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1998 New Car/Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


by Matt/Bob Hagin

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 18,168
Price As Tested                                    $ 21,930
Engine Type               DOHC 24-valve 3.4 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 205 cid/3378 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 4800 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 3600 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  121.9"/66.5"/203.1"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3280 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     31x10.5R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 48 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/23/21
0-60 MPH                                        7.9 seconds
Max. payload capacity                           1664 pounds
Max. towing capacity                            5000 pounds
     * Sequential fuel injection

(Bob Hagin wonders why a 2WD Tacoma pickup made to look like its four-wheel drive brother even exists. Matt Hagin explains that there's more to the Toyota PreRunner than special paint and fancy graphics.)

MATT - This new PreRunner pickup is one of the many "specialized" vehicles that Toyota has built over the years to fill a need it sees in a market niche. In this case, the niche is rugged, off-road trucks for drivers don't need the canyon-crawling abilities of additional driveline to the front wheels. There's a certain amount of cosmetic upgrading, however, since Toyota knows these special Tacomas aren't going to be bought in fleets to deliver flowers and groceries. The target market is young people who have steady jobs and want macho trucks that look good.

BOB - You're right, Matt. I see lots of pickups around that started life as "stripper" versions, but were given "the treatment" by their owners. They sport special wheels and tires, tricked-out bumpers and additional driving lights to make their rigs look like they're ready for a Baja race even though they never go off the pavement. With the PreRunner, they can get most of this stuff already installed and it's done right at the assembly plant. Oh yeah, the PreRunner only comes with an extended cab.

MATT - The Toyota term "PreRunner" comes from a type of vehicle that Toyota Motorsports uses to scout cross-country off-road tracks that its professional factory teams run on. The major events are very big deals and the expression "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" is true in this kind of racing too. If Toyota wins a particular pickup class in the Baja 1000, for instance, it can count on increased sales of its trucks because of it. The team members and managers drive these pre-race two-wheel "mules" on the course at a much slower speed so that they can plot and map the course many times before race day. The sales plan around the PreRunner is that enthusiasts who follow these races will go for this upscale version of the standard Tacoma. In essence, the PreRunner is a tricked-out Tacoma, but it's done by the factory rather than by the buyer.

BOB - The 4X4 pickup is a recent phenomenon in the compact segment of the truck business, Matt, but it's the 4X2 that got Americans thinking in terms of new pickups as a means of personal transportation. This two-wheel-drive PreRunner is a direct descendent of the Toyota Stout that showed up in Toyota showrooms in 1964. This newest version of Toyota's 4X2 is a far cry from that old utilitarian Stout. The PreRunner has the option of two engines. The first is a 2.7 liter twin-cam, 16-valve four-banger that puts out 150 horses, but for a few bucks more, the PreRunner can be had with a high-tech V6 that develops 190 ponies and a whopping 220 pound/feet of torque. The V6 has a limited slip differential available and I'm assuming that the reasoning behind the limited slip is with that much torque, it's easy to spin just one wheel on dirt roads. The only transmission available in the PreRunner is an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic - regardless of which engine is under the hood.

MATT - For those buyers who do go off-road, the factory-owned Toyota Racing Development offers a $1600 optional package that includes a lot of heavier-duty suspension parts, as well as oversized aluminum alloy wheels and taller tires. It comes standard with air conditioning and a radio-cassette player, but power windows and door locks, anti-skid brakes and some other goodies are extra. The standard seating is a 60/40 split bench seat, but I'd bet that most PreRunners are sold with optional bucket seats. The forward-facing rear jump seats offer close quarters, but two adults could cram themselves in back there in a pinch.

BOB - Times have certainly changed, Matt. When I was your age, the young people went for sports cars that had lots of power, handled well and looked sharp.

MATT - I'm not so sure that things have changed all that much, Dad. Maybe you should think of 4X2 enhanced pickups like the PreRunner as sports cars with extra long, open-air trunks.