Home History Tacoma X Runner: All About The Toyota Sports Pickup Truck

Tacoma X Runner: All About The Toyota Sports Pickup Truck

by Kelvin Yates

The Tacoma X Runner is a pickup truck manufactured in Mexico and the United States by the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota since 1995. The first-generation Tacoma, model years 1995 through 2004, was classified as a compact pickup. The second generation, model years 2005 through 2015, and third-generation, in production since 2015, are classified as midsized pickups and are produced in the U.S. and Mexico.

Sport trucks are a breed apart, specialty models that bring a level of performance to the pickup truck line typically not found elsewhere. The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner was a rarity at that, a small truck in this segment.

Sport trucks were a big hit in the late 1980s. Almost every manufacturer made a compact pickup, and it seemed like the youth were taking them and fixing them up by installing louder exhausts, big tires, and lowered suspensions. Well, that craze faded over time as have the sales of compact pickups.

These days only a few manufacturers even make compact trucks, and you rarely see one that is modified. Now everyone is focused on the full-size trucks. Maybe it was the cheap price of gas in the years past that drove people to the full-size trucks with their V8 power.

With the recent price hikes in gas, it will be interesting to see if the compact pickup which has been growing up in size and weight makes a comeback. Toyota certainly hopes so. They are one of the few people that still make a compact pickup. And the compact Tacoma still enjoys strong sales.

As of 2015, the Toyota Tacoma was sold in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Bermuda, and the French territory of New Caledonia.

Contents of this article entail;

Tacoma X-Runner Performance

The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner was an attractive, fun, and highly capable 4×2 sport truck. It was a model that would not return for 2014. After nine years of service, Toyota decided to cancel the X-Runner. This news that certainly disappointed a small, but loyal group of enthusiasts.

For its part, the X-Runner injected a level of performance into the segment that may make you reconsider your sports car purchase. It’s got a fantastic look with its embedded fog lamps, hood scoop, and aggressive body kits. It’s clad in 18-inch alloy wheels set within Bridgestone Potenza tires.

It also had the goods under the hood to enhance its street cred: a 4.0-liter, 236-hp V-6 engine. Sure, that engine was used elsewhere as is its paired six-speed manual transmission. What the other models lacked is the X-Runner’s sport-tuned suspension, a rear stabilizer bar, and performance tires. Bring all these ingredients together and you had a tasty recipe for sport truck success.

Toyota Racing Development

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) got its hand on the X-Runner to deliver a potent truck. They also developed an available supercharger kit that boosts engine output to 304 horsepower and 334 foot-pounds of torque.

When the kit is installed by the dealer, Toyota’s powertrain warranty is preserved. So, if the standard 7 seconds 0 to 60 mph time was not sufficient for you, then the supercharger should shave at least a second off of that number. The TRD sales page offers more details about this $4,500 option.

Tacoma X-Runner Trim And Layout

The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner is an Access Cab model, which means that its rear doors are rear-hinged. A pair of jump seats can hold two people in a pinch, or they can be folded up to provide more interior storage room.

Beneath and between the rear seats are storage compartments too, handy places to stash stuff that you don’t want flying around the cabin as you streak down the road. Between the two seats is a funky-looking subwoofer with a big “X” across its face and a light to set the mood. The X-Runner conveys “different” but in a wholly acceptable way.

Upfront, you get fabric-trimmed bucket seats with manually adjusted lumbar support. The driver’s seat offers good bolstering and overall support, you ride high and your sightlines are not diminished by the presence of the hood scoop. This feat is a significant one as the X-Runner is a low rider truck, to begin with.

For your additional viewing pleasure, the Tacoma features electronically adjusted side mirrors. Its rearview monitor, standard across the model line, is conveniently displayed in the far left corner of the rearview mirror, enabling you to view back through the mirror and utilize the monitor at the same time.

For Your Driving Pleasure

The X-Runner is a hoot to drive. The six-speed manual transmission is the right pairing for it too. You just need to get used to the long throws as you shift through the gears. And save the sixth gear for interstate driving when you are ready to activate the cruise control to squeeze out more mpg; unless your RPMs push 3,000, you should find fifth gear the best place to leave the transmission.

The feeling when traveling on twisty roads with a fair share of rises and dips thrown in for good measure. This is when you can best appreciate the lowered, sport-tuned suspension the most as the truck stays firmly planted and handles every turn with ease.

