2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Review: First Drive

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We recently had the chance to get behind the wheel of the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro just outside Austin, Texas. We came away thinking this mid-size pickup stands alone at the top of the hill as one of the best all-around 4x4s sold in the U.S. To check out our video review, click here.

The pickup truck's overhaul for model-year 2016 — heavily upgraded chassis, suspension and powertrain, and redesigned interior — meant this popular top-of-the-line off-road trim would change significantly too.

Our first opportunity to put the 2017 TRD Pro through a punishing off-pavement test drive came at the recent Texas Auto Writers Association 2016 Texas Truck Rodeo, where we had the run of the 1,632-acre Longhorn River Ranch and its nasty off-road trails, rutted dirt roads, open fields, steep hill climbs and water crossings.

Why It's Special

The TRD Pro — also offered in the full-size Tundra pickup and 4Runner SUV — is an impressive trim level. The TRD engineers spent a lot of time tuning and choosing the right shock and spring packages; this is at the core of what makes the Tacoma TRD Pro so capable. For 2017, it has bigger, faster-reacting and longer aluminum Fox shocks, each with an internal bypass; however, only the rear shocks have a remote reservoir to better dissipate heat when they're trying to calm a punished rear axle as it blasts through a remote desert wash or over a high-speed road.

Both the front (coils) and rear (leafs) springs are a touch taller than stock to provide more droop and compression for better terrain accommodation. Although the wheels and tires are the same size as the previous TRD Pro (Toyota has upgraded to 265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Kevlar-reinforced tires), the wheels have a new offset, giving the pickup a wider track.

The only other significant change to the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro is the fact that the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select system comes standard on all six-speed-automatic-transmission-equipped models (manual transmission models do not offer Crawl Control or MTS, but do offer a clutch-start delete option).

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We've had quite a bit of experience with the Crawl Control, the Toyota-exclusive four-wheel-drive technology, and it is impressive, turning the TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road trim levels on which it is available into impressive traction machines. Think of it as a kind of auto pilot, taking control of both the throttle and brake; all the driver has to do is steer. Combining this computer-controlled, sophisticated and super-smart technology with the go-fast suspension upgrades gives the Tacoma TRD Pro just about the widest bandwidth of strong 4x4 abilities available. With the exception of the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, there is no better all-around desert rock-crawling and sand-blasting pickup.

Inside the TRD Pro, things are a little more subdued. All TRD Pros, no matter the exterior color (Super White, Barcelona Red Metallic or Cement) will have black interiors along with TRD Pro logos sewn into the front head restraints and in the floormats. Outside, the pickup will have the same blacked-out front grille with the old-school Toyota name emblazoned across the center. Likewise, the TRD Pro logo graces the exclusive aluminum front skid plate (which offers an oil filter access port), the front doors and the tailgate.

Off-Road Performance

During our time behind the wheel of the TRD Pro in some serious off-road environments, we were especially impressed with the new Fox shocks and how they do a much better job of absorbing slow- and medium-speed ruts and tree-root hits. We spent several hours running from ridge to ridge on this Texas hunting ranch, going up and down dirt-road canyons and navigating some nasty rock-strewn two-track dirt roads. The shocks — a huge improvement over the previous Bilsteins — have much more absorbing power and never once had us feeling like the wheels and tires were taking hits they couldn't handle.

Several sections of a remote trail were muddy and full of deep holes where the extra-thick front skid plate took several harsh strikes from hidden rocks and dirt channels, but the tires did an amazing job of grabbing at the mud and rocks with ease. We did not air down any of the tires during this test drive, but we'd guess they would have been even better at clawing and scraping through the terrain if we had.

When crawling up some steeper hill climbs in four-wheel-drive low range and negotiating a rugged and choppy set of ruts, holes and ledges, we found the flexibility of the TRD Pro suspension to be exceptional. The tires performed quite well on the loose rocks and rutted cutouts of our hill climb. The mid-size truck felt solid in low range with a firm mechanical feel. We also liked how solidly the transmission shifts, offering versatility through the gears with its new selector. Axles, transfer case and transmission all worked happily together to lead the Tacoma crew cab over obstacles we wouldn't try to walk, but the TRD Pro performed as if it had even more performance to spare.

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When navigating in low range with the automatic transmission, we really liked the Toyota/Lexus-exclusive Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select system. The latter provides several different traction control settings — sand, mud, snow and rocks — to better handle challenging terrains. But the Crawl Control, although impressive, can be tricky to set properly.

