2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD ProPosted on May 20th, 2015
Midsize truck is all business on-road and off
By Nina Russin
Toyota is the king of small trucks. While the Big Three automakers focused on full-size vehicles, Toyota built its reputation on small and midsize trucks, dating back to the first models following the Second World War.
The Tacoma that debuted in 1995 grew out of the Hi-Lux: a vastly popular global platform that is still sold in other parts of the world. In the states it was simply called the compact Toyota pickup. The truck sold like hotcakes because it was cheap and unbelievably durable. We used to joke that the only way to stop the truck’s 22R engine was to take it out in the field and shoot it.
The 2015 model year is the last for the current generation Tacoma: a new midsize model debuts next fall. Rather than treating the current model as a lame duck, product planners added a TRD Pro package that gives the truck the chops to blast across the Baja peninsula in style.
Priced from $37,415 excluding destination, the Tacoma TRD Pro comes with 16-inch TRD wheels and off-road tires, Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs to increase shock oil capacity, a modified suspension that adds 1.75 inches to the truck’s ride height and increases wheels travel and a cat-back exhaust. A unique blacked-out grille, inferno red exterior paint and special badging throughout give the Tacoma irresistible charisma for anyone with a love of off-road racing.
The test car comes with a few additional options- a performance air filter, paint protection film, front skid plate, enhanced security system and bed mat, bringing the final MSRP to $39,579.
A truck for all seasons
Although the Tacoma TRD Pro is built for off-road adventure, it has the technology and built-in safety features to function equally well around town as an owner’s only vehicle. Features such as a rearview camera and daytime running lamps help the driver to see other vehicles and make it easier for drivers in surrounding traffic to see the truck.
I drove the TRD Pro this past week around the Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona areas including highways and surface streets through some unseasonably cool and rainy weather. Because ran is rare in this part of the country, drivers don’t function particularly well in it.
It was kismet that one of the week’s heaviest rainstorms came at the beginning of Friday rush-hour, making traffic that is already bad even worse and drivers who are normally impatient even more so. It was a recipe for disaster.
As I waded my way down the 101 Freeway that runs north-to-south through the East Valley, I thanked my lucky stars that I was behind the wheel of the Tacoma TRD Pro.
The V-6 engine on the test car is available with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or the five-speed automatic in the test car. While it can’t match the smaller four-cylinder engine for fuel economy, the V-6 is a better choice for those who plan to tow a trailer. Towing capacity is 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum standard.
In my case, I appreciated the extra horsepower to get around cars that had slowed to a crawl thanks to the rain.
The engine develops up to 266 foot-pounds of peak torque, so the truck does well on steep grades. In a state where much of the terrain is mountainous, this is an important asset.
Power rack-and-pinion steering offers plenty of assist at low speeds and good on-center response on the highway. The suspension consists of an independent double wishbone setup in front and solid leaf springs in the back. Those who aren’t used to driving a car with a live rear axle might notice some hop at higher speeds, but the setup works better for towing.
Oil that accumulates on the roads around here makes them slick when rain finally comes, as was the case the day of the test drive. Shifting from rear-wheel to four-wheel drive in the Tacoma is easy using a rotary dial on the instrument panel. The additional ground clearance keeps powertrain components dry going through standing water. In a town where sewers are a rarity, we have a lot of that.
Since most of the weight and therefore braking on a truck is up front, engineers used discs on the front axle and drums in back. I had no problems with uneven braking despite the wet road surfaces. Even during panic stops, stopping was firm and linear.
I don’t know whether it was the Tacoma’s bright red exterior paint, blacked out grille, the large hood scoop or the rumble of the cat-back exhaust, but drivers in surrounding vehicles seemed to get the message that I wasn’t in the mood for playing bumper tag. Considering the circumstances, the 30-mile drive back to my house from the north end of Scottsdale was relatively stress-free.
Versatility for active lifestyles
Some trucks work better for active lifestyles than others. Cyclists need a place to stash their bikes inside the vehicle in the event of inclement weather, or if they happen to park in a part of town where theft could be a problem. The double cab test car works well under these circumstances, having enough room in the second row to store a road bike with the front wheel removed. The seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern so three can ride in the truck and still have room for cargo.
I found the manual driver’s seat adjustments easy to use with plenty of lower lumbar support. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. Programming climate and infotainment features is intuitive. The knobs are on the small side. Larger dials would be helpful for drivers who wear gloves for warmth or work. The center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions, including bright sunlight.
The Tacoma TRD Pro comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring, a rearview camera and part-time four-wheel drive.
Toyota builds the Tacoma at its San Antonio, Texas assembly plant.
Like: A versatile truck with extreme off-road capability and some appealing performance features. The double cab configuration adds some cargo room inside the cabin.
Dislike: Small knobs for audio channels are hard to use.
Model: Tacoma TRD Pro Double Cab 4X4 V6
Base price: $37,415
As tested: $39,579
Horsepower: 236 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 266 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/21 mpg city/highway2015, Best Value Offroad 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota
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