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2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro made for trails


The 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is powered by a 278-horsepower, 3.5-litre, V6 engine that makes up to 265 lb.-ft. of torque.
The 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is powered by a 278-horsepower, 3.5-litre, V6 engine that makes up to 265 lb.-ft. of torque. - Richard Russell

It’s not often that people on my street, or on the road, stop to stare at a pickup. After all, they are the most popular vehicles on North American roads.

But, the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, painted in TRD-exclusive Voodoo blue, had a massive black desert air intake climbing up and over the a-pillar. In addition to the bright paint, and weird intake, the truck had black wheels, a thick alloy skid plate under the front bumper, and a general bad attitude.

 The intake, skid plate, off road rubber and tall stance, unlike most add-ons, was not for looks alone. They are part of the $13,495 TRD Pro package that converts the Tacoma from a very capable 4X4 mid-size pickup to one capable of venturing far off road and travelling very quickly while there.
The intake, skid plate, off road rubber and tall stance, unlike most add-ons, was not for looks alone. They are part of the $13,495 TRD Pro package that converts the Tacoma from a very capable 4X4 mid-size pickup to one capable of venturing far off road and travelling very quickly while there.

TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development. This California-based entity builds the engines used by Toyota in NASCAR and has extensive experience developing, and running off-road race trucks for the company and independent racers.

There were plenty of other reminders this was not a run-of-the mill Tacoma. To make sure everyone within a few hundred metres knows this truck has been breathed on by TRD, there are badges everywhere from the centre of the wheels, and on that skid plate, to the front doors, hood scoop, tailgate, and grill. Inside you’ll find TRD embossed on the leather seats, atop the shift knob, and on the carpets.

All this was enough to generate more interest than anything else I’ve driven in a while.

The intake, skid plate, off road rubber and tall stance, unlike most add-ons, was not for looks alone. They are part of the $13,495 TRD Pro package that converts the Tacoma from a very capable 4X4 mid-size pickup to one capable of venturing far off road and travelling very quickly while there.

The “desert” air intake provides clean dust-free air to the potent V6, pulling it in from well above the disturbance created by the off-road rubber wrapped around those black wheels. The thick skid plate prevents damage when tackling steep slopes — going up or down.

 The TRD Pro kit brings a suitable, special purpose suspension. The normal shock absorbers are swapped out for 6.35-mm internal bypass Fox shocks at each corner.
The TRD Pro kit brings a suitable, special purpose suspension. The normal shock absorbers are swapped out for 6.35-mm internal bypass Fox shocks at each corner.

The TRD Pro kit brings a suitable, special purpose suspension. The normal shock absorbers are swapped out for 6.35-mm internal bypass Fox shocks at each corner. Each one is hooked up to a remote reservoir to ensure they don’t overheat in severe off-road use. The coil springs up front and leaf springs out back are special TRD-tuned items. The less restrictive TRD stainless steel exhaust emits a throaty sound not usually associated with a Toyota product.

Before it gets the TRD Pro treatment, this Tacoma starts off as a well-equipped ($42,490) DoubleCab 4X4 short box. It has a 3.5-litre V6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and a part time 4WD system that includes crawl and traction control, a terrain select system, locking rear differential, hill-start assist and fuel tank and transfer case protective plates.

Standard equipment includes: Go-Pro mount, rear-view camera, power windows, locks and mirrors, tilt and telescope steering wheel, dual zone automatic climate control, six-speaker premium audio system, navigation system with voice-recognition, auto-dimming rear view mirror, remote keyless entry, push-button start, wireless charging, power heated mirrors, power moon roof, class IV trailer hitch, seven-pin wiring harness, trailer sway control, 400-watt, 120-volt outlet, removable locking tailgate and a composite cargo bed.

It also comes with a host of safety technology that includes: eight airbags, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and radar-abased adaptive cruise control. The TRD Pro package adds a blind-spot monitoring system with cross traffic alert.

On the road the elaborate off-road suspension system works to perfection, soaking up both major and minor bumps, and other surface imperfections as if they weren’t there. It does so without making the ride too loose or lean too much in corners.

Don’t try to ford deep streams, depending on that air snorkel to keep water out of the intake system. There are drain holes in the bottom that will let water in. The idea is to get intake air from a clean source, rather than from the grill or inside wheel wells, which will be filled with dust or dirt in most off-road activities. Canadians will be glad to know the top can be swivelled around to prevent ingesting snow.

You could duplicate much of what makes the TRD Pro stand out. Take a saw, cut a hole in the hood, and clamp on a big tubular intake. Jack up the suspension, and bolt on some big aftermarket wheels. Graft a big chrome-tipped pipe at the end of the exhaust and you’re looking good. But once you get underway, or ventured off road, you’d realize this truck is more than looks.

The Tacoma TRD Pro is one tough truck. It has lots of visual cues, but also the engineering and equipment to back them up.

On the road the TRD Pro’s off-road suspension system works to perfection, soaking up both major and minor bumps, and other surface imperfections as if they didn’t exist. - Richard Russell
On the road the TRD Pro’s off-road suspension system works to perfection, soaking up both major and minor bumps, and other surface imperfections as if they didn’t exist. - Richard Russell

The specs

  • Model: 2019 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 DoubleCab V6
  • Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, 278 horsepower, 265 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
  • Transmission: six-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
  • Length: 5,393 mm
  • Width: 1,910 mm
  • Wheelbase: 3,235 mm
  • Weight: 2,016 kg
  • Price: $42,940, $58,377 as tested, including freight
  • Competition: Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Ford F150 Raptor
  • Options on test vehicle: TRD Pro, $13,495 — unique front grill, shift knob, fog lights, floor carpets, stainless steel exhaust, remote reservoir suspension kit, TRD suspension (front coil springs, rear leaf springs, Fox shock absorbers (front and rear), TRD 16-inch black alloy wheels, blind spot monitor system with rear cross traffic alert, black TRD Pro leather seats, skid plate and hood scoop

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