YOTATECH REVIEW: 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

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Toyota

We spent a week behind the wheel of the new Tacoma, and kicking up dirt never felt so good.

These days there is a fervent argument in the off-road between those who prefer to build their own trucks and those who choose to buy one ready to go. This argument is very relevant within the Tacoma fan community, with many resurrecting old trucks and making them into off-road machines. Their efforts are to be applauded, yet after spending a week behind the wheel of the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, it is hard to think about building your own when it is ready to rock and roll.

For years, the team at Toyota Racing Development has competed in the toughest races throughout the world. With iconic drivers like Ivan Stewart leading the way, the team has created quite a name for itself. Tapping into this rich heritage and engineering experience, the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is the culmination of much of this work.

This Tacoma is specially equipped with a TRD suspension, FOX TRD-tuned 2.5” internal bypass shocks with rear remote reservoirs and 16” TRD black alloy rims with 265/70R16 wheels helping give it a wider stance. These features add up to a Tacoma well suited for high-speed desert racing.

Don’t just take our word for it. Mike Sweers, Toyota Tacoma chief engineer, recently won his class at the Mint 400 with a 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. His only modification was a Camburg long travel suspension to help reduce the effects of the rough race conditions.

 

Driving on an off-road course on the side of Maui, the TRD Pro was a fun drive, with the truck handling all I could throw at it.

 

With many off-road specific equipment changes, the TRD Pro is at peace tearing up the dirt like I did in Hawaii. Driving on an off-road course on the side of Maui, the TRD Pro was a fun drive, with the truck handling all I could throw at it. Sideways in the corner, the truck’s wide stance and suspension improvements helped me stay on the throttle whereas other trucks would have gotten out of control.

Back on the mainland, I drove this particular Tacoma TRD Pro on the highway more than 200 miles as I returned home from the airport. The reality is while off-road trucks are fun on dirt, you also need to get to the dirt, and this is where on-road driving comfort is paramount. My trip included smooth and rough portions of interstate and it was interesting to see how the truck handled it.

On the rough portions of highway, the vibrations and road noise were very evident. I aggressively searched for better portions of concrete to improve the ride quality. While dirt is forgiving and the shocks handle this terrain quite well, the rough concrete was another matter.

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For the other portions of the highway, the smooth concrete sections, the Tacoma TRD Pro ride and road noise were as one would expect. Neither bothered me since I’ll happily trade this for the off-road prowess.

Inside the cabin, the interior styling resembles motocross with a large bar shape connecting the dials with the radio. This styling theme is carried throughout the cabin with a new shifter, sticking on seats and accent coloring all meant to give it a more off-road feel.

Beyond the styling changes, the cabin is pretty Spartan compared to say new Chevy Colorado or GMC Canyon. However, there are two ways to view this. On the one hand, more soft-touch materials and softer seats are nice when driving around. While on the other hand, harder surfaces are easier to clean and can last longer with the effects of the sun. Being the Tacoma TRD Pro is meant to beat up at high off-road speeds; we think the Spartan approach is the right one.

On the outside, the styling changes continue with a unique TRD Pro grille, badging on the sides and bed as well as a healthy skid plate. These changes give it a different look than the stock Tacoma and really helps tell those around you to watch me fly over the dirt.

 

The truck’s wide stance and suspension improvements helped me stay on the throttle whereas other trucks would have gotten out of control.

 

Our test model also came in the new Cement color which looks considerably better in the wild than in a showroom.

Powering our model was the 3.5L V6 variety with a 6-speed automatic transmission. While Toyota improved this powertrain, it can feel a tad inadequate getting up to speed from a dead stop. However, driving it off-road and on-road, its 278 HP (42 HP more than the old 4.0L) and 265 lb-ft of torque is more than enough for desert racing. It would be nice to see Toyota add a turbo on this for better exit speed and/or a diesel for better fuel economy, yet the 3.5L is competitive in the segment.

In the end, the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro’s size, known reliability and design makes it an ideal truck for a Baja ride in the desert. While the $45,087 price tag on our test model isn’t a small number, if you live that lifestyle, it is hard to beat this truck.

Tim Esterdahl is a regular contributor to YotaTech and Ford Truck Enthusiasts. He produces the weekly podcast Pickup Truck Talk.

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