2015 Toyota Tundra, 4Runner, Tacoma TRD Pro First Drive
Shocks for Days
If you're serious about performance off-roading, chances are you love talking about suspension. And not in an overly simplistic way, like dropping brand names or making statements like "long-stroke shockz iz better." Your topics include shock absorber extended and collapsed lengths, the pros and cons of air bump-stops, and the side effect of lifts on suspension geometry. This is the language spoken by off-road enthusiasts. This is the language spoken by Toyota Racing Development.
The TRD Pro Series story began two years ago, back when it wasn't a series yet. Looking to inject some pizzazz into the truck lineup, the Tundra was earmarked as TRD's first off-road pet project. Then the 4Runner and Tacoma were brought into the mix. It makes sense. The 4Runner has the adventurous reputation with a more affordable entry price point than the Land Cruiser. Forty percent of all Tacomas sold today have TRD packages already. It's best to think of TRD Pro as akin to what F Sport represents to Lexus, in that these are dedicated models and not dress-up treatments. Rumor has it if all goes well, the TRD Pro ethos could spread to produce on-road enhancements for Toyota's cars.
Since the Tundra serves as the halo within what's destined to be the TRD Pro halo sub-brand, it received more TLC. It'll be peddled in extended or crew-cab form, fitted with the 5.7-liter V-8, 4WD, and a TRD cat-back exhaust system. Exterior modifications consist of a burly-looking front grille with a Toyota badge mimicking those found on FJ40 Land Cruisers, "TRD Pro" stampings on the quarter bed panels, a quarter-inch-thick aluminum front skidplate with a handy panel to access the oil sump, and 18-inch TRD wheels. All TRD Pro vehicles come with TRD floormats and shift knobs, but Tundra alone adds red stitching on the seats and a special instrument panel insert. The Tundra and 4Runner knob designs were inspired by Audi and Porsche efforts.
Now, the meat and potatoes. Much time and energy were spent tuning the suspension, and the Tundra is packing serious heat. There's at least one TRD engineer looking forward to the inevitable comparisons between it and Ford's F-150 SVT Raptor. The front starts with lower-rate Eibach springs, selected to help raise the nose two inches and give the tires greater opportunity to track off-road surfaces. The coilover shocks were developed with Bilstein and utilize a 2.5-inch body (generally what you'd anticipate for a factory-backed off-road truck) to yield 2 more precious inches of downward wheel travel. Internally, the main piston is 30 percent larger than a standard Tundra's (60mm versus 46), but the real trick lies with a smaller secondary piston (less than half the larger's size) complementing the main one in especially large compressions. (Think when really big bumps come a-knockin'.) Toyota calls the net effect "3-stage position-sensitive valving." There were compromises, of course. The lengthy monotube shock is even longer, and the second piston's physical presence necessitated a remote reservoir to support the damping motions and heat-dissipation requirements. The Tundra is the only TRD Pro ride with this style of shock and with reservoirs hiding in the tightly packaged front.
The rear 2.5-inch shocks have a single primary 60mm piston, remote reservoirs, and leverage 1.25 inches more travel in conjunction with the stock leaf springs. Removing/softening leaves would negatively affect payload hauling and towing. Michelin LTX A/T 2s sized 275/65-18 -- or 32s in truck parlance -- shared with the TRD Off-Road Package reside at the corners.
As is typical with this kind of off-road runner, the truck feels better the faster it can go. On a relatively well-groomed dirt trail with abundant dips of all shapes and sizes, the Tundra TRD Pro was never disturbed. Road feel and steering response are excellent at highway speeds, and the shocks excel in these high-speed conditions by not allowing hectic cab motions or sensations that one or more tires are having trouble staying on the ground overwhelm the driver. In 2WD, you can generate all manner of immense V-8 wheelspin on demand, but the truck endures with a planted balance that leaves the impression you're always in control. We later discovered that under the elegant command of Baja racing luminary Ivan "Ironman" Stewart, the Tundra can power through deeper plunges -- ones we had gingerly crept in and out of on our run -- with a plusher than expected ride. If the truck was bottoming or topping out, it did a good job hiding it.
