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The Evolution & History of the Toyota Tacoma

The Evolution & History of the Toyota Tacoma  Featured

Evolution. A combined definition of the word states "Evolution is a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development. It is a motion incomplete in itself, but combining with coordinated motions to produce a single action, as in a machine.Today we look at this concept as it applies to one of Toyota's most iconic vehicles - the Toyota Tacoma, which is currently enjoying its Third Generation of development.

 It all started in the early spring of 1995 when the Toyota Tacoma was introduced to the Canadian and U.S. market as a replacement to its predecessor, the Hi-Lux. The Hi-Lux had been in production since 1968, yet the name itself was retired in North America (maintaining the Hi-Lux moniker in other global markets) for pure marketing purposes, and rebranded as the Toyota Pickup. This beast of a machine that North American pickup truck enthusiasts have long known and loved remains one of the most popular used-truck purchases to this day. Introducing the Tacoma at the height of the Pickup's popularity was a bold move on the part of Toyota, but one that would pay off.

A Complete Guide to the Evolution of the Toyota Tacoma

THE INCEPTION: The First Generation of the Toyota Tacoma (1995 - 2004)

The First Generation of the Tacoma came about as Toyota was faced with a dilemma in the early 90's. From perception perspective U.S. and Canadian consumers were not marketed much in the way of a redesign in the Pickup (a side effect of existing product line success) yet the bulk of its truck production had shifted to the U.S. from Japan. The brand knew that a change to recognize this shift was overdue. Thus, in 1995 Toyota introduced its new pickup, one that would carry a regional name, borrowed from the Pacific Northwest. The Tacoma was born. 

Of course, this new truck was about more than a name change. The Tacoma was designed to accommodate the needs of the North American consumer. These individuals and households used their trucks for more than rural function. They used them as their day to day vehicle, from suburb to city, while still requiring the off-road prowess of a traditional pickup. The Tacoma recognized this by becoming more compact and mid-sized in comparison to its predecessor, the 4WD model, as an example (pictured here)

The First Generation of the Tacoma came about as Toyota was faced with a dilemma in the early 90's. From perception perspective U.S. and Canadian consumers were not marketed much in the way of a redesign in the Pickup (a side effect of existing product line success) yet the bulk of its truck production had shifted to the U.S. from Japan. The brand knew that a change to recognize this shift was overdue. Thus, in 1995 Toyota introduced its new pickup, one that would carry a regional name, borrowed from the Pacific Northwest. The Tacoma was born. 

Of course, this new truck was about more than a name change. The Tacoma was designed to accommodate the needs of the North American consumer. These individuals and households used their trucks for more than rural function. They used them as their day to day vehicle, from suburb to city, while still requiring the off-road prowess of a traditional pickup. The Tacoma recognized this by becoming more compact and mid-sized in comparison to its predecessor, the 4WD model, as an example (pictured here)

 The First Generation Tacoma was an entirely new machine, receiving a completely new frame and suspension. The new suspension ditched the 4x4's portion bars and replaced them with coil springs on the 4x2s and 4x4s alike. In addition, three new engine options were introduced to the Tacoma:

  • 2.4 L Four-Cylinder - Tacoma regular cab and XtraCab 4x2s came with a new 2.4 L, DOHC (double overhead camshaft), 142 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque.

  • 2.7 L Four-Cylinder - Tacoma 4x4s came with 150 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

  • 3.4 L V6 - The optional 3.4 liter V6 came with DOHC, 24-valves, 190 hp, and 220 lb-ft of torque.

Considering the above and the addition of five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions the Tacoma fast become known as the quietest, most refined, yet most powerful pickup around. The First Generation Toyota Tacoma was an immediate hit with consumers, especially in it's first two years.

History of Significant Improvements to the First Generation

  • 1997 - Introduced the Tacoma PreRunner XtraCab to satisfy a market for 4x2s that looked (and felt) like the tougher 4x4s (suspension and oversize tires).

  • 2000 - Introduced the Tacoma StepSide (for four cylinders and V6) which incorporated a more functional bed with distinct fender blisters creating a more sporty look for the vehicle.

  • 2001 - Introduced the Tacoma Double Cab, a four-door (crew cab) to compete with the Nissan Frontier, Dodge Dakota, GMC Sonoma, and the Chevy S-10. By being available as a two-wheel drive with either the 2.7 L four cylinder or 3.4 L V6, or as a four-wheel drive powered by the V6 in SR5 or Limited trim levels the Double Cab became one of the most diversified pickups around. 2001 also delivered the even sportier S-Runner, made available as a 4x2 XtraCab. The S-Runner was a visual treat, with color options in either Black Sand Pearl and Radiant Red, accented by a chrome tipped exhaust.

