2017 Toyota Tacoma
Midsize pickup with real off-road credentials
Good looking, capable, durable, easy to drive and park
Expensive, lacks power
Value for money
Excellent — residual values among best
What would I change?
Engine, available options, price
How I would spec it?
Double cab Limited
A full-size Toyota Tundra with four doors, four-wheel drive and a powerful V8 engine costs about $46,600 new in SR5 trim. The cost rises to $50,600 for the more rugged TRD Pro off-road package. So how in the world can the smaller, less powerful, less spacious special edition 2017 TRD Pro Tacoma command a sticker price of $53,400? How can this beautifully hued Taco cost more than its bigger sibling — and about $15,000 more than a similar Tacoma without TRD gear?
Don’t get me wrong, the Tacoma is a fantastic midsize truck, the absolute best for retained value, loved by legions of hikers and snowboarders for its durability, amazing reliability and “just right” size. It’s as easy to negotiate between urban hockey rinks as swampy logging roads, even if the Tacoma does have a tendency to drink too much. Superstars always come with eccentricities, I guess.
No doubt, the new Tacoma TRD Pro looks head and shoulders better than any other version. It’s a genuine bull among the cows, replete with bulging hood accented in matte black, a Toyota heritage grille, black wheels, plenty of TRD badging, a beefy skid plate and Rigid Industries LED fog lights. TRD-tuned springs, a TRD remote reservoir suspension kit, Bilstein shocks in front and rear, and leaf springs in the rear complete the package. Every teenager who saw our test unit adored it. In Cement Grey, it’s truly unique. But are appearances and a suspension upgrade worth such a hefty premium?
Unfortunately, the Tacoma TRD Pro only comes with a box that’s five feet long, which some might find a little short – especially those who hunt moose, elk or other big game. Carrying a snowmobile or ATV would be uncomfortable with such a short deck, and carrying eight-foot lumber or plywood leaves a lot hanging out the back, even if the payload is a respectable 1,175 pounds. And 4×8 sheets of anything won’t fit between the wheel wells, although the composite deck does have four indents to accept two, 2x6s that will support 4×8 sheets above the wheel wells. It’s hard to understand why Toyota doesn’t offer the six-foot-long box in the TRD Pro when regular Tacomas come that way, and why it doesn’t open the wheel wells only a little to gain four feet between them.
At least the tailgate is damped liked the Tundra. It’s also lockable and reinforced. A folding bed cover is now available, and a 120-volt outlet is included along with a backup camera as standard, although LED box lamps aren’t an option. Trailer wiring ports are housed in the bumper. And, for the first time, here is a Tacoma that comes with a power sliding rear window, though it would have been way cooler if the entire back window powered down like it does in the Tundra.
On the road, our Pro was louder than expected, with an excess of road noise coming from the rear seat area. On the highway, I thought I left a window open. When my wife drove it to the grocery store, and I asked what she thought; her first comment was “it’s loud.” Although she found the smaller size easier to park, she, like me, sat too low and, frustratingly, there was no way to raise the leather-clad seat.
Noise also protruded from the engine bay, where the 3.5-litre V6 had to work hard to produce decent acceleration. Standing on the gas pedal will herald 278 horsepower from the Atkinson-cycle engine, causing it to flip from fuel-saving mode to full power, but the transition is a little lumpy and the reward isn’t altogether exciting. Throttle response in the midrange is even more of a disappointment. While the engine is both port- and direct-injected, it needs more than 265 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,600 rpm.
Fuel consumption was decent, though, registering 12.9 L/100 km in a mix of 70 per cent highway driving, and ranges of 600 kilometres between tanks. The six-speed automatic worked flawlessly; a six-speed manual is available. The manual, however, doesn’t get crawl control, multi-terrain select or a push-button start with keyless entry. Both transmissions get a lockable rear differential, though. The brakes felt excellent.
The TRD Pro suspension, while built to handle serious abuse, could also use some fiddling. While the ride is perfectly suited for rocky roads, able to absorb beat-up terrain, its composure on city streets can leave passengers questioning the ride quality, feeling a tad hard or stiff over broken pavement. Perhaps that’s the nature of the TRD suspension, but the 4Runner TRD Pro doesn’t suffer from the same affliction, although the two share similar suspension bits.
Inside, the interior is attractive and decently designed, with good instrumentation. A 4.2-inch colour screen between the central gauges will display the speed digitally, as well as show the tire pressure of each tire and other useful info. A seven-inch touchscreen controls the audio and navigation. The Pro forgoes a sunroof but headroom is plentiful. The 4WD button is electronic and on the small side, feeling somewhat cheap in a cluster of otherwise better-sourced materials. The stereo volume knob is too small for my fat fingers, but the steering wheel is excellent (though not heated).
Rear seat leg room is tight when the seats are moved back, and storage, generally, is on the lean side. The rear seat bases do flip up for storage, though, revealing a handy cubby to stow straps and such. Interior lighting is average, but blind-spot monitoring is a welcome bit of safety in a truck that seems about $10,000 overpriced for what you get.
Type of vehicle
Five-passenger midsize pickup
3.5L Atkinson-cycle V6
278 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 265 lb.-ft. @ 4,600 rpm
Front discs, rear drums; ABS
Price: Base / As Tested
Natural Resources Canada Fuel Economy
(L/100km) 13.2 city, 10.7 hwy; 12 combined
Active traction control, crawl control, rear differential lock, one touch 4WD, power door locks, keyless entry, power windows, sliding rear window, variable intermittent wipers, 2.2-inch info display, 7-inch audio display, Bluetooth, six speakers, advanced voice recognition, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, air conditioning, backup camera, composite bed with tie-downs, power-adjustable heated mirrors, interior GoPro camera mount, easy-lowering tailgate, 16-inch aluminum wheels, stainless steel exhaust and more
TRD Pro stainless steel exhaust, Bilstein shock absorbers, TRD remote reservoir suspension kit, TRD-tuned front coil springs, TRD-tuned rear leaf springs, TRD 16-inch black alloy wheels, blind-spot monitor system w/RCTA, black TRD Pro Leather seats, TRD skid plate, TRD badging, hood scoop, heritage front grille, TRD Pro shift knob, Rigid Industries LED fog lamps, black bezel headlamps and tail lamps