2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro First Drive

Posted on Nov 12 2016 - 5:59am by Jeff Dunham

It’s sticky in Hana, and the mosquitos are thick in the air, going after any exposed skin. Heavy rain has saturated the volcanic soil, and we’re waiting at the bottom of an impossibly steep wall of pumice gravel. Our guide notes that pumice can’t be stacked artificially at this angle; only natural erosion can pile it to overcome its angle of repose.

 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD

So we wait. By afternoon, it’s game on, and I get to try my hand at making the descent in a sacrificial TRD Pro, the wheels scrubbed hard by abrasive pumice the whole time. The afternoon is a remarkable demonstration of the evolutions of the Tacoma’s capabilities. That evolution comes with a cost – not just the bug bites, but in terms of price. This mid-sizer is, to put it bluntly, extremely expensive. As our short time on Maui demonstrated, it’s also impressive.

Most of what makes this TRD a Pro is below the beltline. The last-generation Tacoma TRD Pro used Bilstein shocks, but that company couldn’t build what Toyota wanted for this new one. So Fox produced a set of shocks that, when paired with TRD front springs and progressive rear leafs tuned for this application, give the truck a phenomenally good ride in chopped-up turf at moderate speeds. They also provide a very slight front lift, about one inch in total. The shocks soak up and moderate sharp impulses, so the truck bucks and tosses considerably less when moving at a good clip than a lot of serious off-road specials. In a truck with a less-sophisticated suspension, it’s the sort of thing that’d make your passengers sick. None of that here.

The other TRD Pro additions are appreciated too. There’s a thicker skidplate that – finally – incorporates an access door so you can change your oil without having to yank the panel completely off. That’s been a longstanding customer request, the Tacoma’s Chief Engineer, Mike Sweers, told us. There’s also a nice amount of TRD icing inside, such as comfy leather-trimmed seats with TRD Pro logos, a TRD shift knob, and the competent if not very sexy Entune premium infotainment system. The integrated GoPro mount proved useful to get some video of the truck in action as wel. Like its non-TRD Pro stablemates, this is a comfortable and well-equipped mid-size truck.

Enough hand-wringing about price, though. Until the Colorado ZR2 comes along, the Toyota is the only game in town without stepping up to another size and price class entirely (say, to the Ford Raptor, at $7,820 north of the TRD Pro’s MSRP). The aftermarket can certainly fit the TRD Pro with some grabbier shoes, which at the moment is the Pro’s only weakness, and not a very significant one at that. With more aggressive rubber, the TRD Pro will become a true dual-purpose off-roader: confident off the asphalt, comfortable on it. If you want to get out in the sticks in a pickup that won’t make your passengers sick, right now the smooth-riding and capable TRD Pro is your truck.