A 2WD version of the Toyota Tacoma, the Toyota Prerunner is the most common two-wheel drive Tacoma seen on streets. Its history can be traced back to the introduction of the Toyota Tacoma in 1995. As a replacement for the Hilux, the Tacoma was designed to provide better passenger safety, comfort, handling, and ride quality. Its design was also made to better match the needs of the North American market. After more than a decade of production, the Prerunner and other Tacoma units continue to attract buyers looking for a reliable yet powerful pickup truck. As a matter of fact, the Tacoma earned the Truck of the Year award in 2005 by Motor Trend magazine.
1995-2004: The Prerunner enters the US market
In 1995, the Toyota Tacoma was released and was made available in three engine configurations: a 2.4 L four-cylinder that could produce 142 horsepower and 160 lb/ft. of torque, a 2.7 L four-cylinder that could produce 150 hp and 177 lb/ft. of torque, and 3.4 L V6 that could produce 190 horsepower and 220 lb/ft. of torque. The first-gen was available in either a four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive layout.
In 1998, the 2WD Prerunner model was officially released. Compared to a regular 2WD Tacoma, a Prerunner is two inches wider and two inches taller. The Prerunner also has more ground clearance, can haul 200 lbs more, has better tires and wheels, and is equipped with skid plates, a taller rear axle, bigger front brakes, and a tighter steering system. Because some of the Prerunner’s components are also found in a 4x4 Tacoma, it’s actually possible to convert a Prerunner into a 4x4 by simply using stock parts. The Prerunner was also available in a TRD Off-Road package, which comes with a rear differential locker if the engine was a V6.
The Prerunner, along with other first-gen Tacomas, received several facelifts in 1998. Upgrades included redesigned grilles, emblems, and tailgate badging. Units released in 1998 were also equipped with an air bag for the passenger side.
2005-present: A bigger and more powerful Prerunner is released
Compared to its first-gen predecessor, the second-gen version was bigger and more powerful. It was also sold in more configurations that consisted of four transmissions, two bed lengths, two engine types, and three cab versions (double cap, access cab, and regular cab). The V6 engine that’s also used in Prerunners was also upgraded. The result was a payload capacity of 1650 lb and a tow rating of 6500 lb. The new V6 produced 236 horspower and 266 lb/ft. of torque.
In 2006, several options were made standard. In the following year, Toyota added two more interior color options. In 2009, the mechanical limited slip differential was pulled out by Toyota, and more safety features were included. Today, production for the Prerunner still continues, with the 2012 model equipped with restyled interiors, bumper, grille, headlights, and hood.