1998 Toyota Tacoma Review
Pros & Cons
- Unique styling, Toyota reliability, and powerful engines make the 1998 Toyota Tacoma one of the most desirable small trucks on the market. Passenger side airbag shut-off switch is a nice nod toward making this truck safer for kids.
- Extended cab models lack a third door and the redesigned front end is a bit too swoopy.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Toyota's sixth-generation compact pickup debuted as a 1995.5 model with an actual model name: Tacoma. It's supposed to suggest the rugged outdoors, as well as strength and adventure. Any of three potent engines go under the hood. Toyota aimed for aggressive styling, inside and out, and Tacomas sport an excellent selection of interior fittings. Regular and extended cab bodies are available, with either two- or four-wheel drive.
A freshening of the front end occurred on the 1997 two-wheel drive Tacoma and the 1998 four-wheel drive models follow this year. Swoopy fenders, a larger bumper, aero-style headlamps and a new grille set this truck apart from its forebears. Two-wheel drive Tacomas get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder base engine, rated at 142-horsepower. Tacoma 4x4s earn a 150-horsepower, 2.7-liter four. Toyota claims that its four-cylinder engines are comparable to V6s from competitors. If those won't suffice, however, consider the V6 option: a dual-overhead-cam, 24-valve unit that whips out 190 horses and 220 foot-pounds of torque. With V6 power, borrowed from the bigger T100, this compact pickup can tow up to 5,000 pounds and soundly trounce most factory sport trucks in the stoplight dragrace.
All Tacomas have front coil springs instead of the former torsion bars, but 4x4s feature longer suspension travel to improve ride/handling qualities. Manual-shift trucks feature reverse-gear synchronization to reduce gear noise when shifting into reverse. Four-wheel antilock braking is optional on all Tacomas, and all pickups contain dual airbags with a shut-off switch for the passenger's side. In top-of-the-line Limited pickups, a One-Touch Hi-Four switch is available for easy, pushbutton engagement of four-wheel drive.
Tacomas are produced at the NUMMI joint-venture facility in Fremont, Calif., having been designed in that state. Options include cruise control, air conditioning, a sliding rear window, tilt steering wheel and moonroof.
The 1998 Tacoma PreRunner, however, is set to attract truck buyers who desire but cannot afford a 4WD truck, 4WD truck owners who don't use their 4WD as often as they expected and 2WD truck buyers who take their vehicle off-road. Historically, a "pre-runner" is a truck that pre-runs an off-road race course. Toyota's new PreRunner has benefitted from considerable suspension tuning and development work with Toyota Motorsports desert racing truck program to produce a 2WD vehicle with 4WD capabilities.
Stylistically, the PreRunner is identical to the other 1998 4WD Tacoma trucks, but the PreRunners are only available as XtraCab models with four- or six-cylinder automatic transmissions. Special details on the PreRunners include a double-wishbone independent suspension with coil springs, a 1.02-inch stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers. Standard tires are 15- by six-inch steel wheels and P225/75R15 mud and snow tires. The Toyota Racing Development off-road package offers Bilstein shock absorbers, locking rear differential on six-cylinder models, alloy wheels and other off-road enhancements.
Toyota hopes to attract buyers with the style and image of their Tacoma as well as a lower price tag. We like the Tacoma, but question the value it represents. Most of these Toyota trucks don't come cheap. Guess that's the price you pay for the peace of mind a Toyota provides.