New Car/Review

1998 TOYOTA TACOMA 4X4 X/CAB TRD/LTD

by Matt/Bob Hagin

toyota

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 24,028
Price As Tested                                    $ 27,502
Engine Type                DOHC 4-valve 3.4 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 206 cid/3378 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 4800 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 3600 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  121.9"/66.5"/203.1"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3473 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    18 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     31X10.5R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 45 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            16/19/18
0-60 MPH                                          8 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       87.5 seconds @ 16 mph
Top speed                                           103 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(Toyota pickups used to be "vanilla" utility vehicles when Matt Hagin was young. In a generational switch, Bob Hagin, his dad, changes rolls with his son and tells him that the times have changed.)

MATT - When I was a junior in high school, one of the guys would bring his dad's old Toyota pickup to school and we'd all razz him about it. It was call a Hi-Lux and it was homely as a can of worms. It was so slow that he could hardly keep up with the school bus. He hated having to drive it to school and as soon as he got a part-time job, he gave it back to his dad and bought something that was more cool. He renamed it the "Lo-Lux" - but not in front of his dad.

BOB - If he was still into pickups, he might well be driving one of these new fancy Tacomas that Toyota is selling, Matt. It's as close as a guy can come to owning a sports car and still have a pickup bed in back. It's gotten a sheet metal face lift this year but other than the normal "refinements" that get added annually to keep things interesting, the Tacoma has been pretty much the same for a couple of years. The engine in our test rig carries the sophisticated twin-cam, 24-valve, 3.4 liter all-aluminum V6 that's in Toyota's bigger T-100 truck and it puts out 190 horsepower at only 4800 RPM. But its real strong point for off- roaders is that it develops 220 pounds/feet of torque at 3,600 revs.

MATT - Toyota is playing up the off-road capabilities of the Tacoma and the one we tested is labeled the Limited Extra-Cab TRD model. The TRD designation stands for Toyota Racing Development which is a special Toyota USA department that puts together the company's off-road and desert racing programs among other performance projects. Our Tacoma has a TRD Off-Road package that includes a push button operated locking differential in the rear, tricked-out heavy-duty suspension components, Bilstein shocks, 31-inch tires and some special badging and graphics to announce it as a special model. The truck we tried out came with optional anti-lock brakes but the system is pretty pricey at almost $600 extra. The Tacoma is also available with smaller, less-powerful four cylinder engines, too. The two-wheel drive Tacoma comes standard with a 2.4 liter version but Toyota apparently felt that the four-banger needed a little more "umph" to drive all four wheels so the standard engine in the 4x4 Tacoma is a bit larger at 2.7 liters. Both of them are high-tech with twin overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. All models have rack-and-pinion steering which makes off-roading smoother.

BOB - A Tacoma can be almost custom-designed with two or four-wheel drive, four or six cylinder engines, and five-speed as well as automatic transmissions. It can also be had with a regular two-seater cab or with an extended cab which has room behind the driver and passenger for lots of gear or two very small people. It also contains a strange little flip-up table behind the passenger's seat that holds a couple of cup holders. It isn't big enough to do anything practical with but I guess that if the passenger behind the driver's seat gets bored, he or she can flip down the table and play a couple of hands of solitaire. The four-by-four versions come with manually lockable hubs as standard but there's an optional shift-on-the-fly system available so that the driver can plug in the front wheels drive at speeds up to 50 MPH.

MATT - If serious off-roading Tacoma buyers go for the Limited version like the one we had, they,ll get some pretty fancy equipment that makes life in the boondocks considerable easier. Ours had a special exterior chrome trim kit, a deluxe sound system, a sliding rear window and swing-out rear quarter windows. Although I hope I never have to travel very far in those little jump seats in the back, swing-out rear quarter-windows would go a long way towards alleviating that claustrophobic feeling. But to tell the truth, I sometimes miss the days when pickups were rough, rugged and no-nonsense.

BOB - I used to feel that way on occasion too, Matt, but there's an easy way to get rid of that nostalgic feeling. A short ride in one of those old bruisers will make you really appreciate a modern truck that has air conditioning, a smooth ride and power steering.

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