Trucks & SUVs

The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner Was a Japanese Ford Lightning That Could Handle

The Toyota Tacoma isn’t the most advanced truck, but its burly design is precisely why consumers appreciate it. And while the Hilux has a higher payload, the Tacoma is the better daily driver. But, if you want a sportier variant, you’re out of luck. True, there is a TRD Pro version, but unlike the TRD Avalon, it’s an off-roader. So, if you were hoping for something like the Shelby Ford F-150 or Roush Nitemare, Toyota doesn’t offer that. At least, not now. But up until a few years ago, the Japanese automaker did make a truck to take on the Ford SVT Lightning: the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner.

Toyota Tacoma X-Runner specs and features

The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner debuted with the 2005 2nd-gen version of the truck, Autotrader reports. Part of the 2nd-gen’s upgrades over the original was a 4.0-liter V6, putting out 236 hp and 266 lb-ft. But the X-Runner received a few more upgrades on top of that.

For one, instead of a 5-speed manual, the Tacoma X-Runner got a 6-speed short-throw manual. And while the standard truck could be rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, the X-Runner was RWD only. Plus, it came with a limited-slip differential as standard.

The truck was also lowered 2” over stock, to improve handling, and the entire frame was stiffened. In addition, the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner received further suspension mods, Bring a Trailer reports. This consisted of Bilstein shocks, a rear stabilizer bar, double-wishbone front springs, and upgraded rear leaf springs.

2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner
2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner | Bring a Trailer

The Tacoma X-Runner also received performance tires, and 18” alloy wheels, AutoTrends reports. On top of that, there was a body kit, which consisted of a hood scoop, extended wheel arches, fog lamps, and side skirts. Toyota also offered a Stoptech big brake package for the X-Runner—useful, considering the truck came standard with rear drum brakes.

Finally, if the standard V6 wasn’t powerful enough, the New York Times reports that, like the larger Tundra, the Tacoma X-Runner could be fitted with a TRD supercharger. That boosted the engine to 304 hp and 332 lb-ft. It also allegedly cut at least a second off the truck’s 7-second 0-60 time.

Toyota Tacoma X-Runner vs. Ford SVT Lightning

2001 Ford F150 SVT Lightning
2001 Ford F150 SVT Lightning | Ford

In terms of specs, the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner isn’t quite as powerful or as fast as the Ford SVT Lightning. The Ford offered a supercharged 5.4-liter V8, which made 380 hp and 450 lb-ft. And Car and Driver recorded it running 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. But then, outright speed wasn’t the X-Runner’s intended purpose. As with the TRD Camry, it’s about handling.

Autoweek reports the Tacoma X-Runner handled smoothly and predictably around corners. It also managed to cling to the road harder than the Ford, Driving.ca reports. The Tacoma can’t tow as much as the Ford, true—but it does have a higher payload capacity. And unlike the Ford Lightning, the X-Runner had a stick.

Pricing and availability

The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner was built from 2005-2013. This means early examples are subject to the same paint and rust issues as regular Tacomas. It’s also likely 2009 models can suffer from radio issues, and 2007 models from sticking accelerator pedals. However, apart from these issues, the X-Runner is as solid as any other Tacoma.

2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner rear
2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner rear | Bring a Trailer

The X-Runner also tends to be slightly cheaper than the Ford Lightning. As of this writing, a 2005 model is listed on BaT with a bid of $2,850. And the most expensive model on Autotrader is going for $19,000. Meanwhile, a Ford Lightning can go for as much as $30,000 on BaT.

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