  • 2002 to 2004 - The Tacoma remained virtually unchanged during this period, having enjoyed great success over competitors such as the Nissan Frontier and Dodge Dakota. In 2002 it was named the Most Wanted Small Pickup. It wasn't until 2005 (the 2nd Generation) that the Tacoma would receive a relative facelift.

 

THE PROGRESSION: The Second Generation of the Toyota Tacoma (2005 - 2015)

In 2004 at the Chicago Auto Show Toyota unveiled the brand new Tacoma - the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner. The X-Runner was a beast, a bigger, better, and more powerful version of its already successful decade-long offering. This versatile pickup was made available in 18 different configurations. These included three cab configurations (regular, access, and double), four transmissions (4-speed automatic, 5-speed automatic/manual, and 6-speed manual), two beds (5 ft and 6 ft), and two engines. The engines added an unprecedented level of power to the Tacoma, with a 4.0 L V-6 delivering 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, in addition to a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. The X-Runner came out of the gates from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds and was able to tow 6,500 lbs. The X-Runner also came with the option of a TRD (Toyota Racing Development) supercharger boosting performance to approximately 300 hp. The second engine option was a smaller, less expensive, yet still powerful 2.7 L 4-cylinder alternative providing 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. The X-Runner immediately changed the game for pickups in North America.

History of Significant Improvements to the Second Generation

  • 2005 - Won Motor Trend's Truck of the Year and Consumer Guide's Best Buy (Compact Pickup Trucks).

  • 2009 - Toyota modified the grill on some Tacoma models and added new LED tail-lamps, on the X-Runner and TRD Off-road/Sport models in addition to a new smoked headlamp trim for light diffusion and a sportier look. Audio-entertainment improvements were made too, with auxiliary audio input becoming standard and new ceiling-mounted speakers added.

  • 2012 - The Tacoma received an exterior facelift, improving upon the style of the front bumper, headlights, grill, hood, and antenna. The interior was also enhanced, and SiriusXM satellite radio was added to improve auto-infotainment value. 

  • 2013 - A touch-screen audio system was added to accommodate the revolutionary Entune package, (now known as the EntuneĀ® app suite). Entune delivered a complete audio display stack for the Tacoma (and other Toyota vehicles) which included Bluetooth, voice recognition, USB, and aux port in addition to a premium set of apps and data services.

  • 2014 - The X-Runner sports truck was discontinued, with Toyota introducing a new SR trim, returning the Tacoma to a sportier look and feel. A TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Sport package was made available, adding a sport suspension, 17-inch aluminum wheels w/low-profile tires and a hood-scoop. A TRD Off-Road package was also delivered, adding hill-start assist control, downhill-assist control, an electronic-locking rear differential, revised suspension tuning, and off-road tires. For the more extreme off-road enthusiast, the TRD team also introduced it's Limited Edition 2014 Toyota Tacoma Baja Series. The core Tacoma Baja has 4.0 L Dual Overhead Cam V-6 w/236 hp and 266 LB-FT of torque. The V-6 transmission is available in a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic.

  • 2015 - Toyota Tacoma wins the Kelley Blue Book Best Resale Value Award and IntelliChoice Most Awarded Pickup. 

THE TRANSCENDENCE: The Third Generation of the Toyota Tacoma (2015/16 +)

No evolution of the Toyota Tacoma piece could be complete without looking ahead. The Third Generation Tacoma was introduced at the 2015 Detroit Car Show, unveiling an exciting and completely redesigned midsize truck. The 2016 Tacoma maintains the same overall size, but now features an all-new exterior design. To increase the Tacoma'"toughnesswhile dropping weight, a higher grade (stronger) steel has been added to the frame and body. Suspensions, rear differentials, and the rear axle have also been upgraded. In addition, there is a new V6 under its hood. The interior has also seen a dramatic makeover, one which adds new features such as wireless phone charging and a GoPro camera mount for those hoping to capture (and upload) scenes from both their off-road and urban/suburban expeditions.

The revolutionary Third Generation is available in five unique trims - the base SR, mid-level SR5TRD Off-RoadTRD Sport and the top of the range Limited.

Are you a resident of British Columbia's Lower Mainland? Become a part of the evolution of the iconic Toyota Tacoma by taking one for a test drive from our dealership in New Westminster BC. Come by at your convenience or contact us here to make an appointment.