What kind of world are we living in when Toyota builds one of the coolest trucks you can buy? This Tacoma TRD Pro not only has the ability to drive nearly everywhere on earth, it looks the part, too.

Before I get into the nerdy specs – this TRD Pro is a parts nerd special – let me tell you that this thing is a blast to drive, and while I didn’t explore any dirt, I did take advantage of its go-anywhere capability with some urban off-roading.

Despite its mid-sized pickup stature, the long wheel base of this doublecab Tacoma gives is the turning radius similar to that of a school bus. Or at least it seems that way, however, that’s not a concern. Let’s say your turning around in the middle of a city block. The brilliant thing about this truck is that curbs are no bother. The tires and suspension just soak them up. Even the speed bumps on dense urban streets aren’t a thing with this Tacoma. Just hit ‘em at full speed. The Fox dampers make easy work of it.

Now, I’m not advocating breaking any speed limit laws, but when you consider the annoyances those speed bumps cause in more modest vehicles, nevermind the truly horrible road conditions of downtown Toronto, this TRD Pro might just be the most refined urban assault vehicle you can buy. One of our contributors put his money where his mouth is and bought a Jeep Wrangler for just such a purpose, but I’m willing to argue the case for this Tacoma.

The slow steering and soft suspension – perhaps enhanced by the massive Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Wrangler tires -are expected, though in urban driving, the suspension will perform some exaggerated dives under moderate braking. It doesn’t detract to the TRD Pro’s excellent traction, but does result in a little extra head bobbing, particularly with unwitting passengers.

Undoubtedly, Toyota knows the market for this truck and those customers demand the availability of a manual, which is how the test truck was equipped. It was a pleasant surprise when I jumped up behind the wheel the first time, which is a bit of reach up for short blokes like me. The TRD Pro sits an inch higher than your regular Tacoma – and, no, don’t ever put running boards on your TRD Pro, no matter how much the after sales rep tries to persuade you.

Once in the comfortable driver’s seat, you’ll enjoy a sports car-like seating position where you sit low to the floor, which is unique among mid-size trucks. Behind the wheel, the secondary controls are all familiar, high-quality Toyota pieces. The OEM infotainment unit is satisfactory, but not cutting edge by any means. It gets the job done, but could use a more intuitive interface, and the lack of Apple Car Play and Android Auto is a glaring omission in 2017. On the other hand, the windscreen does have an integrated GoPro mount.

Gearing of the six-speed manual is near perfect with well-spaced ratios and shift action is very light. The shifter could use a little improvement with the reverse detent, as it’s almost as easy to select reverse gear as it is first. Good thing the Tacoma chimes when you select reverse. Still, I’d go for the excellent six-speed auto in this truck.

The 278-horsepower V6 sounds very truck-like and a little strained at low speeds, but has enough grunt to hustle the Tacoma even up to highway speeds. It may benefit from aftermarket intake and exhaust tuning. The only place it struggles is with city fuel consumption. On my second tank of fuel, the Tacoma almost was gleeful in its reporting of 22 litres per 100 kilometres. Highway numbers were a bit more modest at 14.

Other than accommodating its length in certain driving conditions especially parking, the Tacoma’s reasonable width makes it an easy drive, even on dense urban roads. The high seating position puts your eyes well above most vehicles, which is one reason people buy trucks and SUVs, isn’t it?

The TRD Pro’s parts list reads like a truck tuner’s delight and save for the endless numbers of TRD Pro badges, the good stuff is indeed good stuff. Starting with TRD-tuned Fox remote reservoir dampers, unique front and rear springs, downsized 16-inch alloy wheels, and the necessary skid plates. And TRD Pro badges. Lots and lots of badges. Perhaps the TRD Pro package would be perfect with the omission of the standard leather upholstery. A durable fabric interior makes more sense for a legitimate off roader like this one.

During my test, I took advantage of the Tacoma’s truck-specific capabilities to haul furniture and a set of winter wheels and tires in the bed, as well as transport the detritus that accompanies a university student returning to school after an extended stay at Hotel Mom and Pop.

There are a number of practical features in the bed of the Tacoma – the locking, easy up and down tailgate and abundant tie down options – but my favourite is the hard, folding bed cover. It folds up and secures easily with integrated nylon straps, and when closed and the tailgate locked, keeps your gear safe under the cover. It’s a brilliant solution.

Soon, the TRD Pro will have some competition from Chevy’s ZR2 Colorado and even when that time comes, this Tacoma will still be a massively cool off road pickup.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Base Price: $50,000
As Tested: $50,000, plus $1,760 freight and PDI, Canada’s nonsensical $100 aircon tax, and eighteen and a half bucks worth so-called environmental handling fees.
Notable Options: Not on this tester, but most customers will opt for the $3,295 six-speed automatic transmission, as we would.
Drivetrain: 3.5-litre Atkinson cycle V6 engine, 278 horsepower, 265 pounds of torque, 6-speed manual transmission, four wheel drive
Performance: 22 litres per 100 km in mixed driving (for context, I get similar numbers in 600-horsepower supercars.
VVUZZ Recommended: If you need an off-road capable mid-size truck that looks the business, get on over to your local Toyota store.


Images courtesy of Toyota.

Published on Jan 23, 2017