TOP GUN TACO

TESTED TO ITS LIMITS

4WDrive - - Front Page - WORDS AND PHOTOS BY BUDD STANLEY AD­DI­TIONAL PHOTOS BY BRYAN IRONS

We are liv­ing in good times off-road brethren. It used to be we would have to buy a run-of-themill 4WD and spend many hours and dol­lars re­plac­ing most of the hard­ware with more of­froad fo­cused metal. How­ever, as the off-road­ing life­style con­tin­ues to grow, man­u­fac­tur­ers are stand­ing up and tak­ing no­tice, giv­ing us some pretty im­pres­sive off-road fo­cused spe­cial edi­tions of their trucks and SUVs, de­spite hav­ing to ad­here to fuel ef­fi­ciency and crash reg­u­la­tions. The lat­est and great­est of these off-road su­per he­roes is the 2017 Toy­ota Ta­coma TRD Pro.

Un­til the 4Run­ner TRD Pro comes on­line, the Taco TRD Pro is Toy­ota’s off-road halo ve­hi­cle. It of­fers some truly awe-in­spir­ing tech and me­chan­i­cal features to aid its abil­ity to tra­verse ter­rain. As such, the TRD Pro comes equipped with a TRD ex­haust, Fox 2.5 in­ter­nal by­pass shocks with TRD tuned springs, front skid plate, 16" black wheels, Rigid In­dus­tries fog lamps, black bezel head and tail lights, Hood scoop with matte black de­cal, her­itage “Toy­ota” front grille, TRD shift knob, and “TRD Pro” badged floor mats, front doors, tail gate and seats. The 278 hp 3.5L V-6 is left un­touched, although the TRD ex­haust does give it a pleas­ant deep rum­ble.

That’s a good mix­ture of real world me­chan­i­cal per­for­mance up­grades and eye-pleas­ing cos­metic en­hance­ments, although it comes at a price. There is no easy way to put this, but to add the TRD Pro pack­age onto a Ta­coma; it is go­ing to cost a whop­ping $12,850. When it’s all said and done, you’re look­ing at

$55,183.47 be­fore you pay the tax­man.

The ques­tion is, do you get what you pay for, and is this a wor­thy off-roader the wheel­ing ex­trem­ist will want to con­sider?

Full dis­clo­sure, I have been a life­long fan of not just the Toy­ota Ta­coma, but TRD as well. I’ve owned Toy­ota trucks in the past and sev­eral of my race­cars have had “TRD” writ­ten on the ma­jor­ity of the parts that made them go much faster. So when the per­fect storm of Ta­coma and TRD Pro fi­nally came along, I’m not go­ing to lie, I had very high ex­pec­ta­tions.

In my per­sonal opin­ion, I think the TRD Pro looks the busi­ness. Other than a hood line that is way too high, this is a mean look­ing truck that at least talks the talk. Sit­ting be­hind the wheel, I’m quite con­fi­dent in say­ing it has the most at­trac­tive in­te­rior de­sign, even if the HVAC read­outs hide un­der the cen­tre screen. As with most Toy­otas, the com­fort level of the seats is high, both front and some­what in the rear. How­ever, some will not en­joy the seat­ing po­si­tion of the Ta­coma. Ta­co­mas have very low bod­ies, and there­fore you sit low to the floor with your feet stretched out hor­i­zon­tal rather than at a down­ward angle. Some don’t like this and it does make get­ting in a bit of a knee-knock­ing af­fair. Per­son­ally, I do en­joy the sportscar-like seat­ing po­si­tion that helps com­mu­ni­cate with the driver.

When I got the Taco on the road, the first thing I no­ticed was how well the FOX in­ter­nal by­pass shocks soak up all the road im­per­fec­tions. I was lit­er­ally putting wheels into pot­holes

just to see how well the sus­pen­sion per­formed with high-speed im­pacts, and it was sub­lime. That be­ing said, you re­ally no­tice that the TRD Pro has taller tires and softer sus­pen­sion when ac­cel­er­at­ing and brak­ing. Toy­ota has a rep­u­ta­tion for hav­ing very sen­si­tive throt­tle and brake con­trols, and these have not been adapted to the softer sus­pen­sion, mak­ing for a lit­tle more move­ment in the cab. How­ever, I was sur­prised just how neu­trally bal­anced the truck was to drive, both on tar­mac and on snow, with only hints of un­der­steer should trac­tion limits be reached, and nice slow lin­ear trans­fers into over­steer should a skilled wheel­man wish to take con­trol of a given sit­u­a­tion. The TRD Pro was quickly find­ing a warm spot in my heart, at least as a daily driver.

But we are an off-road mag­a­zine, and this is an off-road fo­cused 4WD, so let’s get to what you re­ally want to know about the TRD Pro, does it per­form in the wilder­ness? With the aid of taller tires and the fancy FOX shocks, ground clear­ance is in­creased to 239 mm (9.4") with an­gles in­creased to 35° approach angle, 24° de­par­ture angle and a 26° breakover, which is about the best clear­ance an­gles you’re go­ing to find on any mod­ern pickup. So it looks good on pa­per, but does that equate to the trail?

Well, not all was per­fect with the TRD Pro. On top of the sticker price shock, my time in the TRD Pro off-road was not quite the rekin­dling re­la­tion­ship ex­pe­ri­ence with an off-road fo­cused Toy­ota as I hoped it would be. Toy­ota has quite clearly failed to in­clude a cou­ple of off-road es­sen­tials on a mod­ern 4WD tar­geted for the trail less trav­elled. The most ob­vi­ous is the lack of rocker panel rock slid­ers, man­ual trans­fer case shifter and a for­ward fac­ing cam­era to aid vi­sion when rock crawl­ing over chal­leng­ing ter­rain. With Ford, Nis­san and Land Rover pro­vid­ing at least a for­ward fac­ing cam­era (if not 360-de­gree view­ing), there re­ally is no ex­cuse why Toy­ota failed to pro­vide such a use­ful tool.

