Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro: Built to Play Hard

By Sue Mead, April 29th, 2017

Most visitors travel to the island of Hawaii to enjoy the glistening sand beaches of the Pacific Ocean. We went to enjoy the dirt in an updated 2017 Toyota Tacoma that has expertise in motoring in mud, ascending and descending steep tracks over jungle-covered lava rock, and for slow-speed crawling over large rocks and small boulders. The Tacoma TRD Pro is a specialized version of the midsize Tacoma pickup.

So, why travel all the way to Hawaii to test out the newest version? A little-known factoid: Tacoma is the top-selling vehicle in Hawaii and its terrain is perfect for the Tacoma TRD Pro. Buyers appreciate its split personality -- it serves as a daily driver and work truck, plus travels competently over extreme terrain.

The TRD Pro Series originated from Toyota's legendary off-road racing heritage, which includes numerous victories in the grueling Baja off-road endurance races.

The body-on-frame truck is based on the Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4x4 Double Cab short bed, with a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; it rides on 16-inch TRD black alloy wheels with Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Kevlar-reinforced tires. The unique exterior sports new projector-beam headlights with black bezels, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights, and new taillights with black bezels.

In front is an aluminum skid plate; a specialized diamond-pattern knurled-finish badging trims the front door, and black TRD Pro and 4x4 highlights the rear tailgate. Other distinctions are the heritage-inspired TOYOTA front grille with color-keyed surround, blacked-out hood scoop and graphic, color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators and door handles, black overfenders, and color-keyed rear bumper.

Inside, Toyota keeps the pickup's comfort, convenience, and safety and adds sport adornment. Standard are black TRD Pro leather-trimmed and logoed heated front seats, TRD PRO shift knob and floor mats, leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth hands-free phone controls. Analog instrumentation features a 4.2-inch color multi-information display with an integrated inclinometer and tilt gauge, as well as outside temperature, odometer, tripmeters, and average fuel economy.

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V-6 direct-injection Atkinson-cycle engine and 4WDemand part-time 4WD with a transfer case and automatic limited-slip differential -- both are electronically controlled. Also standard is a Tow Package that includes a Class-IV towing receiver hitch, ATF cooler (automatic only), engine oil cooler, power steering cooler, 130-amp alternator, four- and seven-pin connector with converter, and trailer-sway control.

We drove the 2017 truck on a number of courses on the Hana Ranch. We were familiar with the previous generation of the pickup and its 4WD capabilities and were impressed by the new Active Traction Control (A-TRAC).

On trucks with the manual, the A-TRAC 4WD traction control system uses the four-channel ABS to control power distribution to the front and rear wheels -- without cutting the throttle input -- this greatly enhances traction.

For more challenging conditions, automatic transmission models get Crawl Control that automatically the modulates throttle and brakes, using five low-speed settings. Also onboard is Multi-terrain Select, with five modes that help regulate wheel spin by automatically adjusting the engine throttle and traction control.

Hill start assist control is on automatic transmission models only and aids in uphill climbs, minimizing rolling backward when moving your foot from the brake to the gas pedal. An electronically controlled locking rear differential is also standard to help distribute engine power evenly to both rear wheels so they move at the same speed, providing more grip in low-traction conditions.

Underneath are FOX 2.5 Internal Bypass shocks tuned by TRD; TRD-tuned front springs with a 1-inch lift; TRD-tuned rear suspension with progressive-rate off-road leaf spring and a TRD cat-back stainless steel exhaust system. The truck's power and traction technologies make it an adept and competent entry in its class.

Pricing for the Tacoma TRD Pro ranges from $40,760 for manual transmission models to $42,760 for automatics.

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