Toyota’s Making it Easy. Very Easy.
The reemerging popularity of off-road-oriented trucks and SUVs with factory warranties has been nothing short of fabulous. These vehicles, like the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, own naturally high profiles (the tire sidewalls tend to be tall too) and high marketing worth, plus they can be used to drag friends and family into the wild and away from the grind of paved life. And if you love “wheeling,” few joys are greater than sharing a truck and a tattered track with those you value.
The Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar tires never touched pavement during our time with the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, and the truck felt entirely at home. Imagine that. An off-road truck staying off the road. To arrive at TRD Pro specification, the bones of a TRD Off Road Double Cab were outfitted with new 16-inch wheels, a more resilient suspension, a TRD cat-back exhaust system, a TRD front skid plate with oil sump access panel, and assorted cosmetic and functional enhancements. In response to some of the 1,200 customers who purchased the first Tacoma TRD Pro, leather seating was added to appease a plea for easier cleanup. (The 2015 Tacoma TRD Pro had cloth.) Using the existing Limited trim’s seat construction, the leather color changed from hickory brown to black, red contrast stitching was added, and “TRD Pro” was tattooed into the headrest.
It’s hard to not feel a sense of indomitability from the driver’s seat. Despite sharing the same stock Goodyears as the TRD Off Road, the TRD Pro has a different feel. Maybe it’s mostly mental; maybe it’s the one-inch lift at the front axle courtesy of TRD coil springs wound around 2.5-inch Fox shocks. At the rear, the TRD Off Road leaf springs are supervised by another pair of 2.5-inch Fox shocks (0.5 inch larger than the previous model). The ground clearance dimension is the same as the rest of the current Tacoma line: 9.4 inches high as measured at the rear differential. It won’t get any higher without more changes to the diff, axle, suspension, and/or height of the tires. Geometrically, the TRD Pro modifications push the approach/departure/break-over angles from the Off Road’s 32/24/21 degrees to the Pro’s 35/24/26 for reduced skid plate knocking and about the same trailer-hitch receiver scraping.
Control and forgiveness are the names of the off-road game, and the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro ably exercises its skill in both departments. Our speeds were limited by terrain (Hawaiian mud, pumice, and rocks will do that) and surface condition (we didn’t punch it north of 40 mph often) but our first whiffs of the truck suggest meaningful dynamic enhancements over the last one with substantially better livability and cabin accoutrements. The new TRD Pro doesn’t seesaw forward and back while on power or on the brakes as much, making it easier to concentrate on steering, though it seemed easier to knock the back end out with the gas pedal in the 2015 version. The truck is not overly loose and fairly easy to control with the steering wheel and throttle. When counter-steering, steering effort is high compared to GM’s midsize trucks, and it’s not as if there’s an enormous tactile difference at the helm between the Tacoma, and the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. The surface inputs are relayed faithfully to the driver through the steering wheel and seat of the pants, making the truck easy to place in low- and low-to-mid speed maneuvers. We look forward to ascertaining the claim that the Fox shocks yield “improved suspension droop travel and bottom out resistance” in the desert near Motor Trend’s El Segundo, California, command center.
It’s not difficult to work the Tacoma TRD Pro’s gas and brake simultaneously with the right foot (this was also with hiking boots on) which is best done while the transfer case is in low range. In low, the pedal overlap doesn’t freak the Tacoma’s electronic guardians out. But it’s especially good because the six-speed manual is a transmission worth test-driving with its well-weighted shifter throws, ideal for the East Coast market and diehard off-roaders who desire the row your own and actually buy them. You’ll lose off-road aids such as multi-terrain select and crawl control when the automatic transmission brains are not paid for. The Atkinson cycle-capable, 3.5-liter V-6 is happy to spin up the revs, though that “down low” grunt you want for slow and steady maneuvers might still be more readily tapped in the older and less refined, 4.0-liter V-6 from the last Taco. Without overwhelming speed and size, which the 5.7-liter Tundra TRD Pro stablemate can produce and does possess, the Tacoma is (and historically has been) a fantastic and unintimidating vehicle with which to introduce off-road greenhorns to a new and exciting world.
Observed in a void, perhaps the most jarring aspect of the 2017 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 TRD Pro is the price: $41,700 USD to start with the manual and $43,700 USD with the six-speed automatic. The TRD Off Road of comparable cab style and bed length is about $8,000 USD less expensive. But that’s the way the market goes. The Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline can all match those prices and beyond.
We suspect the newest TRD Pro will have no problem finding homes. None of the other three trucks within the Tacoma’s competitive set are as outwardly keyed-in on off-roading or project the rough-and-tumble image quite like the Toyota does. Factor in that 45 percent of present-day Tacoma clientele are already past Toyota owners, with the top nameplate inflow being the Tacoma, and a new-generation Tacoma TRD Pro is likely one of the easiest product moves the Big T has ever made.
|2017 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 TRD Pro|
|BASE PRICE RANGE||$41,700-$43,700|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup|
|ENGINE||3.5L/278-hp/265-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,450 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||212.3 x 75.2 x 71.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.1 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17-18/20-23/18-20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||187-198/147-169 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.97-1.06 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|