Compared to the Tundra, the 4Runner and Tacoma are a bit of a letdown, but are quite capable in their own rights. Part of the feeling boils down to the different courses Toyota used to show off the three vehicles: three tracks for three trucks. The Tacoma, which will also be sold as an extended or crew-cab and with its own TRD exhaust system, ran through a gravelly fire road before navigating what appeared to be a long-dried-up and narrow river bed; the 4Runner had a route with considerably more sharp rock edges and tail-dragging depressions to manage. While the Tacoma felt like it used the most of its TRD Pro potential and sent more of its suspension chatter into the cabin, the 4Runner was yawning at its lower-speed challenge. The eye-opener on the 4Runner was the Trail model-based interior, which is pretty nice nowadays. Both offer the steering and brake predictability and sensitivity you want for off-roading.
Furthermore, the 4Runner and Tacoma are similar at the component level. The exteriors are touched up with black badges, unique front grilles, and TRD alloys. Both sub in softer Eibach springs for the front axle, creating a 1-inch and 2-inch lift for the 4Runner and Taco, respectively. Bilstein 2.5-inch coilover monotube shocks contribute an extra inch of travel to both. The two retain their factory leaf and coil springs in the rear, bolstered by upgraded 2.0-inch shocks with remote reservoirs. Travel increases 1.5 inches out back for the Tacoma and 1 inch for the 4Runner. Tire selections are 265/70-16 (30.5s) BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KOs on the Taco and 265/70-17 (31.5s) Nitto Terra Grapplers on the 4Runner. Anti-roll bars and rubber bump stops are unchanged from their non-Pro counterparts for all three.
Tying the three TRD Pros together is the 3-year/36,000-mile factory warranty and the assertion that the large shocks will keep on going in harsh conditions where other OE dampers would fade away. Durability testing was carried out in California's vast southeastern desert. We heard that one day during desert testing the TRD team was advised by a local to not take their stock-looking vehicles through a difficult obstacle. They went anyway and made it.
There's tremendous anticipation surrounding the trio. Toyota plans to assemble just 7500 TRD Pro 4Runners, Tacomas, and Tundras for the 2015 model year, and last we heard, customer interest has been spectacular. If you're late to the game, you may be best off trying for a 4Runner. Projected demand for the Tacoma is running three times greater than expected supply, the Tundra is seeing about two raised hands for each truck, and the 4Runner is about where it's predicted to sell. But if all you really want are the individual suspension parts for your own 4Runner, Tacoma, or Tundra, you'll be able to order them over the dealer parts counter soon after the entire series is released this fall.
That's not what the Ironman will be doing, though. He'll take his future Tundra TRD Pro in black..
|2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro||2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro||2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro|
|BASE PRICE||$45,000 (est)|| $33,000 (est, Access Cab)|
$34,000 (est, Double Cab)
| $45,000 (est, Double Cab)|
$48,000 (est, CrewMax)
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, 4WD, 4- or 5-pass, 4-door truck||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||4.0L/270-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6||4.0L/236-hp*/266-lb-ft* DOHC 24-valve V-6||5.7L/381-hp*/401-lb-ft* DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||5-speed automatic||6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||4750 lb (est)||4100-4200 lb (mfr)||5650-5800 lb (mfr)|
|WHEELBASE||109.8 in||127.4 in||145.7 in|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||190.7 x 75.8 x 71.1 in (est)||208.1 x 74.6 x 72.1-72.3 in (est)||228.9 x 79.9 x 78.2-78.4 in (est)|
|0-60 MPH||7.6 sec (MT est)||7.0-7.5 sec (MT est)||6.7 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/21/18 mpg (est)||16/19-21/17-18 mpg (est)||13/17/15 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY/COMB||198/160/187 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)||211/160-177/187-198 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)||259/198/225 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.04 lb/mile (est)||1.08-1.13 lb/mile (est)||1.33 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Fall 2014||Fall 2014||Fall 2014|
|*Outputs without TRD exhaust|