You can thank the X-Runner’s engineers for adding a rear stabilizer bar and performance tires, which provide a balanced and assured driving experience, not unlike a sports coupe.

Beyond its performance capabilities, the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner shines in two other areas: payload and towing. Payload comes in at 1,425 pounds; towing at 3,300 pounds. You not only get a truck that is a hoot to drive, but it will carry, store and pull all your stuff too. Try doing that with your sports coupe.

Sport Truck Choice

So without the X-Runner for 2014, what other choices do Tacoma shoppers have in a sport truck? Just one: the PreRunner, a sub-model sold in Access Cab and Double Cab (short or long bed) configurations.

There are some important differences to consider, however: the PreRunner is a 4×4 truck and a rear stabilizer bar is not available. The absence of the latter makes sense as the PreRunner does for the off-road what the X-Runner accomplished on solid pavement.

Toyota Tacoma X-Runner

In 2005, Toyota introduced an all-new Tacoma. There are eighteen different Tacoma model configurations. Our favorite is the X-Runner, which is the sports car of the line-up. The X-Runner is the replacement for the 2004 S-Runner, which featured a 190 hp 3.4 liter V6 with a standard 5-speed manual transmission. The 2005 X-Runner derives its name from the X-braced reinforced frame underneath that provides enhanced rigidity.

Toyota calls the X-Runner “The Muscle Truck Meets Sports Car.” That is a pretty good way to describe the X. While other sport trucks such as Dodge’s SRT-10 offer 500 hp V-10 engines, the X is much less exotic.


The X-Runner is powered by the 4.0 liter DOHC V6 with VVT-I valve control that puts out 245 hp. The exclusive transmission choice in the X is a 6-speed manual. That combination coupled with a smaller and lighter body makes the X-Runner a much more usable package over say an SRT-10. 500 hp in a truck results in a truck that is a beast that you have to be very careful with.

On the other hand, with 245 hp and a lighter truck, the X-Runner becomes a truck that you can drive hard with ease. Toyota says that the X-Runner will do 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds and that sounds about right.

The motor is smooth to the 5500 rpm redline yet can easily come away from a stop sign in second gear. The 6-speed manual has good ratios that are well placed. If you want to go fast, you can use all gear. If you are just cruising, you can easily skip third and fifth gears and there will be no complaints.

The one thing that dampens the excitement is the shift linkage. There is way too much slop in the linkage and if you try to shift quickly, it either won’t let you or worse it results in gear grinding noise.

Tacoma X Runner Interior

Inside the X, the world is a great place. While the interior is not like that of a Lexus, it is by no means cheap-looking. There are typical high-quality Toyota materials throughout the interior and there are even some nice touches such as audio controls on the steering wheel and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel column.

The dash layout is clear and simple. The driver’s seat bottom angle is not adjustable and started to get uncomfortable on long drives.

The back seat is a different story. The X-Runner is only available in the Access Cab version, which is an extended cab to you and me. While there are two seat belts back there, one cannot imagine putting an adult back there. There is not a seat back there either. The “seat” is more like a cushion with the back going up at 90 degrees. The back is OK for small kids, pets, or luggage.

Tacoma X Runner Reliability And Common Problems

The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most popular compact trucks in the US. There’s no terrain it can’t cross, and its features will keep you and your passengers safe and entertained on the road. While it is a reliable truck, it isn’t immune to wear or free of problems.

Whether you have your eye on getting a used Tacoma or simply want to take better care of the one you already own, knowing its recurring problems can help you maximize its entire service life.

Is The Tacoma X Runner Reliable?

The Toyota Tacoma has received average ratings for its reliability. It earned a score of 3.5 out of 5.0 in a RepairPal study and placed last out of the seven models evaluated in its category. But despite its relatively low ranking, Tacoma’s cost of ownership is lower than most pickups. This is because most of its problems are minor and don’t require expensive repairs.

The 2013-2015 year models earned perfect reliability scores from Consumer Reports. However, overall reliability scores were lower for the 2016 and 2017 year models because of issues associated with a major redesign. CarComplaints.com reported that the 2016 Tacoma received the most complaints overall, while transmission problems have plagued the 2017 model.

Top Tacoma X Runner Problems

Just like any other pickup, the Toyota Tacoma can develop issues as it racks up mileage. Here are some of the most common problems that Tacoma owners have encountered through the years:

1. Lower Ball Joint Problems

Premature wear on the lower ball joint in Tacoma’s front suspension is one of the most common problems that have been reported for this model.

