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Why The 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Is A Cool Idea With Weak Execution

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The 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is that washed up, loose-cannon-cop-on-the-edge pulled out of retirement for "one last job." Giving an old hero a shiny badge and a new gun always works on TV, but this truck isn't quite up to fighting its rivals anymore, on-road or off.


What Exactly Is This Truck?

You've known the 2015 Toyota Tacoma for a while. About a decade, actually… the current body style was introduced in 2005. Toyota built a reputation for reliability and off-road competence in the '80s and '90s and rode it to mid-size truck stardom. They out-classed the first rendition of the Chevy Colorado and yes, the last Ford Ranger too, by a mile and out-marketed the Nissan Frontier to get where they are in 2014: holding down three-quarters of the mid-sized truck market share.


But now the Chevy Colorado is back with a vengeance, full-size pickups are competing with Tacoma on economy while smoking it on capability, and even the Nissan Frontier is (supposedly) finally soon to rise from "also-ran" ashes and reinvent itself.

Toyota had to do something cool that'd win back headlines in the suddenly ultra-competitive US truck market, at least until they can release a real redesign. The result was the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Pro line.


With the FJ Cruiser on the path to extinction and the Land Cruiser completely unappreciated (it's amazing they even get 100 people a month to cough up $80,000 for one) Toyota decided to re-inflate their off-road identity with a "TRD Pro" version of the Tundra, 4Runner, and Tacoma.

The TRD Pro vehicles get tidily aggressive styling, a 2.5" lift on high-quality Bilstein shocks, meaty tires on cool-looking wheels. What makes the Tacoma the pick of the range is its most basic option; availability of four-wheel drive and a manual transmission option in both "medium" and "large" cab sizes.


You Don't Get Your Money's Worth

Starting at around $35,000 and accessorizing up to about $40,000, the Tacoma TRD Pro isn't cheap; it lives in the annoyingly expensive price-bracket of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon ($35,395, quickly rising with options) and Chevy Colorado Z71 ($34,990 and up).


While $35,000 will get you a modern interior, smooth ride, and quality infotainment setup in the new Chevy pickup, you don't even get four wheel disc brakes in the Tacoma TRD Pro let alone heated seats or a sunroof. As for the interior, it looks and feels a decade old if it's a day.


It Has No Advantages Over An Older Model

The Tacoma TRD Pro sits on the same frame Tacomas have since 2005. There's no complexly redesigned suspension geometry. Axles, differentials, and low range gearing are the same as the other models and with the exception of a new exhaust tip, nothing's been done to revive the anemic 1GR-FE 4.0 V6.


New shocks, tires, and a body kit are the lowest-hanging fruit in an off-road build, and by stopping there Toyota has failed to give buyers a good reason to drop $40,000 on a 2014 Tacoma TRD Pro when they could pick up a 2006 Tacoma off Craigslist, cherry pick off-road components, and run circles around the new truck for half the money.


The upgrades Toyota sourced for the TRD Pro are high-quality, and it's great that they're factory warrantied, but nothing's been done to the truck you couldn't do yourself, or even get done cheaply. This wouldn't be quite as much of an issue if the used Tacoma market weren't so bountiful... but it is since, as I've already mentioned, the truck's been around forever.

Driving It On Or Off-Road Feels Like Being A Grandpa In Cool Sunglasses

We had the Tacoma TRD Pro on the long highway haul from LA to Utah, all over western towns and the sunny city of Las Vegas, and all the way through Moab's reasonably challenging Hell's Revenge slickrock off-road trail. Here are our main takeaways:


On-road, the truck works its ass off to get up to speed and begs for mercy to initiate a highway pass. All the fuel economy you thought you were saving by skipping a bigger truck with a V8 burns up and out your exhaust as you rev the 4.0 V6 to oblivion. Soft suspension is wobbly around town and brakes are adequate but awkwardly snatchy, making smooth application a struggle. Proportions are fine for city driving, though, and there aren't any issues with visibility.


Off-road extra depth in the shocks pay off, absorbing the craggy rocks of technical trails and rolling waves of sand dunes in flat areas. But the V6's 236 horsepower is barely enough to get the 4,200 pound vehicle up steep, low-speed climbs and peak torque (266 lb-ft) doesn't come on full bore until 4000 RPM. Such slopes also render visibility a non-starter, as the hood's damn near impossible to see over.


Hill descent control is no fancy transmission brake, just a system to rapidly flick the front discs and rear drums which sound like they're an inch from fragging themselves after a few pumps under heavy load.


Verdict: It's An Underperforming Overpriced Plea For Relevance

I've been hard on the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro in this review, but it's not a bad vehicle in a vacuum. It looks cool and you can get it through terrain most other stock, modern trucks couldn't hack.


But this is the free market baby, and this expensive special edition just doesn't bring anything to the industry that you couldn't have had ten years ago.


But Automakers, Please Keep Trying

At the risk of sounding like a raging hypocrite; I love the idea of a factory-built off-road performance vehicle. What breaks my heart is that with the exception of the Ford Raptor, Rally Fighter (and Ram Power Wagon, which I'd previously forgotten!), every one we've seen lately has either been a pipe-dream concept or a weak half-measure.


There seems to be plenty of market for unusably high-performance road cars. Between that and the success of the Raptor I've gotta believe there's money to be made with a dedicated, differentiated, off-road truck that could only come from a mainstream factory.

Until then, we're just going to have to keep building our own.


Images by the author. Wes Siler and Sean MacDonald participated in this road test and helped assess the vehicle.

2014 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Specifications

Wheels 16" black beadlock style TRD alloy
Tires BFGoodrich All Terrain KO
Shocks TRD-tuned Bilstein High Performance
- Bilstein front and rear digressive piston and valve design

- 1.75" of additional wheel travel

- 60mm pistons > 36/32mm OE

- 18mm shafts > 12mm OE


- 1.5" of additional wheel travel

- 46mm pistons > 36/30mm OE

- Remote reservoir

Springs Unique TRD-Tuned Front Springs
- 2" lift for the front of the vehicle
- Decreased spring rate to improve ride quality over harsh terrain
Exhaust TRD Cat Back Exhaust
- Stainless steel system
- Polished steel dual wall tips
- Reduced back pressure

- Throaty rumble sound (yep, that's listed as a spec)

Skid Plate - Black OE front skid plate
Exterior - Unique "TOYOTA" front grille
- Black "TRD PRO" external hard badge
- Black "TACOMA" badging on doors
Exterior Colors Attitude Black Metallic, Super White, and Inferno (all-new exclusive color)
Interior - TRD Shift Knob
- TRD Floor Mats

2014 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Prices

7555 Tacoma TRD Pro 4x4 Access Cab V6 6MT $35,525
7556 Tacoma TRD Pro 4x4 Access Cab V6 5AT $36,505
7597 Tacoma TRD Pro 4x4 Double Cab V6 6MT $36,435
7598 Tacoma TRD Pro 4x4 Double Cab V6 5AT $37,415