2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Review

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Review

2020 was another year of sales domination for the Toyota Tacoma, outselling its nearest
rival (the Ford Ranger) by more than double. Toyota overhauled the truck back in 2016
and has offered a few slight updates since then, but this is definitely not the newest or
most advanced midsize truck on the market. So why does it sell so well? We borrowed
a 2021 Tacoma TRD Pro to answer that exact question.

Our test truck came outfitted with the 3.5-litre V6 making 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, sent through a six-speed manual transmission (six-speed auto is available).Toyota doesn’t reserve the do-it-yourself gearbox for the base models either, allowing even the TRD Pro customer to have one. This makes the most fun version of Toyota’s small pickup even more engaging to drive, as the manual rewards the driver with fairly short throws and notch gates that feel great when shifting.

Fuel economy is a strange misstep for the manual Tacoma though, as the truck is rated
at 17 mpg (13.8L/100 km) in the city and 20 (11.7L/100 km) on the highway while the
automatic-transmission version is good for 18 mpg (13L/100 km) in the city and 23 (10L/100 km) on the highway.

So what makes the TRD Pro so fun? It all starts with suspension. A set of 2.5-inch FOX
internal bypass shocks has been added in the front and rear while the springs have all
been tuned by TRD. This comes together to allow this small Tacoma to fly over off-road
obstacles, while still providing a good on-road ride. Skid plates, a set of black alloy
wheels, Rigid Industries fog lights and interior stitching complete the package, making
sure that the truck looks the part as well.

Hitting our local forest trails, the Tacoma immediately showed us its biggest advantage
off-road: size and weight. This midsize is small and it feels like it could fit down just about any trail. Overall width is 75.2-inches, height is 71.6 inches, while curb weight hits 4,445 pounds (surprisingly the Tacoma is 20 pounds heavier with the manual than with the automatic). Nimble is the best word for the Tacoma as you head into the wilderness, with the truck feeling light on its feet.

Opting for the manual takes away two of Toyota’s off-road drive systems: multi-terrain select and Crawl Control. The first allows you to choose from different modes, each tailored to a specific situation, while the latter system is off-road cruise control. Both work well, but I must say that off-roading in a manual is a little more rewarding, and doing it yourself in this truck is easy. With a low-range ratio of 2.57:1, the truck creeps along in 4LO with tons of power available from your right foot.

While the 3.5-litre motivates the truck along well in the high rpm, the low-end still feels a little shallow, so putting the truck into low-range makes a huge difference.

Now let’s look at the off-road numbers. Opting for the TRD Pro brings along a 32-degree approach angle, 23.9-degree departure and a 26-degree breakover angle, and 9.4-
inches of ground clearance. These aren’t class leading, but are more than enough for
this TRD Pro to tackle a variety of off-road situations.

On the inside, the Tacoma still comes across fairly basic with a long horizontal plastic
dash, though it is packed with the latest in Toyota technology. Standard Safety Sense
means that this TRD Pro comes with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning,
and forward collision assist, among other things. Wireless cell phone charging is another
tech feature you’ll find in the Tacoma. On the topic of size, the truck’s trim dimensions
make it great for going off-road, but not ideal for passenger comfort.

The Tacoma’s back seat offers 32.6-inches of legroom, not much for a full-size adult.
Plus, the front seats in the Tacoma offer a strange seating position that has you
simultaneously sitting low to the floor of the truck, but because the floor is high to begin
with, also has you looking out the top section of the windshield if you stand anywhere
over six feet like me. It’s not a deal breaker for many buyers, but we recommend you test drive a Tacoma before you buy one, and make sure the seating position works for you.

When you do hit the highway, the Tacoma drives easily down the road, with our lone
complaint again being about the powertrain. This 3.5L doesn’t love to rev up from idle,
and yet you have to dig into the rpm before it delivers any serious power. So it constantly feels as though you’re pushing the accelerator close to the floor before the real power comes on. In everyday driving, the powertrain works well; this is just a characteristic that isn’t found in most of the V6s in the segment, and stands out in the Tacoma.

Steering has a strong on-centre feel with little play in it, another Toyota trait that is one
of the reasons the truck feels so good off-road. Especially when you’re moving at high
speeds, you want to feel that feedback and control in your hands at all times, and the
steering in the Tacoma delivers that.

The last pieces of the Tacoma puzzle are reliability and resale value. For the first one, all
we can say is that the Taco has a stellar reputation for lasting forever, but the second is
quantifiable. According to Canadian Black Book, the Tacoma has held the best resale
value in Canada for 11 years in a row.

When you combine the truck’s fun-to-drive nature with its penchant for lasting forever
and holding its value, it’s no wonder why Canadians are so fond of the Tacoma TRD
Pro. Tacoma starts at $38K in Canada, but opting for a TRD Pro pushes the price up
closer to $56,000.

With the new Ford Ranger nipping at its heels and new versions of GM’s midsize
pickups due out soon, it will be interesting to watch Toyota and see if they respond to
new pressures from the market.