What Makes A Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro So Good?
A look at those TRD Pro upgradesby Mark McNabb, on
The TRD Pro version of the Toyota Tacoma has been around since 2014, but only now in 2017 does the special trim package arrive for the third-generation Tacoma. The new Tacoma TRD Pro benefits in two main ways: first by the inherent improvements that came with the new-for-2016 Tacoma, and second with some major upgrades in the off-road department. We’re breaking both down in this article.
The 2016 Tacoma has proven to be a fast improvement over the second-generation Tacoma. That truck lasted from 2005 to 2015 with nearly no changes. Slight updates exterior styling help prevent complete monotony and stagnation, but for the most part, the Tacoma was in desperate need of a deep reinvention.
Thankfully that came with the third-generation truck for the 2016 model year. The new Tacoma features an updated frame with more high-strength steel, reengineered suspension components, a new 3.5-liter V-6, and new styling inside and out. Base model Tacomas still utilized the carry-over 2.7-liter four-cylinder, however.
It’s that new 3.5-liter V-6 that most people will buy, and what every Tacoma TRD Pro comes powered with. The engine features some high-tech goodies to promote good fuel economy, while still delivering a class-competitive 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The engine can be had with either a six-speed automatic transmission or an honest, six-speed manual gearbox. That even holds true for the TRD Pro models.
That only scratches the surface of what comprises a TRD Pro-equipped Tacoma, so keep reading for the full story.
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What makes a Tacoma TRD Pro different
Perhaps the most obvious distinguishing feature of the TRD Pro is the blacked-out grille with the TOYOTA block lettering. Toyota reserves this style grille only for its TRD Pro models, which include the Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner. The grille recalls the old Toyota Land Cruiser 40 Series, otherwise known as the FJ.
Also a mark of the Tacoma TRD Sport, the non-functional hood scoop gives the TRD Pro a more muscular stance. While it does slightly compromise over-hood visibility, the scoop does look cool.
Perhaps the most obvious distinguishing feature of the TRD Pro is the blacked-out grille with the TOYOTA block lettering.
The front bumper also holds some bespoke elements. The fog lights are LED units from Rigid Industries, one of the prevailing manufacturers of LED off-road lights. The two-LED unit lights help cast a wide beam directly ahead of the truck. While this isn’t idea for high-speed driving, the fog lights help light the road, while remaining legal on the street.
Below the bumper is another TRD Pro-exclusive piece – the thick front skid plate. It’s bolted directly to the undercarriage and protects vital mechanical components from trail damage. An access panel helps facilitate maintenance, and slotted vents help keep airflow unimpeded.
Last but certainly not least are the TRD Pro badges. Found on the front doors under the side mirrors, these black and red badges help signify the trim level’s importance. A smaller TRD Pro badge resides on the tailgate, opposite of the 4x4 badge.
Wheels and Tires
Also specific to the TRD Pro is the wheel and tire combo. Toyota uses a smallish 16-inch alloy wheel pained in glossy black with red TRD lettering on the center cap. The wheels are wrapped in Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tires sized at 265/70R16.
The Goodyears feature a Kevlar lining within its structure for both strength and puncture resistance. Deep siping on the tread blocks give the tire good wet-weather performance, while grooves between the tread blocks keep mud from packing. And despite the tire’s rather mild tread design, they gave the Tacoma TRD Pro impressive levels of grip in sugar sand and shallow mud during my week of testing. On the road, the tires proved quiet. They do tend to understeer at the limit, but that could be a result of Toyota’s suspension tuning.
You can read our full driven review here.
While the truck looks great and tires perform impressively, one of the TRD Pro’s biggest asset is its suspension. Up front, Toyota has ditched the conventional coil-over MacPherson strut in favor of a Toyota-tuned Fox Racing strut and spring. This new MacPherson strut measures a full 2.5 inches wide and features an internal bypass system for enduring long-distance desert running. The Fox Racing shocks are clearly seen thanks to the red springs and TRD lettering. The shocks also give the truck a one-inch lift over the Tacoma TRD Off-Road trim level.
