Classic CARmentary: 1999 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner V6

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

I have little recollection of this truck, but I did enjoy having it because both my father-in-law and brother-in-law were rabid Toyota truck fans, both owning several until my FIL switched to compact crossovers and my BIL switched to RAMs.  I’m not really a pickup truck kind of guy, so I don’t get the appeal, but clearly I have family (including another BIL) who swear by pickups.  

One thing I did notice re-reading this article is that the price in 2020 dollars is $34,303.86, which sounds kind of average today for a Tacoma, but was really on the high side in 1999.  Remember that the MSRP for the base regular cab was about the same as the MSRP for a base Corolla.  Today the Tacoma starts above the Camry in price.  You do get a considerably nicer experience today when you drive out in the base model.  My sister’s ex-boyfriend bought one of those base pickups back in 1991.  No rear bumper, and he described the interior by whistling the tune from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, bringing up images of a desolate desert town.

Since the Prerunner was rear-wheel drive only, there were most likely several thousand dollars to go before you hit the top of the Tacoma price range.

At first, the new Toyota Tacoma PreRunner may seem like an answer to a question that nobody asked: A two-wheel drive pickup that looks like a four-wheel drive pickup. But four-wheel drive exacts a cost, weight, and fuel economy penalty for a feature that is rarely used by the masses, so it makes sense to add that tough look that people love to a less-expensive alternative.

Don’t think, however, that Toyota just raised the suspension and slapped some graphics on its compact truck and called it a day. Since the PreRunner name comes from those vehicles used to “pre run” an off road course before a race, Toyota blessed it with a double wishbone independent suspension with coil springs, a 1.02-inch stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers. Our truck had the optional TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Off-Road Package, which includes huge 31-inch tires on alloy wheels and other enhancements, as well as a locking rear differential for better traction if one does actually take it off road.

The PreRunner comes with either a 150-horsepower, 2.7-liter four cylinder, or a 190-horsepower, 3.4-liter V6. Our tester had the V6, which is characterized by lots of torque, a distinct growl, and distaste for the upper echelons of the tachometer. Acceleration is strong, and the standard four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. While initially limited to extended-cab models, the package will be extended to regular-cab models later in the model year.

While nothing fancy, the interior is a comfortable, well-thought-out environment with amenities that are becoming more common in trucks: power windows and locks, tilt-steering wheel, dual airbags, ABS, and cruise control. The extended cab area includes a pair of small forward-facing jumpseats most suitable for (very) small children. The ride is bouncy, as in most trucks, but handling is above average.

In case you ever decide to use the PreRunner as a truck, it can hold 1,480 pounds of cargo in its 6.2-foot bed, and the PreRunner looks best with the optional bedliner.

While not as cheap as you may expect, the PreRunner does look good. Think of it as a rabid sheep in stylish wolf’s clothing.

For more information contact 1-800-GO-TOYOTA


Type: Extended-Cab Pickup
Engine: 190-horsepower, 3.4 liter V6
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
EPA Mileage: 18 city/23 highway
Tested Price: $22,290