When Toyota introduced the first TRD performance package on the 1998 Tacoma, it laid the groundwork for one of the most successful in-house tuner operations in the industry. Netting over $23 million in sales last year, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has swiftly become a household name among off-road performance enthusiasts. Fully leveraging this brand equity are the new TRD Pro Series models set to debut this fall for the 2015 Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner.
Each suspension system was fine-tuned for each model with the knowledge gained from Toyota's extensive experience in the Baja 500 and 1000 endurance races. Common features across all three nameplates include TRD springs, Bilstein shock absorbers with external reservoirs, black wheels, a TRD shift knob, and a blacked-out front grille emblazoned with an FJ-40-inspired Toyota logo. Exterior color choices are limited to white, black, and a new Inferno red. As for proprietary equipment, the 4Runner and Tundra come fitted with a reinforced aluminum skid plate, while the Tacoma and Tundra feature a TRD exhaust system that adds about ten horsepower.
Toyota also provided us the opportunity to test each model on a series of mid-to-high-speed trails located roughly twenty miles outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Here's the takeaway after a few hours of seat time.
On The Road Less Traveled
Having spent a great deal of time behind the wheel of aftermarket-tuned trucks and SUVs, we've come to wholly appreciate the engineering refinement and attention to detail found in specialty production vehicles. Modifying trucks for off-road duty is an arduous process of trial and error. And if you're not an experienced retrofitter, the end result is often regressive. The principal draw of such vehicles as the TRD Pro Series is the peace of mind that comes from purchasing pre-installed componentry backed by hundreds of hours of professional research and development. Simply put, the TRD Pro Series models are ready for serious off-roading right out of the box.
Not once did the Tundra, Tacoma, or 4Runner feel unbalanced or out of shape during our test runs. Power slides were predictable with just the right amount of body lean for quick recoveries. The 4Runner stood out the most on the washboard fire roads leading up to the trailhead, where it soaked up small bumps and ruts with aplomb. The Tundra and Tacoma felt relatively composed on choppy dirt roads as well, but couldn't match the 4Runner in terms of sheer ride comfort. And, as it turns out, the TRD/Bilstein suspensions can also tackle small jumps without bottoming out. But perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of each model has to do with its on-road demeanor. Thanks to long-travel suspension, decreased spring rate, and larger tires, TRD Pro Series vehicles deliver the smoothest ride in their respective product lineups.
It's also worth noting that owners of current-generation Tacoma, Tundra, or 4Runner, can purchase every TRD Pro Series component through your local Toyota dealership. Official pricing for the TRD Pro Series and individual parts will be announced closer to their release date.
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