Worn and loose ball joints make the truck harder to steer and reduce its ability to self-center. Drivers may also notice unusual noises coming from the front suspension. In the worst-case scenario, the entire lower ball joint can separate from the suspension, causing the driver to lose control of the pickup.

Toyota traced the issue to a scratch inflicted on the surface of the lower ball joint’s ball component during its manufacture. This problem affects trucks manufactured from 1995 to 2007. Toyota issued a recall for the affected Tacoma X Runner built from 2001 to 2004 and offered to replace the faulty lower ball joints. Unfortunately, earlier vehicles fall outside the coverage of this recall.

Check out the NHTSA website or use our guide to find out if the model year you’re eyeing has been included in a recall.

2. Faulty Automatic Transmission In High-Mileage Tacoma X Runner

The Toyota Tacoma has known transmission problems, affecting trucks that have logged anywhere between 125,000 and 150,000 miles. These issues prevent the vehicle from shifting correctly and have been reported among Tacoma vehicles built from 1995 to 2015.

Fortunately, you won’t need to completely overhaul the automatic transmission to fix this problem. The cause has been identified as either an incorrectly adjusted throttle position sensor or a faulty shift solenoid. By adjusting the sensor and replacing the bad solenoid, drivers have reported that their transmissions returned to normal.

3. Cracked Amber Front Parking Light Lens

Tacoma X Runner built from 2006 to 2011 as well as those manufactured in 2013 has often developed cracks in the amber lenses of their front parking lights. The material used in their parking light lenses is unable to tolerate the heat produced by the light bulbs.

Thankfully, fixing the problem is easy and only requires that the cracked parking light lens be replaced with a new one. Tacoma owners can save a lot on repair costs by buying aftermarket parts instead of ordering from a dealership.

4. Faulty Air Flow Meter

Tacoma built from 1996 to 2013 has had performance issues linked to a faulty mass airflow (MAF) sensor. In some cases, this sensor stops working properly because of too much dirt. If the problem persists despite cleaning the unit, it’s probably time to install a new mass airflow sensor on your truck.

Drivers may remain unaware of the issue until their check engine light switches on and an on-board diagnostic scan tool retrieves a MAF sensor error code. Faulty readings from this sensor may contribute to poor acceleration, rough idling, and reduced fuel economy. The truck may also emit black exhaust smoke and suffer from surging or hard starts.

5. Throttle Position Sensor Problems

Tacoma X Runner built from 1995 to 1997, 1999 to 2000, 2002 to 2004, 2007 to 2008, and 2015 may experience problems related to a bad throttle position sensor. As mentioned earlier, an incorrectly adjusted throttle position sensor can interfere with the operation of the automatic transmission.

Either a worn-out throttle body or carbon build-up on the sensor may cause these Toyota Tacoma throttle position sensor problems. If the throttle position sensor goes out of adjustment, it will advance idle timing considerably. This causes the engine to generate less power, waste more fuel, and produce more harmful emissions.

6. Bad Starter Prevents Engine From Starting

The Toyota Tacoma’s engine is normally reliable. If the engine doesn’t crank over, one of the possible culprits is a bad starter.

This problem affects the 1995 to 1998, 2001, 2005 to 2006, and 2008 model years of the Tacoma. The starter has been reported to fail anywhere between 100,000 and 125,000 miles.

Some owners of the pickup have reported that replacing the starter solenoid contacts resolved a similar problem in their vehicle. However, others find it more practical to replace the starter itself.

The Toyota Tacoma isn’t the only truck that may present these problems. Other models can develop similar issues, especially as their mileage grows. Knowing them beforehand can help you stay on top of necessary maintenance checks and repairs to keep your vehicle on the road for longer.

Why Tacoma X-Runner Is Worth It

The X-Runner is a pretty good package. It has a few negatives that deter the driver from having a good time but it has many wonderful features. The best feature is the price tag of $23,110 that makes you overlook a lot of small flaws.

For $23,000 you get a pretty well-equipped truck that is a blast to drive and can haul all your stuff with its 73.5-inch bed and still tow 3500 pounds. It will come in handy for hauling purposes, but make sure you protect your truck bed properly so you avoid scratches and dents.

Having it repaired is always more expensive than how much a spray-on bed liner costs or even a professional bed liner installment service price.

