Pedro Arrais review: Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro built for the backcountry

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Toyota has upped its game in the off-road department, with an upgraded suspension and a snout that has off-roaders talking about the 2019 Tacoma with the TRD Pro package.

Toyota is no stranger to trucks, and its rigs, properly equipped, can travel with the best of them off the beaten path.

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Its compact size also works in its favour on narrow trails.

While many serious off-roaders like to individualize their rides based on the terrain that they like to conquer, manufacturers sometimes offer an off-road package to help keep costs down.

I drove a 2019 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 with the optional TRD Pro package.

The package is not new, but this year Toyota tweaked the list of standard features.

The $13,495 package includes genuine off-road components that take it to the next level.

First off, they swapped out the Bilstein shock absorbers with a set from Fox. The company uses its experience in off-road racing to produce bypass shocks — shock absorbers that can handle the toughest terrain — and give a plush ride when back on the blacktop.

The 2.5-inch aluminum-bodied shocks — exclusive to TRD Pro — are individually tuned to a vehicle.

In the Tacoma, the front shocks have eight bypass zones, the rear have 11, both paired with two-inch reservoirs. They are paired with TRD-tuned springs that add an extra inch of front lift.

Just so you won’t mistake it for a more run-of-the-mill truck, the TRD Pro package includes a “heritage” grille in smoke grey and a good-looking — but fake — hood scoop.

If you are likely to take your new truck far off the beaten trail, insurance that you will come home comes in the form of a TRD front skidplate made of quarter-inch aluminum.

The Pro replaces the regular headlamps with LED headlights and accent lights, as well as Rigid Industries LED fog lights.

The regular alloy wheels have been replaced by new 18-inch BBS forged aluminum wheels, which reduce unsprung weight by 1.5 kilograms per wheel.

But the most audacious feature is a TRD Desert Air Intake that now sprouts out of the front fender.

Toyota says that its TRD engineers were thinking about the California desert, with its silt, sand, dust and dirt, when designing this appendage. Crossing the Mojave Desert means dust — and that can quickly strangle a normal off-roader.

It relocates the air intake out of the dust line and into clean air, allowing it to sustain consistent off-road performance no matter how silty or dirty the terrain gets.

Of course, they didn’t consider us on the Wet Coast during the intake’s inception. A warning label on the truck that I drove warned drivers not to take it through a car wash. I didn’t inquire what one would do should the snout (it does look like an elephant trunk) get plugged with snow.

Toyota wants to remind people that the Desert Air Intake is in no way meant for deep-water fording (of course we live in an area with rivers and other aquatic obstacles). You have been warned.

Under the hood lurks Toyota’s trusty 3.5-litre V-6, producing 278 horsepower and 265 foot-pounds of torque.

The engine is mated to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. If you choose the automatic, you get the benefit of four-wheel crawl control (especially appreciated when descending demanding steep grades).

With the wheel-crawl option engaged, all you need to do is steer the truck — the computer and sensors deftly apply all the necessary braking and throttle inputs so you can just enjoy the scenery.

Rounding out the equipment package is a selector for different terrain encountered, a rear differential lock, hill-start assist and trailer sway control, in case you bring other toys to the backcountry as well.

Keep in mind that the TRD Pro package isn’t available on the complete Tacoma line. The Tacoma comes in a number of configurations, starting with a 4x2 Access Cab.

My tester was the Double Cab version (four doors), which is available in either short- or long-box models.

The TRD Pro package is only available on the short-bed version, with a five-foot composite cargo bed.

Just because you live life when the pavement ends, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up creature comforts the rest of the time.

The Tacoma cabin is very well appointed, with leather seats and steering wheel. There is dual-zone climate control, a navigation system, a premium sound system, a sunroof and power rear sliding window.

My tester was also equipped with a blind-spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert (great for warning of approaching traffic when backing up out of a parking spot).

Due to its hefty premium, don’t expect to see too many TRD Pro Toyota Tacomas on the road. But you will know you saw a 2019 by its distinctive snorkel. If you do buy one, please drop a line to let me know how it fares after a winter on the Wet Coast.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Compact four-door (Double Cab) pickup, front engine, 4x4

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6, 278 hp at 6,000 r.p.m., 265 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,600 r.p.m.

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Dimensions (mm): Length, 5,392; width, 1,910; height, 1,793; wheelbase, 3,235

Curb weight (kg): 1,975

Price (base/as tested): $43,240/$58,695 (incl. $1,760 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: TRD Pro $13,495 (details in story)

Tires: 265/R16 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Regular

Fuel economy (L/100km): 13.2 city/ 10.7 hwy

Warranty: Three years/60,000 km new car and roadside assistance, five years/100,000 km powertrain

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