Sampling the Taco Supreme: First Drive of the 2017 Toyota Tacoma

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Toyota

New Tacoma TRD Pro rolls into Texas Auto Writers Association meet-up.

The Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) recently held its 2016 Texas Truck Rodeo. Various crossover, SUV and truck manufacturers brought metal and manpower to the Longhorn River Ranch in the city of Dripping Springs in hopes of bringing home trophies in more than a dozen categories. Their eyes were most sharply focused on the two biggest prizes of the event: “SUV of Texas” and “Truck of Texas.” It was up to me and my 70+ fellow journalists to determine which vehicles and companies would go home victorious.

Toyota threw its hat into the ring with several vehicles, including the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro. After driving it for a few minutes both on- and off-road, I climbed out of its cabin thinking:

Cement Shouldn’t Only Come in Bags

Grey. It’s the color of dreary days and 19th-century prison gruel. Not particularly exciting is it? No, not really. But it works on certain things. You want a hardcore off-road truck to be solid and robust. Nothing says that quite like “Cement,” one of the Tacoma TRD Pro’s three available colors. It certainly built a following of TAWA members.

It’s Similar to Its Big Brother in More than One Way

Like the Tundra TRD Pro, the Taco Supreme comes with a Toyota heritage-inspired grille, black badges, a protective skid plate, off-road wheels and tires, a sonically tweaked exhaust, and specially tuned shocks. The Tundra uses Bilsteins; the Tacoma is equipped with FOX Internal Bypass shocks. Despite that difference, the two trucks are similar in terms of ride quality. For off-road-focused pickups, they’re both surprisingly good at keeping you away from the violence that big bumps in the pavement and packed dirt commit against the tires and suspension.

Pro is not Just a Fitting Name, It’s a Fitting Description

I took the Tacoma on the most difficult trail available on the property. It performed like the pro its badges said it was. Rocks, mud ruts, loose gravel, whoops – none of them phased the Tacoma. Power from the 3.5-liter V6 was plentiful (278 hp and 265 lb-ft, to be exact). Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control made the natural (and engineered) chaos I forced the truck to encounter into a neat series of non-events.

It’ll take me more time behind the wheel of the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro to discover the full range of its strengths and weaknesses. But it only took me and my fellow auto writers the two days of the 2016 Texas Truck Rodeo to decide it was the top midsize pickup there.

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