1999 Tacoma New Car Test Drive
The first time we saw it, we assumed the Toyota Tacoma PreRunner was a four-wheel-drive truck. We should've known better. For years, off-road racing teams have used modified two-wheel-drive pickups to pre-run desert racing circuits. Over and over they pound down the rough terrain, searching for the quickest way through, preparing for the big race.
These prerunner trucks are usually fitted with off-road suspensions similar to the race trucks, but are equipped with less powerful engines that are far more durable and reliable than the fragile race engines. And a lot of these trucks are two-wheel drive. Two-wheel-drive trucks are often faster than four-wheel-drive trucks and a lot of teams race two-wheel drive. So there's nothing new about two-wheel-drive off-road pickups.
Though they boast the sporty exterior styling of a Tacoma 4x4, all PreRunners come with two-wheel drive and automatic transmissions.
That's why the appearance fooled us. But what surprised -- and delighted -- us was the PreRunner's impressive handling characteristics. The steering is quick and the truck responds crisply to changes in direction. And the amount of available grip is impressive. This truck really hangs on around the on-ramps. We had to stop, get out and look: Yep, those are big off-road tires, and, yep, that's an off-road suspension with a high ground clearance. So we got back in and blasted on down the road -- toward the home-improvement center.