If you’re a fan of off-road driving, you’re certainly familiar with the TRD Pro series of models from Japanese manufacturer Toyota. Restricted up to now mainly to the carmaker’s line of trucks, the series is set to welcome a TRD Pro version of the 4Runner SUV at the beginning of 2017.
This past October, in fact, Toyota Canada sent us an invitation to a presentation of its latest lineup of TRD Pro vehicles in the Collingwood region of Ontario. Without a doubt, the main attraction for the assembled journalists was the Tacoma mid-sized pickup, the TRD Pro edition of which marches into 2017 with a unique front grille sporting the old Toyota logo and even more notably the addition of supplemental headlamps designed by Rigid Industries.
Immediately noticeable on this Tacoma is the absence of any chrome, as the front is painted the colour of the vehicle, with black trim. The bed, meanwhile, is short and unique to this vehicle, sporting as it does the TRD Pro insignia embossed on its flanks. As for the cabin, it’s only available in the double-cab configuration. Toyota has made just three colour options available for its TRD Pro series: grey, white and red.
Engine choice is even more limited, in fact there is no choice: the Tacoma TRD Pro only comes with a 3.5L V6 Atkinson engine producing 278 HP and wedded to either a manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. The shocks are exclusive to the model as well, and the rear axle can be locked. The Tacoma TRD Pro automatic can also be equipped with a hill descent control system. All of that equipment is resting on another significant feature of the vehicle: its set of Goodyear Wrangler tires fitted on 16-inch alloy wheels. These tires were designed specifically for off-road excursions.
Set the engine in motion, and you’ll immediately notice the freer exhaust sound of the TRD Pro. And while this version has been extensively modified from the original, it does preserve that vehicle’s 6,400-lb maximum towing capacity. Equipped with the manual transmission, the Tacoma TRD has a sticker price of $51,888; the automatic transmission ups the cost to $55,183.
And the Tundra version
Toyota Canada also presented to us the TRD Pro version of the Tundra large pickup. Like the Tacoma, this edition features a distinctive all-black front grille, with the classic old T-O-Y-O-T-A letters adorning it in the center. Again, no chrome is present on the Tundra TRD Pro, and you’ll find the same embossed insignia on the side of the bed as adorns the Tacoma.
Under the hood of the Tundra TRD Pro lurks the legendary 5.7L V8, able to produce 381 HP, and which is only available with an automatic transmission. Take a look under the vehicle and you’ll notice the Bilstein shocks exclusive to this edition. The mechanical elements are protected by skid plates, while the 18-inch wheels are fitted with Michelin LTX A/T2 tires, renowned for their adherence in off-road conditions.
All these modifications notwithstanding, this Tundra edition is still capable of towing up to 9,800 lbs! As with the Tacoma, the interior of the Tundra TRD Pro version is unique to the trim, and decked with exclusive leather upholstery. It retails for $57,520 with the Double Cab option, while the CrewMax version checks in at $60,025.
On the road
The truth is that these Toyota TRD Pro models will still be used more on the road than off it, at least by a majority of their owners. So it’s nice to learn that the Tundra remains, thanks to its imposing dimensions, a relatively comfortable ride on asphalt. Its exhaust emissions remain audible at all speeds, but that might be a plus to many consumers anyways. The V8 engine provides solid acceleration and starts are reassuring. There’s no denying, however, that its hefty size likely won’t make it the first choice for negotiating heavy urban traffic.
The Tacoma is still a top choice for Canadian consumers in the mid-size pickup segment despite the introduction of strong rivals, according to Dave Nichols, Toyota Canada national manager, external affairs. Being smaller than its sibling, it is also better suited for city driving. Its V6 engine and more muscular-sounding exhaust allow it to handle more rugged challenges and please fans of trucks with some aggressivity. And while its interior is less imposing than that of the Tundra, it can seat four or even five occupants in relative comfort.
Toyota Canada picked out a fairly demanding off-road circuit for its presentation of these specialized pickups. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to put the massive Tundra and more nimble Tacoma to the test on muddy, relatively uneven terrain.
Bulky as it is, the Tundra was still able to acquit itself well in this environment, without recourse to the hill descent control system. The powerful V8 engine helped it climb even the sharpest inclines it faced, while the Michelin LTX tires proved very effective on the muddy tracks.
Nonetheless, the Tacoma, with its more reasonably scaled dimensions, proved the more satisfying off-road drive. The rain having made its appearance during the test drive, the Tacoma’s Goodyear Wrangler tires had to work overtime to keep the pickup on the correct trajectory. All the same, in most cases the hill descent control feature proved highly effective. If you’re planning on doing some serious off-roading, consider the Tacoma with the automatic transmission equipped with this hill descent control function to maximize your driving experience.
The 4Runner TRD Pro
Toyota wouldn’t allow us to take the 4Runner TRD Pro out on the off-road circuit for the moment, as the pickup will not be available in Canada until the first trimester of 2017. We do know, however, that the vehicle will keep the older generation’s 4.0L V6, while being fitted with newly designed Nitto off-road tries. As for the price, no word on that yet – we’ll have to wait until the new year!