Toyota Compact Truck/ Tacoma 4×4 History

Toyota launched the first 4wd compact truck way back in 1979. Since then, it has changed into the Tacoma and has become the best-selling compact truck in the U.S. Here is the history of the truck with a chronology of events.

Toyota Compact Truck/ Tacoma 4x4 History

Toyota first launched a compact truck back in 1979. Since then, it has evolved into the Tacoma – a perennial sales leader.

Here is a snapshot of the highlights of the Toyota Truck/Tacoma:

1979 – Introduction of 4WD.
1979 –Pickup, Van & 4WD “4WD of the Year,”Off-Road “4WD Vehicle of the Year,” 4×4 and Off-Road Vehicles “Toughest Truck of the Year.”
1980 –Is best selling Compact 4×4 for the next 14 years.
1982 –4WD model available with 5-speed transmission.
1984 –Introduction of auto-locking hubs on 4WD.
1985 – Automatic transmission available on 4WD.
1989 –“Pickup Truck of the Year,” Four Wheel & Off Road Magazine.
1995 –Introduction of Tacoma name to truck line.
1996 –“Pickup Truck of the Year”, Four Wheeler.
1996 –Wins JD Power IQS.
1997 –Expanded availability of locking rear differential.
1998 –Minor change to styling, suspension.
1998 –“Pickup Truck of the Year,” Four Wheeler.
2000 –Adds appearance package, new exterior colors, and receives daytime
running lights on ABS-equipped models
2000 – Among Consumer Guide’s Recommended Compact Pickup Trucks
2001 – Aggressive styling changes, several new upgrade packages and four new
exterior colors
2001 – Among Consumer Guide’s Recommended Compact Pickup Trucks
2002 – AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Score (VSS) Top performer in Compact Pickup Truck segment.
2002 – Among Consumer Guide’s Recommended Compact Pickup Trucks
2003 – Among Consumer Guide’s Recommended Compact Pickup Trucks
2004 – Tacoma receives VSC and TRAC as standard on PreRunner models
2004 – Among Consumer Guide’s Recommended Compact Pickup Trucks
2005 – Eighth-generation compact truck, second-generation Tacoma.  All-new Tacoma model line – larger, more powerful, more features.
2005 –Motor Trend “Truck of the Year;” Among Consumer Guide’s 2005 Best Buys
Compact Pickup Trucks; 2005Automobile Magazine “All-Star Pickup,” Forbes “Best Pickups 2005 – Least Expensive”
2006 –Consumer Guide’s 2005 “Best Buys Compact Pickup Truck”
2006 –Four-cylinder automatic model named “Greener Choices 2006” and “Best of 2006” – American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
2006 –“Best Value in America” for Compact Pickup 4WD – Vincentric
2006 – Edmunds.comnames Tacoma “Consumers’ Most Wanted Truck” for fifth year in a  row.
2008 – Tacoma named top compact truck in Edmunds.com “2008 Consumers’ Top Rated Vehicle Awards”
2009 – Named an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) “TOP SAFETY PICK”
2009 – U.S. News & World Report2009 Best Car for the Money awards – “Best Compact
Pickup for the Money”
2009 –  “2009 Best Bet,” The Car Book
2009 – Intellichoice.com “Best overall Value of the Year” award – Compact Pickup Class 4WD
2010 –  Kelley Blue Book “2010  Best Resale Value” – mid-size pickup category
2010 – Kelly Blue Book “2010 Best Resale Value: Top 10”
2010 – Earned Insure.com “Low Cost Car Insurance Award”
2010 – Edmunds 2010 Lowest True Cost to Own Award
2012– Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com “2012 Best Resale Value” – mid-size pickup category
2012– Kelly Blue Book’s kbb.com “2012 Best Resale Value: Top 10”
2012 –US News & World Report  ”2012 Best Cars for The Money” for Compact Pickup Trucks

Toyota narrates:

In 1979, Toyota expanded its popular line of pickup trucks to include both two- and four-wheel-drive models.  The new four-wheel-drive trucks were an immediate success with both consumers and media alike, being awarded “4WD of the Year” by Pickup, Van & 4WD, “4WD Vehicle of the Year” by Off-Road and “Toughest Truck of the Year” by 4×4 and Off-Road Vehicles.

Changes and updates on the 4WD models mirrored their 2WD cousins, with the exception of the drivetrain.  When first introduced, the four-wheel drive model was available with only a four-speed manual transmission, but was updated with a five-speed unit in 1982.  A “shift on the fly” system, whereby the front hubs could be locked automatically when four-wheel drive was selected, without exiting the vehicle, was introduced in 1984.  The next transmission change came in 1985, as a four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission was made available.

Toyota trucks earned their reputation as rugged and reliable workhorses.  The combination of four-wheel drive and luxury (power windows, door locks and mirrors, compact-disc player, sunroof, additional seats in the rear of the cab) proved that Toyota trucks were capable of getting almost anywhere in style, and coming safely and reliably home again.

