New Chart Shows How Toyota Tacoma Design Has Changed Since 1995

Feb.21, 2016 – For those who want to test their knowledge or better educate themselves on Toyota’s famous Tacoma, Project LM has created a Tacoma Spotter’s Guide. Though the Tacoma is only on its third generation, it’s already seen six facelifts, the most recent last year.

“For a truck with only three generations, the number of trims and models has been extensive,” said Dennis Lam, founder of Project LM. “The updates have been fairly frequent, so identifying the truck’s model year isn’t easy. This chart shows you what to look for.”

Though there have obviously been changes to all aspects of the Tacoma, this graphic focuses on the grille and other front-end features that are key to identifying the year of the truck. First offered in mid 1995, the Toyota Tacoma arrived with a separate front suspension previously unseen on Toyota trucks, a new frame, and a choice of three engines.

Giving up the recessed headlights of previous model, Toyota integrated the headlights for the 1998 update and changed the grille slightly. That year, Toyota offered buyers the same suspension and oversized tires for the 4×2 Xtracab model that were standard in the 4×4 models. Although the 4×2 didn’t have the same off-road capabilities, these similarities gave younger drivers an opportunity to own a Tacoma. Fuel economy, lower insurance rates, and lower maintenance costs made the 4×2 version appealing to some.

“A 2001 to 2004 Taco is probably the easiest to spot,” Lam says. “The vertical bars on the grille were a drastic change, and the hood was raised a bit.”

The 2005 Tacoma increased the truck to mid-size status and sported a new grille. An optional hood scoop gave this iteration some extra flair. 2005 was the first model year of the second generation and earned Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year award.

It was seven model years before the truck received another significant styling update. The 2012 Tacoma has a bulldog-like front end. The new skid plate and bumper protrude slightly, just beneath the redesigned grille. Although 2015 was the start of the current generation, its looks didn’t change much until 2016. The larger grille and the body-colored bumper make the newest Tacos easy to identify

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