CHATHAM, Mass. – Toyota has dominated the mid-size pickup truck market for the better part of two decades including 14 consecutive years of its Tacoma ranking first in sales in this segment.
The Japanese automaker, which now calls Plano, Texas its U.S. home, refuses to rest on its mid-size laurels, offering the third-generation Tacoma in 32 configurations in six model grades including (to quote Toyota): “work-ready SR; high-style, high-value SR5; athletic TRD Sport; adventurous TRD Off-Road; ultimate off-road TRD Pro; and top-of-the-line Limited.”
Our journey was in the 2020 Tacoma TRD Pro, which as stated, was configured for off roading but provided us with daily transportation around the various roadways – pavement, gravel, dirt and sand – of New England. Its 9.4-inch ground clearance was never seriously challenged by any terrain we encountered, but it is comforting to know you have it whether for off-roading or even navigating through snow (a much more common New England obstacle).
Turning the Tacoma into an off-road beast
Toyota’s Racing Development (TRD) folks worked their magic on this model, both in its dynamics and looks. New for 2020 are sequential LED/DRL (daytime running lights) headlamps, 16-inch wheel design, black-insert taillamps and Rigid Industries LED fog lights.
Army Green is the TRD Pro exclusive color for 2020, which will be offered along with Super White, Midnight Black Metallic and Magnetic Gray Metallic, which was on the one we drove.
Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Makes a Big Statement
The TRD-Pro continues its hardcore capability thanks to continued tuning upgrades of the suspension (the Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shock absorbers as well as the front and rear springs) partially brought on by those new wheels, which are 4.188-pounds lighter than previous ones. The new wheels wear Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires.
The Tacoma TRD Pro comes standard with Toyota’s 4WDemand part-time four-wheel drive with an electronically controlled transfer case and an electronically controlled locking rear differential. Automatic transmission equipped Tacomas reinforce off-road capability and driver confidence with Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), Multi-terrain Select, and Crawl Control.
Safety and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)
All Tacoma models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beams.
The blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert systems are wonderfully helpful in any vehicle, but especially so for a pickup truck. These systems, coupled with Panoramic View Monitor (PVM)+Multi Terrain Monitor (MTM) camera system showing rear and 360° views, make reversing out of parking spots much safer and less stressful.
The multi-view camera system, which allows the driver can select front, side, or rear views for improved visibility at low speeds, can even add a unique feature for off-roading: when the going really gets rough, under vehicle terrain view can help the driver avoid potential unseen obstacles.
An interior providing comfort and convenience on and off road
Though not a luxury vehicle in the true sense of the term, the Tacoma TRD-Pro does provide an abundance of luxury features.
A new for 2020 eight-inch color touchscreen provides the camera systems’ views as well as control for various vehicle and the infotainment systems. The latter includes AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/streaming audio playing through a JBL premium audio system with six speakers, subwoofer and amplifier.
The touchscreen is supplemented by rotary knobs and buttons, as well as an excellent voice-activation system. The voice-activation is especially handy in conjunction with the standard navigation system.
Mobile devices can be charged through either the front and rear USB ports or the standard wireless charging pad.
The leather covered seats are heated in the front and the driver’s has 10-way power adjustment (including two-way lumbar-support). For added convenience, Smart Key functionality now extends to the front passenger door.
A standard power moonroof adds to the luxury touches provided in the TRD-Pro model.
The power of six – cylinders
Powering the TRD-Pro is a 3.5-liter V6 engine providing 278 horsepower and 265 pounds-feet of torque. I never felt at a loss for power, regardless of the driving situation. Pickup was smooth and strong, both from stoplights, in traffic and in merging from highway on ramps.
A six-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the two-speed electronically controlled transfer case.
Stopping the Tacoma are 10.75-inch ventilated discs up front and 10-inch drums at the rear, ably assisted by the Toyota Star Safety System, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop brake override technology (SST).
Thanks to all of the luxury features, ADAS and overall thoughtful design elements, daily driving in the Tacoma TRD-Pro was a pleasure. Even though the truck was set up for serious off-roading and was never filled to capacity (which can significantly and positively transform a pickup-truck’s ride behavior), the Toyota rode reasonably well regardless of the road’s condition.
A surprising plus was the fuel economy. We averaged close to 21 miles per gallon, just above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 20 mpg combined (city/highway) rating. The EPA rates the TRD-Pro at 18 mpg city/22 mpg highway and my driving is more closely related the city cycle, so the 20 mpg we saw was a nice surprise.
I mentioned the Tacoma comes can be had in some 32 configurations. The TRD-Pro is the four-door Double Cab with 127.4-inch wheelbase and 60.5-inch pickup bed. Other configurations might use the two door Access Cab, 140.6-inch wheelbase and 73.7-inch bed. Two- and four-wheel drive options exist throughout the range.
Like its full-size big brother Tundra, Toyota designs and builds its pickup trucks in the U.S., the world’s hottest pickup-truck market.
Pricing begins at $26,050 for the SR extending up to the TRD-Pro’s $46,665. Every feature discussed here, plus the hard-earned Toyota reputation for producing quality products, is included in this price.
Finding the right mid-size pickup truck for any need -whether for work or play or both or simply for everyday transportation – is easy within the Tacoma range.