Tacoma X Runner Design Summary

Constructed almost entirely out of parts obtained over the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) parts counter, the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner RTR (Ready to Race) has been a labor of love for the engineering team behind this project. Raiding the parts bin of TRD, the Tacoma X-Runner RTR SEMA show truck is swimming in the characteristics of a perfect straight-liner.

Besides the truck-like ground clearance of the production Tacoma X-Runner model reduced by 4.5 inches, the compact hauler’s body is left untouched from its stock appearance. A two-tone Five-Axis Classic Silver and Red paint scheme comply with Toyota’s corporate motorsport colors. The number 95 symbolizes the 1995 model year when the Tacoma name was first worn by the compact pickup truck.

Creating an ideal sleeper hot rod truck, the Toyota Tacoma rather stock appearance on the outside conceals some special surprises. Shoehorned into the Toyota Tacoma engine bay is a specially fitted 500-plus horsepower V-8 power plant.

Borrowing a 5.7-liter power plant from the full-sized Toyota Tundra truck, the Tacoma X-Runner RTR receives the TRD twin-scroll supercharger kit generating an SAE certified 504 horsepower and 550 pounds-feet of torque.

Joining the Tundra engine for the tip into this unique SEMA show vehicle is the 6-speed automatic transmission and rear axle assembly modified to the shorter Tacoma length. An Eaton-engineered TRD limited-slip differential drives drag way-spec Goodyear Eagle tires.

In catering to the drag racing truck theme, rear Goodyear Eagle tires are comparably larger than the front tires by 2 inches in diameter and 7 inches in width. The braking system and all the electronic aids are preserved but the exhaust system is given a major overhaul. Moving the exhaust outlet is done to maximize high-impact take-offs from drag racing’s popular ‘Christmas Tree’ starting light.

Tacoma X Runner Performance Summary

Adapted to the sport of drag racing, non-essential weight is removed from the Tacoma X-Runner RTR. Including the windshield washer fluid reservoir, power convenience equipment, air conditioning as well as the rear seat shaves weight to shave quarter-mile times. Accounting for safety, a TRD roll-bar is outfitted inside a racing-tailored interior.

Though this demonstration model Tacoma presents a profound shift by Toyota to achieve maximum horsepower within a tight vehicle frame, dropping an 8-cylinder power plant into a compact pickup is not a new notion.

Both the Dodge Dakota as well as the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks have V-8 power on tap as an option in production trucks. In the case of General Motors’ compact trucks, their recent adaptation to V-8 engines in 2009 came years after mechanically-inclined tuners swapping in small block power plants into the S-10 pickups.

With the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner RTR existing only as a show vehicle, the principles of TRD and the thrilling motorsports inspiration make this combination a real go-getter.


Just as impressive as the acceleration is the handling. The Tacoma X-Runner comes with 255/45-18 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires which are very grippy. The lowered suspension with stiffer shocks and springs results in a harsh ride that will remind you that it is a truck. And if you decide to go fast around come turns, better make sure that the road is smooth.

If there are bumps in the middle of the turn, they could upset the truck and send it in to the next lane. However, on a smooth road, the X Runner is incredible. The X Runner communicates with its driver better than some sports cars. You can easily push the X Runner to its limits with confidence.

The other complaint about the performance aspect of the X Runner is regarding the brakes. They feel spongy and there is very little feel. It is so bad that the first few times that you come to a stop for light; you end up stopping past the point where you thought you would stop. An amazing thing these days is the drum brakes on the rear of all Tacoma X Runners.

2013 Tacoma X-Runner Specifications

  • Sticker price from $26,775
  • Price as tested: $28,075
  • Seats 4 occupants
  • The 40-liter 24-valve V-6 engine
  • 236 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
  • 266 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • 70 inches bore by 3.74 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10-to-1
  • Six-speed manual transmission
  • Wheelbase: 127.4 inches
  • Length: 208.1 inches
  • Width: 724inches
  • Height: 65.6 inches
  • Passenger volume: N/A
  • Storage volume: 40.88 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 3,300 pounds
  • EPA: 16 mpg city, 21 mpg hwy.
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 21.1 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,835 pounds
  • Vehicle assembly: San Antonio, Texas


The X-Runner is an amazing bargain. When we asked people how much they thought the truck cost, most guessed in the $30,000 range. And the X-Runner is not built by some company you have never heard of either.

It has the typical Toyota quality and resale value so you can be confident about buying one and it is even built right here in California at the NUMMI plant in Fremont. If more people knew about it, Toyota would sell millions of these things.

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