Toyota’s Tacoma line (see 2WD section for detailed product description) saw minor changes and additions for the 1997 model year.  Available on all 4WD models, Tacoma’s locking rear differential provides it with ability on tough trails unlike that of any other compact pickup truck.  Other changes were to the availability of bucket seats on non-SR5 level Xtracabs and revised striping on SR5 models.

On the inside, all 1998 Tacomas received a passenger-side airbag with cutoff switch for increased occupant safety.  Also added were rotary HVAC controls, two additional 12V power outlets and repositioned cupholders.

On the outside, a restyled grille and headlights along with larger front bumper and new overfenders made for a more aggressive appearance.  Inspired by Toyota’s successful desert racing program, a special Toyota Racing Development Off-Road Package was equipped with specially valved Bilstein shocks, increased-rate front coil and rear leaf springs and a locking rear differential.

After receiving a redesigned interior and styling upgrades in 1998, the 1999 Tacoma remained relatively unchanged with the exception of several new added-value packages and safety features.  The added safety features included new front seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters as well as a passenger-side airbag cut-off switch.

The 2000 model offered standard daytime running lights on all models equipped with ABS.

For 2001, the Tacoma received a new front fascia that included a vertical grille and raised hood, new multi-reflector headlamps and jeweled tail lamps. Tether anchor brackets have been added to supplement child restraint systems.

The 2002 Tacoma 4×4 carried over unchanged.

The 2003 Tacoma’s 4×4 updates and changes mirrored those of Tacoma 4×2.  A Child Restraint System lower anchor was made standard for the front passenger seat on Regular and Xtracabs, and for the rear outboard seats on the Double Cabs.  Anti-lock brake systems were made standard on all models.

For 2004, Tacoma 4×4 received Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control as standard equipment.
Toyota introduced an all-new Tacoma pickup truck line for 2005 that was larger, more powerful and more fuel-efficient than before. A stronger, stiffer chassis and new suspension and steering tuning improved off-road performance and on-road ride and handling.

The all-new 2005 Tacoma offered three cab types – Regular Cab, Access Cab with new dual access doors and rear jump seats and the four-door Double Cab. The wheelbase on all cab types increased and front and rear track was widened by up to four inches, yielding additional shoulder and hip room.

The new Tacoma was styled with a stronger appearance, with its big, bold headlights and grille. Flush glass and flush body-to-bumper surfaces were intended to reduce wind noise and aerodynamic drag, and also contributed to Tacoma’s higher-quality appearance. The bed featured a new sheet-molded compound (SMC) deck and walls that were 10 percent lighter than steel, yet tougher and more durable. New TRD Off-Road and Sport Packages became available.

The 2005 Tacoma line introduced a revised 2.7L DOHC four-cylinder engine that produced 168 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and a new 4.0L DOHC V6 that produced 240 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque. In both engines, a new electronic throttle control system with intelligence (ETCS-i) helped optimize performance and fuel economy.

Six-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions became available with the V6, and the four-cylinder models offered a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system became available for all models, while the Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) systems became available in certain configurations.  Double Cab models offered optional side impact air bags and curtain side airbags.

For 2006 Tacoma entered the model year with a Tire Pressure Monitor System standard on all models and advanced airbags on models equipped with bench seating.

The 2007 Tacoma was a carry-over with no exterior changes.  All Tacoma models received redesigned audio head units, larger front seats, a freshened instrument panel and chrome plated combination meter perimeter.  Rear seats that fully fold flat were made standard on Access Cab models.  In addition, walk-in memory became standard on Access Cab Sport Grade seats.

For 2008, the Tacoma 4×4 was a carry-over.

For 2009, all Tacoma,models adds several key safety features as standard equipment including the Toyota STAR SAFETY SYSTEM™,  front seat-mounted side airbags, curtain side airbags and active front headrests. The Auto-LSD replaces the mechanical LSD in all applications where it was previously available.

For 2009, all Tacoma,models added several key safety features as standard equipment including the Toyota STAR SAFETY SYSTEM™,  front seat-mounted side airbags, curtain side airbags and active front headrests. The Auto-LSD replaced the mechanical LSD in all applications where it was previously available.

Tacoma also received interior and exterior revisions for 2009. All models featured an argent-painted grille, while the TRD Offroad, TRD Sport and Tacoma X-Runner models were distinguished by a new smoked headlamp trim. All models gained restyled LED taillamps, and a new tailgate handle was able to accommodate an available backup monitor on Access Cab and Double Cab models.

Inside, all models featured new front door trim panels, while a lower center stack housed the standard auxiliary audio input jack. Access Cab models received a redesigned rear seat for improved comfort, as well as standard power windows and door locks. The SR5 grade also received new seat fabric for 2009.

The standard audio systems were now satellite radio-ready. The optional JBL audio six-CD system became Bluetooth® compatible and satellite ready, and includes a three-month free trial subscription to XM® Satellite Radio.

After the assortment of interior and exterior revisions the previous model year, the 2010 Tacoma remains unchanged.