Set the CC too low and you can get the truck into a terrible back-and-forth lurching battle between the computer-controlled throttle and computer-controlled braking system. Set it too high and you might approach oncoming obstacles with too much speed. It makes sense to offer the Crawl Control feature in low range, but why on earth only give drivers access to the Multi-Terrain Select system when in low range? This makes no sense because variations in roads do not require you to drop to a crawling speed. We'd guess most people looking for the added benefits of smarter traction-control mapping would likely be running at much higher speeds in all situations; that's certainly the assumption of SUV makers such as Land Rover, Jeep and Ford. This is a big problem we'd like changed quickly in the TRD Pro.

A Few More Issues

As well designed as the TRD Pro is for conquering nasty off-pavement environments, we expect the majority of its life will be spent on paved surfaces. And it's here where the TRD Pro has a few vulnerabilities.

First, the upgraded engine still feels a touch underpowered, with a sizable mid-range flat spot in the torque curve when in normal Drive mode. Thankfully, Toyota does have a useful electronic controlled transmission switch under the steering column that changes the shift mapping, holding gears longer, providing quicker downshifts and making the powertrain feel more responsive. When on pavement, we needed to be in this mode all of the time, and as a result, our fuel economy probably suffered a bit. It's worth noting, during our informal, real-world fuel economy testing of the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro, it got more than 2.5 mpg better than the last 2015 Tacoma TRD Pro we tested

Secondly, as much as we liked the Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Kevlar tires in off-road situations, we were struck by how loud they were on the pavement. Looking at the treads, you wouldn't think they would be noisy due to the relatively tight rubber blocking. We didn't get the chance to do any empirical sound measurements like we did in our 2016 Midsize Pickup Challenge (where we tested a Tacoma TRD Off-Road with the Goodyear Adventurer tires), but with this new TRD Pro-exclusive tire we did notice a lot more noise entering the cabin. Still, TRD Pro buyers will likely be quite comfortable with the trade-off.

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Finally, due to the unique springs for greater ground clearance and to accommodate the more sophisticated Fox shock setup, there is a slight decrease in payload capacity. Yes, the TRD Pro, with all its special features and wheel-and-tire setup, weighs a few hundred pounds more than other TRD trims, meaning that our test truck had a calculated payload of just 980 pounds (calculated by taking the factory gross vehicle weight rating and subtracting the truck's actual weight). Especially with a no-nonsense, purpose-built truck like this, we'd love to see a higher GVWR by at least a few hundred pounds to put it closer to its mid-size competitors.

Sales Volume and Price

As of this writing, Toyota plans to build only 5,000 Tacoma TRD Pros, but we're told that could be "adjusted" depending on how vocal dealerships are. And although we know this is not Toyota's version of the F-150 Raptor, this is a strong indication that Toyota is moving in the right direction, clearly signaling that bigger things could be on the way.

Pricing for the manual transmission Tacoma TRD Pro (without Crawl Control and MTS) will be just less than $42,000, while the automatic (with CC and MTS) will start just less than $44,000 (price estimates include destination).

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

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Comments

quote "The shocks — a huge improvement over the previous Bilsteins "
I have mentioned on here numerous times the first thing I did on my Taco TRD was take the Bilsteins off and put a set of Rancho's on to improve on and off road ride. Years later they finally did something right, maybe.

Toyota's $42 price means there will be few takers.

For half that price you can buy a lightly used late-model Tacoma 4x4 and make the upgrades you like for a dedicated off-road star.

And the taco is a star off road, but who wants to spend north of 40k for a truck to bang around in the woods with?

Well duh... why else doyou think they call it "CRAWL CONTROL". It wouldn't be called that if you were going fast now would it.

Toyota TRD Pro > Raptor

@papa jim, over 150k people would.

Everything is > Raptor

As I have said over and over again, this truck is further proof that there is really no justifiable reason to take your brand new truck to some aftermarket upfitter.

You are going to be time and probably money ahead buying something like this, and you get a warranty and a truck that looks as good as it functions.

The only way of saving money is by going with cheap, poorly integrated bolt on accessories, and asside from being all show and no go when you take that route, a factory integrated truck will look a ton better. Yeah, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Im 30+ now and have long since grown out of the desire to plasti-dip every part on my cars. Trucks these days are at most a leveling kit and 10-15% larger tires away from being just about perfect.

The TRD Pro and Raptor give someone a great factory alternative to aftermarket lift kits and probably perform better too.

"Ford generated about $500 more revenue per vehicle sold in the last quarter in North America than GM, but GM's profit per vehicle was more than double that of Ford's. Even when excluding a $600 million charge that Ford took in the quarter for recalling faulty door latches, GM earned 40 percent more from each sale."

http://www.autonews.com/article/20161030/OEM/310319953/gm-up-ford-down-why

HAHAHA Sell out some more Ford HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

@johnny, Ford is giving their customers what they want lol.
More recalls and false MPG claims.

