The single, most-echoed question at the Detroit debut about the improved and upgraded 2016 Toyota Tacoma was, "Where's the TRD Pro?" Under strict orders in 2015 not to provide any hints, Toyota engineers were tight-lipped, but from the glint in their eyes it was clear it was coming soon. And now it's just made its debut at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show; it's due to arrive in dealerships this fall as a 2017 model. Click here to see our video.
We have to admit, the TRD Pro looks good (especially in bright white), but in typical Toyota fashion, the minimum has been done to upgraded trim level for this pickup truck.
Simply put: Just think of all of the upgraded features for the last Tacoma TRD Pro — Fox dual-reservoir shocks, stronger springs, skid plating, bigger wheels and tires, and some nice design features — and apply them to this all-new Tacoma. It features some new design cues, better sound proofing, stronger engine performance, a new interior look, added frame strength, and vastly improved ride and handling dynamics.
To its credit, Toyota has created one of its most capable vehicles for back-road adventures with this Tacoma TRD Pro. Much of the credit for this goes to Toyota's exclusive Crawl Control and Multi-terrain Select systems — standard on all TRD Pro models. This technology alone (available as an option on the Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4x4) is enough to put this new midsize player at the top of its segment, as well as make it one of the most capable off-road explorers around.
The TRD Pro will be offered only in the 4x4 double-cab, short-bed configuration with either the optional six-speed manual (which will have a clutch interlock defeat switch to allow the truck to be started in gear) or the all-new six-speed automatic. Additionally, the new TRD Pro will come in three unique colors: Cement, Barcelona Red Metallic and Super White.
The TRD Pro Look
Like the previous TRD Pro trim level, Toyota is giving the new model the same interior and exterior design changes along with a few more. It gets the heritage-inspired all-caps Toyota nameplate for the blacked-out front grille, blacked-out fender flares and TRD Pro badging on the tailgate. The TRD Pro also will use the hood from the Tacoma TRD Sport, but includes blacked-out hood scoops for a unique look. The headlights and taillights will have black-smoked bezels with LED lighting, projector headlamps and standard integrated fog lights.
Inside, the TRD Pro will — once again — include many standard features to give it a comfortable and sporty feel. TRD Pro logos will be stitched into the leather-trimmed headrests, and the front and rear floormats as well as embossed on the dash. Also, no matter the transmission choice, there will be a TRD shift knob along with a telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel and Entune premium audio system with a large, integrated navigation screen. Our favorite feature is the new 4.2-inch information display that offers both an inclinometer and tilt gauge to let you know exactly how crossed up your rig is when you're out on the trail. It also will have the GoPro mount that's standard on all Tacomas.
The TRD Pro Performance
The new TRD Pro benefits from an all-new dual-overhead cam, 24-valve Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers more power at lower rpm (with a flatter torque curve) than the previous V-6. Combined with a stronger frame, this package continues many of the same suspension improvements we've seen before.
The 2017 model will get 1-inch longer and stronger front coil springs, TRD-tuned and re-arched progressive leaf springs in back, and larger internal-bypass Fox racing shocks. Combine that with 16-inch black alloy wheels and 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain tires, a unique aluminum front skid plate (with the TRD Pro logo stamped on it), an electronically controlled part-time four-wheel-drive system, and a standard push-button locking rear differential, and you can see how hard the TRD engineers worked to build an impressive package.
That doesn't include the additional capabilities available when you engage the Crawl Control or Multi-terrain Select systems. Crawl Control electronically controls braking, acceleration and traction duties while climbing or descending nasty terrain — all you do is steer. The Multi-terrain Select system allows you to set the system for surface type (snow, sand, rocks, etc.), throttle sensitivity, traction control and engine mapping, adjusting to different algorithms. Toyota also included other standard features we like: a standard Class IV tow hitch, trailer-sway control, a larger engine oil cooler, power steering cooler, a 130-amp alternator and hill start assist.
Pricing for Toyota's ultimate off-road package (also the segment's ultimate off-road package) will not be released until the vehicle goes on sale this fall; however, we'd expect pricing to start right around $37,000, which is just a tick above the starting price for the previous model.
For those who will criticize Toyota for not going further, it's worth noting that although Toyota clearly had room to raise the bar here, the strategy of simply moving the previous TRD Pro trim level onto the new-and-improved platform was the safe move and, in fact, the same one Ford is taking with the release of its new 2017 F-150 Raptor later this year. It too gets a new engine, transmission, 4x4 system and additional interior features.
Whether the manufacturers of either of these pickups decide to raise their game another notch (or two) in the future will likely hinge on how popular these new off-roaders are to the average pickup buyer. If more people opt for these exclusive off-road packages, you can bet Toyota and Ford will invest more money and technology into a more powerful and capable pickup package. We'll have to wait and see.