The 2005 Tacoma X-Runner pickup truck launched on Wednesday at the 2004 Chicago Auto Show is the sporty edition of Toyota’s latest assault on the US Big Three.


Billed as a high-performance sport truck, the X-Runner will be one of several models offered when the enlarged, all-new next-generation Tacoma arrives in showrooms this summer.


“The arrival of the all-new Tacoma series will mark the first step in expanding our presence in the North American light truck arena,” said Toyota US chief Don Esmond. “Larger in every metric of comparison, the new Tacoma will offer an extensive variety of body-and-bed configurations with substantially more passenger room, cargo volume and towing capacity than before.”


Ominously for Detroit, which once counted the big pickup truck segment as its own, the new Tacoma will move well beyond its current compact truck dimensions, with a wheelbase five inches longer and track four inches wider. That gives an extra four-and-a-half inches of interior shoulder and hip room.


Compared to the tradesman models, the X-Runner will have an exclusive “X-braced” reinforced frame for enhanced torsional rigidity, one inch lower than the standard frame, 18-inch 45-series V-rated tyres on alloy wheels, firmer and shorter springs and Bilstein gas shock absorbers positioned outside the frame rails for increased stability. Large-diameter stabiliser bars with firmer bushings front and rear and a limited slip differential will also be fitted.


Still, the big Detroit iron can rest easy – at least until Toyota’s real full-size pickup arrives, from a Texas plant no less, in a year or two. That will have a V8; the latest Tacoma gets a four-litre, 240 horsepower V6 engine with 275 pounds of torque and a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission.


A TRD-developed, fully factory guaranteed supercharger will also be offered, boosting the motor to 300 horsepower. The Tacoma X-Runner is said to be capable of zero-to-60 acceleration in seven seconds, with times reduced by more-than an additional second with the optional supercharger system.


The X-Runner will have standard anti-lock brakes and optional side-curtain airbags and electronic vehicle stability control.