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Toyota Pickup Truck Buyer's Guide

Grey Toyota
Jay Kopycinski | Writer
Posted July 1, 2006

4WD Mini-Truck and 4Runner Info

We've been lucky to have 4WD Toyota trucks since 1979 and 4Runners since they were introduced in 1984. These rugged vehicles have made daily drivers, weekend warriors, and hard-core trail rigs for numerous owners. Patterned after the sturdy construction of the venerable Land Cruiser line, the early trucks were built on a fully boxed ladder frame; they were rugged and durable. Much of that quality has lived on through the years with evolutionary refinements that have raised reliability and the driver's comfort. In this article, we'll give you a brief tour through the years, covering many of the differences and specifications.

Toyota has offered four major body styles over time. First-generation trucks from 1979 to 1983 had rounded fenderwells and round headlights. The one exception was the '83 model, which had square headlights. The second-generation truck, built from 1984 to 1988, had squarish fenderwells, and the Xtracab model was introduced in this truck line. Starting in 1989, Toyota returned to the rounded fenderwells and increased the Xtracab length from 9 to 18 inches. Longbed models were also built up until 1992. For the '95.5 model year, Toyota introduced the Tacoma line with a more rounded, sleeker body, and in 2001, brought us the long-awaited Double Cab truck.

The 4Runner was introduced in 1984 with the same body style as the second-generation trucks. Only a two-door model was available, and these had a removable fiberglass rear top. Starting in 1990, the 4Runner had a full steel body, updated to match the third-generation trucks. Four-door models were introduced and the two-door version discontinued in 1992. Then, in 1996, the third-generation 4Runner body was offered. Its styling changed to more closely match that of the Tacoma.

First-generation Toyota 4WD trucks arrived on U.S. shores beginning with the '79 model year. Many of these straight-axle trucks are still used daily.

Standard-bed trucks.............102 to 103 inches
Longbed trucks....................110 to 112 inches
Xtracab('84-'88 trucks)..........112 inches
Xtracab ('89 and later)...........121 to 122 inches
Tacoma Double Cab.............122 inches
4Runner..............................103 to 105 inches

Over time, Toyota has offered three styles of front suspension. Early U.S. models up through 1985 came equipped with a front straight axle and leaf springs. Beginning in 1986, Toyota converted to an independent front suspension (IFS) using A-arms and upper torsion bars on both the trucks and 4Runners. Early IFS models used 22.8mm torsion bars, but size was reduced slightly in 1988 to provide a smoother on-road ride. With the introduction of the Tacoma line and newer 4Runner, the front suspension was swapped over to a coil spring, independent double-wishbone setup. Front suspension travel increased 25 percent or more with this change.

Straight-axle and IFS trucks used recirculating-ball steering boxes. The straight-axle trucks had a push/pull-style drag link, while the IFS trucks had a cross link and idler arm assembly. Power steering was available from 1979 but was only an option on some vehicles. The Tacoma line was equipped with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering.

Second-generation trucks saw the introduction of the Xtracab model in 1984. Multiport fuel injection was introduced in 1985 and IFS in 1986.

Toyota 4x4 trucks have always been equipped with a traditional leaf spring rear suspension. In 1989, the springs were lengthened about 3 inches to improve ride quality. Early 4Runners also had rear leaf springs but changed to a coil-spring linked suspension in 1990. Some Tacomas have been offered with a Toyota Racing Development (TRD) off-road package consisting of upgraded suspension components, including Bilstein gas shocks.

Over the years, Toyota has offered a number of engines in its trucks and 4Runners. 1979 and '80 models used the 20R engine, a 2,200cc carbureted four-cylinder. The larger 2,400cc 22R engine made its debut in 1981 and stayed with the line until 1995. Both carbureted and multiport fuel injection versions (22RE starting in 1985) were offered. All '88-and-later trucks have been fuel-injected.

To increase engine power until it could introduce a V-6 engine, Toyota sold a turbo-version 22RTE in some models in 1986 and 1987. In 1988, the 3.0L V-6 3VZE engine was introduced. The 22RE and 3VZE were replaced with new engines in the Tacoma line. Engine size was increased and the new engines were the 2.7L 3RZFE and the 3.4L 5VZFE. There were also a few odd diesel 4WDs that made their way to the U.S., but those are quite rare.

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