Out back, the leaf spring suspension has updated progressive-rate damping for smoother absorption of bumps. Fox Racing monotube shocks help quell motions from the solid rear axle.
The Tacoma TRD Pro’s 4WD system isn’t unique, but is shared among the standard Tacoma models. That’s just fine, however, as the system offers electronic control of the two-speed transfer case. Positions include 2WD, 4WD High, and 4WD Low. A simple rotary knob on the dash controls the process.
Like with most part-time 4WD systems, the Tacoma TRD Pro sends power to the rear wheels during normal operation. When traction becomes an issue, 4WD High range can be selected while on the move. There’s no manual locking hubs or dogleg shifters to pull – just turn the knob and 4WD seamlessly engages.
For 4WD Low range, the truck has to be completely stopped with the transmission in neutral. At that point, the transfer case engages low range. This low gearing provides a higher multiplication of engine torque to the wheels, allowing for more power to the ground. Speed is the trade-off, with 4WD Low range reserved for speeds under roughly 25 mph.
Low range also opens up several electronic goodies, as well.
4WD Electronic Goodies
The Tacoma TRD Pro, when equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission, comes with two electron traction aids: Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select. These two systems leverage the Tacoma’s electronic throttle and ABS system, along with the traction control, to provide the most traction possible.
Crawl Control is basically an off-road cruise control. But don’t think its for the lazy driver. Rather, this system allows the driver to concentrate on steering inputs while the computer modulates the brakes and throttle. The truck simply crawls forward (or backward) in one of five driver-selected speed settings. Crawl Control is best used on tight, technical trails that require a steady pace and the driver’s full attention.
The only downside to Toyota’s Crawl Control is the noise. The system continually modulates the ABS system, making the brake pads jitter on the brake rotors. The noise is rather disconcerting and will likely be the butt of your friends’ jokes on the trail. Then again, they won’t laugh at the Tacoma TRD Pro’s ability to scale outlandish obstacles.
Up next is the Multi-Terrain Select system. Like other terrain-selectable drive systems, the Tacoma TRD Pro’s system allows the driver to select between different terrain types. The Tacoma’s system has five modes, which include Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, and Rock. Sadly, Toyota requires the Tacoma to be in 4WD Low range to use the Multi-Terrain select.
Last and definitely not least is the locking rear differential. Available in both $WD High and 4WD Low ranges, the locking differential is electronically controlled by a button on the ceiling next to the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select knob. By engaging the locker, the two rear tires turn in unison, with no variation in speed between them. This gives the Tacoma maximum traction since the differential isn’t sending power through the path of least resistance, which when off-road, is the tire with less traction.
Now all this tech comes at a price. The Tacoma TRD Pro is the range-topping trim level for the Tacoma. The TRD Pro is only offered in the four-door Double Cab with the five-foot bed, but customers can choose between the manual or automatic transmission. Picking the manual results in the lowest buy-in price of $40,960. The only major trade-off with the manual transmission is Toyota does not offer Crawl Control or Multi-Terrain Select. For hard-core off-road enthusiast, that might be a positive move.
Opting for the six-speed automatic adds $2,000 to the price, resulting in a $42,960 MSRP. Toyota offers none of the typical option packages or big-ticket luxury items, rather everything comes standard with the TRD Pro trim. Dealer add-on accessories can be had, of course, with some being floor mats, paint protection film, and a bed extender.
The TRD Pro version of the 2017 Toyota Tacoma certainly makes a big difference to the pickup. Enthusiasts who love the outdoors and seeking adventure off the beaten path will lust for the Tacoma TRD Pro’s capability, while compromising little in the way of in-city maneuverability and highway drivability.
To find our thoughts on the driving characteristics, both on- and off-road, check out the full review here.