In mid-1995, Toyota introduced an all new 4X4 model.  For the first time, Toyota built an all
new, from the ground up, 4x4 compact truck that was exclusively for the North American
market.   This truck did not arrive without controversy.   As expected, Toyota continued with the
IFS system, but completely redesigned it.  The new IFS adds slightly more travel and a much
better ride as well as handling on the street.  But also included was a rack and pinion steering.   
The rack and pinion provides a much more responsive steering on the street, but it's survivability
off road somewhat lesser than the older ball steering.   However, Toyota did improve two very
important things with the new Tacoma.   Much more powerful engines and the addition, for the
first time in North America, of an available factory locker.
Last Update: November 1, 2004
The following pictures are of my Dad, Michael McCamish's, 2001 Toyota Tacoma SR5 extra cab.   The engine
and transmission combination is the relatively rare 2.7 liter 4 cylinder and an automatic transmission.   In
addition, this Tacoma has the larger factory optional tires 265/70R-16 and very rare (for the Tacoma) 4.56 gears.  
 Unfortunately it is not equipped with an electric locker, but it's still a very nice and capable 4x4.
Pictures of the 2.7 liter 3RZ-FE engine mated to an automatic transmission.  This engine makes 150 h.p. and 180
ft/lbs of torque.  It was designed to replace the 22RE as the base motor for the Toyota compact 4X4.   While the
22RE is famous for it's legendary durability and longevity, it's always lacked in the power department. (Only 116
h.p. and 140 ft/lbs of torque.)  This new engine makes a ton more power (just as much as the prior generation 3.0
liter V-6) and is just as reliable as the old 22RE.
Interior pictures.  This Tacoma has an automatic transmission and floor mounted transfer case shifter.   The front
diff is the automatic disconnecting type, common with most newer Tacomas.   Manual hubs are extrememly rare
on newer Tacomas and are only found on the most basic no frills models.   This is an extra cab with folding rear
seats (shown in the folded position).   Note the white faced gauges which is also standard on newer Tacomas.
Pictures of the independent front suspension and rack and pinion steering.  Interestingly enough, this suspension
system is not used on the current model overseas Toyota 4x4 truck (Hilux).  That truck uses the same IFS frame
and suspension that the Tacoma replaced in 1995.   This coil spring/strut system is also used the Tundra and
4Runner.   It offers an excellent ride and handling and slightly improved travel for off road.  The rack and pinion
steering is not quite as sturdy as the older, more simple ball steering, but Toyota did take some care to protect
the system.   While it does hang low, it's directly behind a major crossmember and is unlikely to be damaged from
the front.   Care should be taken while backing up off road, however.
Pictures of the underside and rear suspension.   The frame on the Tacoma (although not shown in these pictures)
is of the partly boxed type, in some sections, compared to the fully boxed frame that it replaced.  The rear
suspension and axle is nearly identical in appearance to the prior generation, but the rear diff is slighly larger on
models, such as this one, that are not equipped with an electric locker.  Note on the Tacoma the location of major
components has been reversed, compared to the prior generation.  The gas tank and front driveshaft are now
located on the driver's side, while the exhaust is located on the passenger side.  The prior generation had these
items on oppisite sides.
Toyota's goal in the redesign of 1995 was to increase the highway drivability of the Toyota while sacrificing as little of the off
roadbility of the truck as possible.   Toyota did succeed pretty well.  The new Tacoma is extremely well behaved on the street and
rides and handles very nice.   The new engines produce much more power than before.  And Toyota has equipped the new truck
with features for off road, such as a locker, that older models never saw.  The rack and pinion steering is the only major
component that might be questionable off road, but then probably only under the most extreme conditions.   For a serious off
road trail machine,  an eariler pre-Tacoma model should be considered as a base for a build up, but for a daily driver, moderate
off roader, that Tacoma is an excellent choice.
Note:  For the model  year 2005, Toyota completely redesigned the Toyota Tacoma from the ground up.  Almost
nothing from the old Tacoma remains.   To learn more, visit
Toyota's website.
My Dad's  2001