- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2008

Toyota creates a practical solution with its 2009 Tacoma PreRunner Double Cab for those needing a pickup with credentials to haul people and handle demanding off-pavement needs.

This two-wheel-drive midsize pickup, base priced at $23,500 for the short-bed model, comfortably transports five adults, provides V-6 grunt and is capable on rugged terrain.

While the PreRunner lacks 4x4 traction, it’s built to cope with the rough stuff encountered by the average weekend warrior. Key advantages are the same 9.5-inch ground clearance and P245/75R-16 tires as its 4x4 counterpart. It encounters off-road objects with the same approach, departure and breakover angles as a 4x4 Double Cab.

Lessening the chances of undercarriage damage, the PreRunner is protected with standard front and engine skid plates.

Traction is enhanced with a standard Automatic Limited Slip Differential. The PreRunner’s off-road prowess can be improved with a $2,620 TRD Off-road Extra Value Package, which among a long list of extras, includes an electronic locking rear differential, off-road-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks and 16-inch alloy wheels with P265/70R-16 BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, front tow hook and back-up camera. The locking rear differential helps when severe conditions are encountered such as deep mud or loose/rock-infested terrain.

The surprise is that, despite being built to trek on the rough stuff, the PreRunner’s ride quality is good - making it a pleasant highway cruiser.

Power is another part of the PreRunner’s character, with the Double Cab’s standard 4.0-liter V-6 engine. It’s paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, gated to allow shifts from Drive to fourth gear and Low to second gear with horizontal movement of the shift lever.

This powertrain propels the 3,810-pound pickup with 236 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. Estimated fuel economy city/highway miles per gallon is 17/21 and Toyota recommends its 21-gallon tank be filled with 91-octane gasoline. Bringing the PreRunner to a halt are larger 12.56-inch ventilated disc front brakes, compared to standard Tacoma 10.83-inch discs. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds and the PreRunner’s payload max is 1,540 pounds.

Experiencing the PreRunner’s performance requires a roughly 22-inch step-up into the cab.

The driver and front passenger settle in cloth-covered buckets. They face a clean, stylish dashboard with a large center-positioned speedometer and easy-to-manipulate knobs and switches.

Passengers in the rear are seated on a 60/40-split-folding three-place bench. A 23-degree seatback recline contributes to rear-passenger comfort, and legroom ranges from good to cramped, depending of front-seat positioning.

A rear compartment load floor is created by flipping up cushions and folding seatbacks. Generally, headrests must be removed in order to make the seatbacks fold flush.

Longer cargo, which might be damaged by the elements, can be accommodated inside the cab by folding the front passenger seat backrest.

Smaller items can be tucked away in rear under-seat storage and be organized on movable bulkhead storage trays.

Along with performing in 4x4-like fashion the PreRunner looks the part. Along with the same wheels and height, it wears an argent-colored grille, and has black over-fenders, front/rear bumpers, door handles and mirrors.

The test-truck sports a 60.3-inch-long short bed, and a PreRunner with a 73.5-inch-long, long-bed is available for $24,000.

Standard is a fiber-reinforced Sheet-Molded Composite bed liner, rail caps, removable tailgate and Deck Rail System with four adjustable tie-down cleats.

Toyota’s PreRunner Double Cab is an efficient cargo and people hauler, ready to romp - filled with gear - on off-road trails, or make weekend treks to the hardware store or nursery more convenient.

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