2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro First Test
One More Trick for an Old Desert Rat
"You should drive in four-wheel drive for at least 10 miles (16 km) each month. This will assure that the front-drive components are lubricated."
Sure thing, whoever was responsible for wording these instructions in the 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro's owner's manual. Ten whole miles.
Yours truly was the first of this publication's staff at the Tacoma's helm for an off-road venue outside Las Vegas' city limits. Next, I accompanied Nate Martinez on his unforgettable drive from the northernmost edge of Baja California, Mexico, to its tip at Cabo San Lucas with the complete TRD Pro lineup along for the ride. (It's the same setting where some truck-ruining race called the Baja 1000 is staged.) Then I wandered into the California desert in a third Taco TRD Pro until I no longer recognized where I was. Can you ever have enough off-roading in a single month?
Of course not.
For a starting price of $37,320, a TRD Pro crew cab (Double Cab in Toyota's lexicon) with a six-speed manual transmission can be yours. Our orange-red Inferno-painted truck adds a $980 five-speed automatic, $550 tow receiver hitch, and $45 mini tie-down loop, settling the tab at $38,895. Many man-hours went into tuning the suspension, but one bill and some change short of $39K is a lot to take in for a truck approaching 10 years of age.
Now, Toyota knows the Tacoma TRD Pro buyer will be fixated on the truck's off-road appetite -- the limited-production model was introduced this year to sit over the TRD Off-Road Package and sort of pick up where the TRD T|X Baja Series left off -- even if the owner's off-pavement schedule ranges from infrequent to once in a blue moon. Market research data suggests midsize truck buyers aren't off-roading with any semblance of regularity. Most people don't have time to venture off asphalt and concrete every Saturday and Sunday. They'd have to keep replacement tires in mind too, as the fickle nature of driving in nature is often unkind to the rubber. The factory BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KOs (265/70R16) were running at $230 a pop on tirerack.com last we checked. No wonder most of the vehicles we see out on the trails are ancient compared to this Tacoma.
Hence, the truck has to perform on paved roads. We began at the track. With 0-60 mph and quarter-mile acceleration times of 7.7 and 16.1 seconds (the latter with a trap of 84.7 mph), the Tacoma TRD Pro is a few clicks off the pace of a comparably appointed 2012 TRD T|X Baja Series (7.6, 16.0). The 60-0 braking distance of 143 feet is predictable for a truck shod in all-terrain tires (the TRD T|X Baja Series fared a little better at 139). Limit handling? The average lateral acceleration of 0.69 g and figure-eight time of 29.5 seconds relay precisely what everyone knows about the truck already. Testing director Kim Reynolds, whose steering inputs were faster than the truck's hydraulic power steering assist could cope with during the figure-eight's cornering sections, says: "It seems way more oriented for off-roading. The exposed suspension bits are a visual telltale."
The suspension Reynolds refers to is rather impressive. The front end is raised 1.75 inches with softer TRD coil springs and special Bilstein shock absorbers with 60mm damping pistons (67-88 percent bigger), and 18mm rods (50 percent bigger) yield an extra 0.75 inch of wheel travel. The taller ride height also improves the approach angle by 2.8 degrees to 37.8 degrees, tops among the TRD Pro trio. The live axle, leaf-sprung rear is supported by Bilstein shocks with 46mm internal pistons (28-53 percent bigger) and remote reservoirs, netting 1.5 inches more travel. Ground clearance, measured at the rear differential, holds at 9.3 inches. One of the main TRD Pro goals was to boost shock fade resistance, critical for when negotiating rough, broken-up surfaces.
On the massive gray and black slabs that make up America's transportation infrastructure, the Tacoma TRD Pro drives and handles how we imagine the 2005 Tacoma, which won our Truck of the Year, did. A low H-point forces the driver's knees a tad higher than desired. The steering effort is on the light end for a truck, but true to its older truck roots, it becomes noticeably and temporarily heavy when the steering wheel passes true center during parallel parking maneuvers. The truck eagerly gets off the line when you punch the gas, a fine attribute to have on- and off-road. I'd tell you what the truck's miles per gallon readout showed after driving the truck all over the place if it had such a display. It achieved 18/19/18 Real MPG city/highway/combined.
Generally speaking, the road manners aren't bad, especially if you've never driven the new Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon and have realistic dynamics expectations. At speed, the Taco's cab tends to bob like a wound-up off-roader, but we believe this is more a byproduct of the tires than any other part. Ride comfort hasn't historically been a strength for pickup trucks, although putting nearly 900 pounds in the Sheet-Molded Composite box smooths out this dust devil significantly.
There I go, concerning myself with trifling details like road comfort. The truth is Tacoma TRD Pro buyers and fans needn't worry that the five-speed automatic is just passable for street duty (because you can still use the lower gears off-road), that the interior is timeworn (the off-road path is beyond the windshield), or that the TRD cat-back exhaust drowns out conversations on the highway (it's a wildlife/child deterrent when off-road). The truck may not have the sheer open-terrain running ability of the 4Runner or Tundra TRD Pros, but it's still highly capable, even if the low-hanging splash guards make me nervous. And the times I bottomed the front end and dragged the hitch receiver on a descent (separate incidents) were cases of driver misreading the conditions; I can't blame the truck.
It's out in the remoteness, out in the never-ending rocks, shrubs, and brown where you only run into the random dirt bike trekker, that the thought grips you. "OK, the nav interface looks as old as the rest of the cabin, and it's telling me I'm not near any known road. But this truck is alright out here."
|2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$38,895|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||4.0L/236-hp*/266-lb-ft* DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,357 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||208.1 x 74.6 x 72.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.1 sec @ 84.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||143 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.69 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.5 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG CITY/HWY/COMB||18/19/18 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/21/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||211/160 kW-hrs/100 miles**|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.08 lb/mile**|
| *Output without TRD exhaust |
**Derived from EPA estimates