No doubt about it, the popularity of the Jeep Wrangler has made off-roading an American mainstay. However, it is not the only option for hardcore off-roaders. Heck, when the crew of TV’s “Top Gear” wanted to get to the North Pole, they chose the Toyota Hilux, known in our market as the Tacoma. It does not take a lot of effort to take a Tacoma from a mild-mannered vehicle best suited to a small contractor in the Home Depot parking lot to an all-in Ivan “Ironman” Stewart off-road rock crusher.
Some customers do not want to perform the transformation and would like the factory to do most of the work, and that is OK, because the Tacoma TRD PRO offers supreme off-road utility in a package that still leaves plenty of room for aftermarket customization and improvement. However, all the basics are covered. If you want to go extreme in a pickup, this would be the foundation to start with.
Toyota has the looks down. Our tester flexed a cement-gray paint job that looked downright menacing when paired with the massive Toyota front grille and hood scoop. Looking underneath the truck, you see the TRD skid plate, which should make parking blocks shudder in fear. Rounding out the front end are Rigid Industries fog lights that look like a hybrid factory/custom installation. Finally, the pieces de resistance are the 16” TRD black alloy wheels. They look the part, but anyone seeking an even more-menacing look and more off-road prowess will consider bigger tires.
The TRD PRO doesn’t offer any extra power on the TRD PRO, but the 3.5 liter V6 coupled with the six-speed automatic transmission is bulletproof. Plus, the hood scoop for this model screams performance, even if it does not flex any additional power. Hardcore off-roaders will be pleased to find specific FOX Internal Bypass Shocks with rear remote reservoirs.
The interior features a dial where you can shift on the fly from two-wheel to four-wheel drive. If you really take the Tacoma into rough terrain, you can even lock the differentials and send power simultaneously to all four wheels simultaneously. A very cool feature for those who want to play with off-road electronics is the Toyota Multi Terrain Select. An additional dial on the roof for when you are moving less than 7 MPH lets you select Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, or Rock. The drivetrain computer will give the Tacoma recommended degrees of slip, wheelspin and brake application to traverse the crossing.
One cool addition from the factory is a GoPro mount right on the windshield! Of course, aftermarket mobile electronics retailers can also add video recorders that can record even when you are away from the truck to protect from theft.
Despite all the trail versatility of the Tacoma, only a backup camera is available from the factory. A good mobile electronics dealer can add additional cameras, especially if you are off-roading without a spotter.
The Toyota Entune system with its 7” touch screen works well, and the audio system is not bad. Two storage areas underneath the rear seats would be perfect for adding a small subwoofer system to supplement the truck’s audio system.
My other aftermarket suggestion would be to add electric running boards for easier access to the cab, especially if you shuttle children around. I found myself having to give my eight-year-old a boost every time she wanted to get in or out; there are no grab handles. AMP Research makes a wonderful kit that can help kids and significant others less annoyed about your “toy purchase!”
The Tacoma TRD PRO is among the best pickup truck choices out there if you are serious about hitting the trail. It has a size and price point that are both less than the Ford Raptor. Its most common competitor would be a Chevy Colorado ZR2, which is offered in diesel. Both would be worthy for playing rough outdoors – but only the Toyota has driven to the North Pole!