Now we come to a rather im­por­tant is­sue. When we had the TRD Pro, it had

been snow­ing for up­wards of a month here in Bri­tish Columbia; there was no dirt or rock to be found any­where. So our off-road test­ing would be rel­e­gated to lo­cal moun­tain trails that had a cou­ple feet of fresh pow­der sit­ting on top of another cou­ple feet of nas­ti­ness. While we were never go­ing to be able to test the TRD Pros ar­tic­u­la­tion and rock crawl­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, its driv­e­train, trac­tion and off-road sys­tems were go­ing to be put through the ringer.

With ice tires fit­ted and pres­sures dropped only slightly to the high 20’s, the snow was the Taco’s friend for the ma­jor­ity of the trail, even when we hit some chal­leng­ing ob­sta­cles that twisted up the ar­tic­u­la­tion. That was un­til we came up on a deep snow­drift on a par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing up­hill run with a very un­even sur­face un­der­neath. With Toy­ota’s Crawl Con­trol on, the Taco sank into the snow up to its axles in only a me­tre of for­ward travel. Turn the trac­tion con­trol off and leave it in 4High, and I made it a lit­tle fur­ther, un­til I was push­ing snow with the front bumper.

How­ever, this is where the elec­tron­ics failed me. I could not lock the rear locker in 4High and had to be in 4Low to use it. So then I was ei­ther go­ing too slow, or the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion would shift just when things were get­ting tough, bog­ging down mo­men­tum. Some­times you just need to use all the speed and revs you can get, so I shifted the Taco man­u­ally into sec­ond and took sev­eral runs at the deep snow. The com­bi­na­tion of tire spin, speed and a locker were slowly get­ting me fur­ther and fur­ther to the top of the hill with every run. Fi­nally, I pow­ered through the deep stuff and up onto the plateau where trac­tion was easy once again. How­ever, the chal­leng­ing com­bi­na­tion of a steep hill and deep snow had taken its toll.

The dash lit up with sev­eral warn­ing lights as the trans­fer case, brakes and ABS sys­tem were all over­heat­ing and needed a long break to cool down and re­set. Just as I made it to the top, the whole truck just shut it­self off. De­spite turn­ing off the elec­tron­ics, they were still work­ing away in the back­ground, grab­bing brakes and

putting strain on the trans­fer case to do all it could to get me for­ward up the trail. While an­noy­ing for a sea­soned wheeler, the sil­ver lin­ing of these sys­tems is that they will stop the ve­hi­cle be­fore you do any real me­chan­i­cal dam­age, which would re­ally leave you in a tough spot.

So, who is go­ing to want this ve­hi­cle? While I found the Ta­coma TRD Pro’s Achilles Heel go­ing up­hill in deep snow, this is still a truck for all but 20% of the hard­est-core off-road en­thu­si­asts out there. I still need to get this truck in the dirt and mud to con­firm it, but I can tell it will dom­i­nate in con­di­tions other than winter en­vi­ron­ments. How­ever, if you are some­one that thinks 35" tires are small, and that four-wheel­ing means that com­ing home with new wrin­kles in the body­work is a sign of a suc­cess­ful out­ing, save the $12,000 on the TRD Pro and put that into more ag­gres­sive af­ter­mar­ket hard­ware for a reg­u­lar Taco.

How­ever, for the other 80% it will do just fine. The Ta­coma TRD Pro is an Over­lan­der's dream, just toss an ex­pe­di­tion rack and roof top tent on the back and you’re ready to do a cross con­ti­nent adventure right off the lot. Week­end war­riors, I would sug­gest up­grad­ing the tires to more ag­gres­sive All-Ter­rains or even good Mud Ter­rains to bet­ter com­ple­ment the off-road elec­tronic sys­tems and maybe help save the rock­ers with some ar­mour. For the am­a­teur new­bie, you’re set. Just toss a day­pack, tent and sleep­ing bag in the back and go find your own lit­tle piece of wilder­ness, and you don’t have to void the war­ranty to do it.

For my­self, although I loved the Ta­coma TRD Pro, it has too many gim­micks, too many lit­tle finicky op­er­a­tions that take the con­trol and skill of off-road­ing a pickup out of the driv­ers hands. I don’t want to have a con­ver­sa­tion with the com­puter when we have dif­fer­ent opin­ions on how to tackle a cer­tain type of ob­sta­cle. In the end, the Ta­coma TRD Pro pretty much blows every other mid-size pickup out of the wa­ter, es­pe­cially when it comes to off-road per­for­mance. That is un­til we see just how good GM’s new Colorado ZR2 will be in the very near fu­ture.

Might make a good com­par­i­son… don’t you think?

Front approach and breakover an­gles are greatly in­creased with the TRD Pro.

As we were in the mid­dle of winter, our tester was run­ning on Bridgestone Bl­iz­zaks rather than the stan­dard Goodyear Wran­gler AT’s.

The TRD Pro comes with one of the nicest look­ing skid plates avail­able, and it gets the job done as well.

The TRD-tuned FOX 2.5 in­ter­nal by­pass shocks proved sub­lime both on- and off-road.

The elec­tronic aids are vast and even com­pli­cated on the TRD Pro, al­most overkill.

We found the Ta­coma TRD Pro’s Achilles Heel, deep snow on an up­hill slope.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.