduced via a composite inner truck bed. Although the exterior of the bed is still constructed from stamped steel, the interior of the bed is a sheet-molded compound (SMC) that is 10-percent lighter than steel yet equally as durable.
And, of course, no test drive would be complete without a trip to the dyno. The 4.0-liter V6 engine is rated at 245 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. On the dyno the Toyota hammered out 197.4 hp and 237.7 lb-ft of torque to the wheels.
My only complaint about the powertrain is the final gear ratio of the six-speed tranny. The engine has plenty of get-up-and-go but the wait for the engine to tach out to redline was excruciating. I guess it is a truck after all.
The X-Runner garnered a zillion looks on the road. Men of all ages were craning their necks trying to get a peek at this truck. People circled it in parking lots to find out what badge was on the back. Even guys in sports cars were giving side glances of interest. From this obvious show of respect and approval you could feel secure in the appearance department when you pull up in this truck, that's for sure.
Most surprising is the sticker price. Fully loaded the X-Runner is about $23K, which is reasonable considering how much other trucks cost, or many cars, for that matter. I may just have to rethink my $1,000 truck plan. Why can't I have an auto parts hauler that also rivals most Civics and Integras out there? I admit, I have been converted-sort of-into a truck guy.