For 2011 an all-new T|X and T|X Pro packages were made available on all V6 models equipped with a TRD Off-Road package.  The T|X package included TRD 16-inch black alloy bead-lock wheels and 265/70R16 BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, Black tube side steps, chrome tailpipe tip and unique exterior badging.  The T|X Pro deleted the tube steps but added a TRD cat-back exhaust.

Also for 2011, Regular Cab 4×4 models with automatic transmission came equipped exclusively with bucket seats.  Two new 4×4 models were added to the Tacoma lineup, a Regular Cab four-speed automatic four-cylinder and an Access Cab four-speed automatic with a four-cylinder.

The 2012 Tacoma received a restyled exterior look and a redesigned, upgraded interior in all models adding comfort, usability and audio/infotainment performance.

The restyled exterior showed a fresh face with a redesigned hood, grille, headlamps and front bumper, among other changes. Inside, Tacoma added a new center-instrument panel design with a revised gauge cluster, along with a new steering wheel.  A redesigned center stack added new air conditioner/heater controls and power point locations.

The 2012 Tacoma interior also received a new look with a black high-contrast center console, switch plate covers, dash and upper door trim, while the SR5 grade featured a new seat fabric design. Tacoma offered new heavy-duty all-weather flooring in the 2012 Tacoma Access and Double Cab models, while the more specialized TRD Sport and Off-Road models offered new water-resistant fabric protection seats. The TRD Sport Package added side mirrors with turn-signal lamps for 2012, as well as available chrome-clad 18-inch wheels.

Details that add up to more comfort and function included a larger, higher-resolution display for the available back-up camera (3.3-inch vs. 2.4-inch), a new temperature gauge, available rear-view mirror with compass and HomeLink, vanity lamps added to sun visors, an additional overhead storage compartment and, on Access Cab models, a new rear-console storage box. All models now featured two front-deck “D” rings for added versatility.

Toyota upgraded the audio options for some 2012 Tacoma models. Access Cab models offered a newly available six-speaker system with an AM/FM/ Satellite Radio-capable head unit with a single-disc CD player.  Built-in Bluetooth® allowed hands-free phone, and a USB port enabled connection of an iPod®, MP3 player or flash drive with music files.

The DoubleCab V6 models offered a more advanced display audio system with the most in-demand connectivity features. These included navigation, Toyota Entune™ services, SiriusXM Satellite Radio (with 90-day trial subscription), HD Radio with iTunes® tagging and text/e-mail-to-voice. This premium infotainment system plays through a JBL® GreenEdge audio system with seven speakers. GreenEdge technology helps reduce fuel consumption by lowering the electric power demand on the vehicle.

The Toyota Entune system is a collection of popular mobile applications and data services, with three years of complimentary access. Once a smart phone is connected to the vehicle using Bluetooth wireless technology or a USB cable, Entune’s features are operated using the vehicle’s controls or, for some services, by voice recognition. Entune includes Bing™ and Pandora®; real-time info including traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks. Apps available in spring 2012 at no charge include iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable®.

For 2013 the best-selling compact pickup truck in the U.S. offers a new Limited Package that adds a touch of luxury and more sophisticated exterior appearance.  The package includes 18-inch chrome-clad wheels with 265/60R 18 tires, chrome grille surround and rear bumper along with chrome outside mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, chrome door handles, and fog lamps.  The package also includes many interior amenities such as SofTex-trimmed heated front sport seats; four-way adjustable driver’s seat; variable speed windshield wipers; metallic tone instrument panel trim; leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls; auto-dimming rear-view mirror with rear camera display and outside temperature gauge; a HomeLink® universal transceiver and much more.

Entering the 2014 model year, Tacoma has now been the best-selling compact pickup truck in the U.S. market since 2008.  To carry on this remarkable sales momentum the 2014 Tacoma offers a sporty new SR appearance package, along with four levels of Entune audio. In conjunction with the Entune upgrade, the backup camera display has been moved from the rear-view mirror to the Entune head unit display.

Entune Audio leverages the user’s mobile smartphone to provide a richer in-vehicle experience with fully integrated access to navigation, entertainment and information services. The Entune Premium Audio and Entune Premium JBL® Audio systems feature engaging mobile apps, including Bing™, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable®, Pandora®,  Yelp and Facebook Places plus real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks. Access to Entune services is subscription- free.

The new SR Package, available for the Tacoma PreRunner and 4×4 Access Cab base grade models, lends a sporty look with a color-keyed exterior appearance upgrade, including overfenders, door handles, bumpers, grille surround and mirrors, plus smoked headlight lenses. Models with the V6 engine also get fog lights with the SR package. The available ST Package, meanwhile, introduces a new 16-inch alloy Baja wheel style.

Where is it built?
Four-wheel-drive compact trucks were built at the Tahara Plant in Tahara, Japan, and all truck beds are produced at TABC in Long Beach, Calif. Compact trucks were built at the Honsha Plant in Toyota City, Japan.  Compact trucks were built at the Honsha Plant in Toyota City, Japan.  All Tacomas are built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX) in San Antonio, Texas and Baja California (TMMBC) in Baja California, Mexico.  All truck beds are produced at TABC in Long Beach, Calif.