Lawsuit Claims Defects in Ford Eco Boost 3.5-Liter V-6.

@ papa jim

Every. Single. Trd Pro model sells for MSRP only.... EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

@ Dave

the Bilsteins they are referring to are not the run of the mill Bilsteins you had on an old Off road edition. they were slave resovior FRONT and REAR with 3 stages of internal valving. I haven't experienced the new Fox on the Current Tacoma but last years Bilsteins for the PRo Tundra were simply magical!

"With the exception of the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, there is no better all-around desert rock-crawling and sand-blasting pickup."

"And although we know this is not Toyota's version of the F-150 Raptor, this is a strong indication that Toyota is moving in the right direction, clearly signaling that bigger things could be on the way."

Is this sponsored by ford or something? Lol

@Hemi, so how many TRD Pro's do you own?

papa jim None hemi lol is a poor Toyota sales man just trying to get by on Camry sales.

@papa jim, over 150k people would.
Posted by: uh huh | Oct 31, 2016 10:14:35 AM


So you're claiming Toyota has sold 150k Tacoma TRD Pro's? Got a link?

This truck is a joke at the current asking price. Like others have said, you're better off buying a used truck and upgrading it or looking at the much more superior Frontier truck, which are selling for significantly less and will hold up much better rust-wise.

What a cool little truck, I'd take one if it came with the best (half ton) truck engine known to man, GM's 6.2, it would make this little Taco fly.

As I have said over and over again, this truck is further proof that there is really no justifiable reason to take your brand new truck to some aftermarket upfitter.

You are going to be time and probably money ahead buying something like this, and you get a warranty and a truck that looks as good as it functions.

The only way of saving money is by going with cheap, poorly integrated bolt on accessories, and asside from being all show and no go when you take that route, a factory integrated truck will look a ton better. Yeah, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Im 30+ now and have long since grown out of the desire to plasti-dip every part on my cars. Trucks these days are at most a leveling kit and 10-15% larger tires away from being just about perfect.

The TRD Pro and Raptor give someone a great factory alternative to aftermarket lift kits and probably perform better too.
Posted by: devilsadvocate | Oct 31, 2016 10:57:42 AM
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If you had any idea what you're talking about, you'd know that the top aftermarket offroad companies make VASTLY superior products compared to what Toyota is offering on the TRD Pro. The OE parts that come with the package are manufactured to fit within a tight budget set by Toyota management. A good aftermarket kit would supply strong, tubular steel control arms with uniball joints. Additionally, a true kit would probably ditch those junk drum brakes out back. Instead, Toyota opted for the same weak stamped steel control arms with standard ball joints. They also skimped on skid plates under the truck. The transfer case still hangs too low and lacks a shield, unless you consider the exhaust pipe that hangs just bellow it a proper shield. Yes, the exhaust hangs down 2-3" below even the frame crossmember.


This truck is overpriced for what you get. Save your money, buy a properly engineered and strong aftermarket kit. Too much of the typical OE corner-cutting on this truck.

Can this vehicle be dingy towed?(4wheels down)

Your review comment is incorrect: "why on earth only give drivers access to the Multi-Terrain Select system when in low range? ... This is a big problem we'd like changed quickly in the TRD Pro."
Multi-Terrain Select mud/sand setting can be engaged when in 4H. The loose rock, mogul, and rock settings require you to be in 4L.

Man this truck looks great!
I know people have a stigma about Toyota and them making pickups,
but lets just remove that Toyota badge and say it is another [insert brand name here] truck.

@ Brick,

Are you kidding me?

Stating a Nissan Frontier is better than a Tacoma TRD Pro? What are you smoking today?

Stating a Nissan Frontier is better than a Tacoma TRD Pro? What are you smoking today?
Posted by: oxi | Nov 1, 2016 8:14:26 AM

It's clearly the better choice of trucks for the guy that's really going to take their truck on a real off-road trail. It's cheaper by a huge margin vs a Tacoma, leaving a huge budget for real off-road upgrades. Plus you wouldn't feel nearly as bad about beating up the cheaper truck. These TRD Pro's are going to be $40k+ dirt road queens. Not to mention the TRD Pro package is a ripoff for what it is. A tiny lift and some OEM Fox shocks. Like Tido mentioned, why hasn't the entire suspension been strengthened? Wimpy stamped steel control ares and the same standard ball joints? Those aren't going to hold up if you use it the way Toyota is marketing it. Yet they will surely deny warranty coverage when it breaks because of "abuse".



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