How Tacoma TRD Pro Aims to OutFox Colorado ZR2
Why the sudden fascination with pickups capable of driving really fast across a rocky, dusty desert? Nobody knew we needed any such thing until Ford introduced its wide-fendered, tall-enough-to-need-clearance-lights Raptor. Chevy eventually responded with the dimensionally tidier Colorado ZR2, and now Toyota is taking aim squarely at Chevy (and preemptively at Ford, should it decide to bring the Ranger Raptor here) by redesigning the suspension of its 2019 Tacoma TRD Pro for Baja racing.
Key to each of these trucks’ saguaro-slaloming capabilities is a sophisticated set of name-brand shock absorbers. Chevy made big headlines by utilizing Multimatic spool-valve shocks—a technology previously utilized primarily on cars that race on paved circuits. Toyota (and Ford) chose to go with a more typical supplier of off-road racing dampers—Fox Shox. What they all strive to do is provide comfy, cushy ride quality over the sorts of small bumps one finds on paved roads, while ramping up the damping rates as the speed and size of the bump events increases to keep the suspension from bottoming out harshly, which can cause serious damage. Fox does this using internal bypass passages that provide position-dependent damping-rate variability.
Here’s how the Fox Shox work on the Tacoma: As the 1.8-inch-diameter piston moves up and down through its range of travel (which is increased by 0.7 inch in front, 0.8 inch in back relative to base and TRD Off Road Tacomas) various different orifices are exposed for the oil to travel through. Each provides a different damping rate. The front shocks feature five jounce and three rebound zones; the rears provide seven jounce and four rebound rates. The lightest damping rate near the center of the shock’s travel promises noticeably smoother on-road ride relative to the previous model’s simpler Bilstein shocks and relative to the base Tacoma shocks. The rear shocks also feature 2-inch “piggyback” external reservoirs that serve to increase the volume of hydraulic oil and thereby keep all the oil cooler during prolonged desert running. One downside of the Fox design—its position-dependent nature means that adding aftermarket lift kits and so forth without replacing the shocks could drastically alter the truck’s driving dynamics.
Instead of tubes, orifices, and springy shim packs, Multimatic shocks send oil through spool valves that move inside sleeves, at a rate controlled by a spring. These valves and sleeves each have orifices laser-cut in them for oil to flow through, and by using computational fluid dynamics to precisely design the size and shape of these orifices, Multimatic claims that nearly any force/damping curve an engineer desires can be delivered with high accuracy and vastly less iterative development work than is typically required when developing shimmed-orifice shocks. Each Colorado shock uses three spool valves. This design tends to be pretty expensive.
Before we take the Tacoma for a spin, let’s run through the rest of its 2019 upgrades, which include new front springs that add 1 inch of ride height, a larger front anti-roll bar—1.2 versus 1.1 inch diameter (still hollow), progressive-rate off-road leaf springs out back that allow more jounce travel on rough terrain, and 16-inch TRD Pro wheels that add an inch of track width front and rear. (Note that the stiffer front bar is designed to make the truck more eager to rotate and hence more fun to drive on and off road at some tiny expense of its rock-crawling articulation.) There’s also a snortier cat-back exhaust with a black-chrome tip and a new Desert Air Intake that keeps the engine breathing cleaner, less dusty air from above the windshield. Neither the intake nor the exhaust alters the output of the 278-hp V-6. Rigid Industries LED foglamps brighten nighttime trail rides, and a TRD Pro–badged quarter-inch-thick front skidplate is strong enough to be used to jack up the vehicle. New standard equipment includes a moonroof and the Entune Premium JBL audio system. All these upgrades increase the price by just $940 USD (with the manual) or $1,645 USD (automatic).
To test out the new Tacoma TRD Pro, Toyota attempted to create a mini Baja in its backyard at a former limestone quarry known as Northwest OHV Park in Bridgeport, Texas, about 80 miles (129 km) northwest of Dallas. The desert simulation was compromised by several inches of falling rain that added to what was already the wettest September in recorded Texas history.
My first few trails involve careful tiptoeing up and down some precipitous and slick rocky hills, which the truck’s Crawl Control system accomplishes with astonishing ease. I especially like being able to select among the system’s five speed settings using a dedicated rotary knob on the overhead console instead of toggling a cruise-control button or something. The knob lets me see at a glance what speed is selected when slowing back down to a crawl. The 265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tires impress with their levels of grip despite tread blocks filled with greasy red clay.
Next I head down to the broad sand/mud pit where the trucks can reach higher speeds to really get those Fox Shox pumping. Maybe the rain and continued use by multiple journalists has made the course particularly rough, but the seat of my pants is recording a level of ride quality that ranks well short of plush. And plush is kind of what I was hoping for, having once ridden shotgun with Ironman Ivan Stewart in one of his SCORE Toyota off-road racing trucks. Sure it had 2-plus feet’s worth of suspension travel, external bypass shocks, and the like, but that rig swallowed bumps with a plushness that I was reminded of when I sampled a Colorado ZR2 in 2016. That drive involved jumping and bouncing off a bunch of large but man-made obstacles set up in a parking lot, though, and vastly different conditions experienced years apart do not a valid comparison make. Clearly the question of which shock technology reigns supreme can only be answered by a proper Head 2 Head comparison. Maybe in Baja?
What’s New with the Other TRD Pros
2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
- Fox Shox like the Tacoma’s, but with unique tuning and more bypass zones—seven jounce and four rebound in front, eight and four in back—and “piggyback” reservoirs on the front shocks
- TRD-tuned front springs add 2.0 inches to the ride height
- Wheel travel is increased 1.5 inches in front, 2.0 inches in the rear
- 18-inch forged five-spoke satin black hand-polished BBS wheels that each weigh 3.35 pounds (1.52 kg) less than previous cast wheels (tires are 275/65R18 Michelin LTX A/T2s)
- Quarter-inch-thick aluminum skidplate with red “Toyota” lettering
- Cat-back exhaust with black-chrome tip (adds sound not power)
- Rigid Industries foglamps
- New grille, hood scoop
- Pickup bed outer quarter panels get “TRD Pro” stamped into the steel
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
- Fox Shox like the Tacoma’s, but with unique tuning and four jounce bypass zones and three rebound zones in front, seven and four in back. Rear shocks are inverted for tire clearance and feature “roost shields” that prevent rocks from striking the exposed piston rod
- TRD-tuned front springs add 1.0 inch to the ride height
- Wheel travel is increased 1.0 inch front and rear
- 17-inch matte-black TRD wheels with an offset that widens the track by nearly an inch front and rear
- New 265/70R17 Nitto Terra Grappler All Terrain tires
- Quarter-inch-thick aluminum skidplate with red “TRD” lettering
- Unique roof rack for stowing dirty gear
- LED foglamps
- Blackout grille
- Standard Entune Premium JBL audio system with navigation and app suite
|2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||3.5L/278-hp/265-lb-ft Atkinson-cycle 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 74.4 x 71.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.1-7.3 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|