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2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Review


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20 Years Ago: 1998 TOYOTA TACOMA TRD PRERUNNER Review and Specs

By Dan Poler
Senior Editor
Colorado Bureau
The Auto Channel

It snowed on Sunday. Not a lot, maybe eight inches or so. Not uncommon for the high plains of Colorado in January. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro was delivered the following Wednesday. In the intervening few days, it was above freezing, letting some of the snow melt off. Also not uncommon. But this afforded us a fantastic opportunity: To take the Tacoma TRD Pro out not on fresh snow or dry terrain, but on trails coated in wet, soggy, muddy, slushy, ick? Yes, please, don’t mind if I do!

Although the Tacoma was all-new for 2016, the TRD Pro variant was re-introduced for 2017 after a brief hiatus from the lineup. The TRD Pro takes an already-capable Tacoma TRD Off Road and adds greater suspension travel, a wider, taller stance, and Fox internal bypass shocks as well as a few other details such as a unique black front grille, a TRD Pro shift knob, and TRD Pro floor mats.

No doubt that the TRD Pro accents make the truck look fantastic - despite the entirely ornamental hood scoop. Its high, chunky profile with tons of ground clearance mean business, and the black plastic front grille has a definite retro look to it reminiscent in some ways of the FJ Cruiser. But further inspection of the exterior led us to find a couple of irritations that would be difficult to live with every day: The hood is quite heavy to open and somewhat awkward because it is so high, and although the driver’s door has keyless touch-entry, the passenger door does not, an odd and glaring omission in 2017 when this sort of feature has become mainstream. The height also means that kids will struggle to get in, reducing attractiveness as a daily driver.

Initial observations aside, I was excited to get out on trail and hopped in right away. My initial thought of the interior was the word “hodgepodge” - not just a mix of different textures and plastics, but also something a hodgepodge of equipment on this nearly-top-of-the-line truck: blind spot monitors, GPS, backup sensors, heated front seats, even a GoPro camera holder attached to the front window. But no power seats? And those seats are very firm with little support.

Well, getting there is half the fun, so off I went. I immediately realized that the cabin was fairly cramped - the driver’s seating position is narrow, affording little room for my legs. I found my left knee resting uncomfortably against the door, without much of a better option. And even at my fairly average 5’10” / 1.79 m height, my seating position caused the back seat to be nearly unusable.

But how did the Tacoma TRD Pro drive? Another word comes to mind: Uncomposed. The truck is noisy and jittery, with every bump shaking the truck end to end, threatening to throw me into the next lane. The accelerator pedal is unusually firm, causing the driver to need to exert a significant amount of effort to maintain speed. And the transmission feels clearly tuned for economy over performance - perhaps fine in the flatlands of the midwest but here in the Rockies this tuning causes significant and continuous gear hunting - I counted 17 gear changes in a minute traversing a grade on an Interstate highway.

All of these factors add up to make the Tacoma TRD Pro a bit of a challenge as a daily driver. As I write this review I realize that it sounds fairly negative. Uncomfortable, noisy, a handful on the highway. So why would anyone buy this truck?

Because it’s not designed to be comfortable.

It’s not designed to be on the highway.

That’s not what it’s here for. It’s here to go off-road.

And is it worth it? Heck yes. Toyota seems to have set out to create a superlative off road truck even if it meant sacrificing road manners and luxury, and they seem to have done exactly that.

Once it’s on the trail the Tacoma TRD Pro becomes an entirely different beast. It was made for this. It handles those trails coated in wet, soggy, muddy, slushy, ick without a care in the world, covering substantial distance of tough terrain in very little time. This is its environment and it’s completely at home in this world. Even getting the back end loose with an empty in mud and ice took a fair bit of effort, and on dry stretches it’s a thrill to watch dust and dirt kicked up in the rearview mirror.

With all that said, it’s tough to recommend the Tacoma TRD Pro as a daily driver: Just too uncomfortable, just too much of a handful on the highway. Add to this a combined fuel economy of 18 mpg… If to-and-from-work with weekends to the hardware store is what you’re looking for, you’d be well pressed to look at a full-size truck from the Big 3, or even a lesser-equipped Tundra - any of these will price out similarly. But if you enjoy being out on trail, and on trail a lot, the TRD Pro will be in its element and you’ll have a blast.

Specifications

Engine: 3.5L V6 with Dual VVT-i
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Horsepower: 278 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque (ft-lbs): 265 @ 4,600 RPM
Wheelbase / Length (in): 127.4 / 212.3
Curb Weight (lbs): 4,425 (est.)
Pounds per HP: 15.9
Fuel Capacity (gal): 21.1
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: Goodyear Wrangler All Terrain Adventure; 265/70R16 112T
Ground Clearance (in): 9.4
Drivetrain: 4WDemand part-time 4x4 system with 2-speed electronically controlled transfer case; automatic limited-slip differential; locking rear differential
EPA Fuel Economy - city/highway/combined/observed: 18/23/20/18
Towing Capacity (lbs): 6,400
Base Trim Price: $42,760.00

Price as Tested: $45,087.00 (includes glass breakage sensor, first aid kit, bed mat, mini tie down loop, emergency assistance kit, paint protection film, spare tire lock, universal tablet holder, mudgards, deck rail camera mount, wheel locks, and delivery)

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