It looks like the Ford Raptor might actually just have a rival after all. Except, instead of coming from across town at General Motors like most would expect, it’s coming from Toyota. And on paper, it’s not even in the same league. Because the Raptor’s spiritual competitor isn’t found in the Tundra, it’s found in the new Tacoma TRD-Pro.
The former TRD-Pro package for the Tacoma, although competent, was little more than some factory rummaging in the TRD parts bin. Whereas the Ford Raptor is aggressively built from the bottom up as an off-road performance truck, the Tacoma was definitely a Tacoma first and rock-crawler second. But for 2017, it appears to have taken a few more pages out of the Ford playbook.
Toyota has installed some Fox 2.5 internal bypass coilover shocks up front, and the same Fox 2.5 shocks in back with new off-road oriented leaf springs. Toyota says they’ve improved bottom-out resistance and travel. It boasts a one-inch lift over the regular factory Tacoma, and gets a ¼-inch aluminum skidplate just in case.
Its 16-inch TRD black alloy wheels are wrapped in Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Kevlar-reinforced rubber, and the whole truck is built on a Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4×4 Double Cab Short Bed model. It comes with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, and the Tacoma’s 3.5-Liter V6 direct-injection Atkinson-cycle engine stays untouched.
For good measure, Toyota adds the heritage-inspired “TOYOTA” front grille, Rigid Industries LED fog lights, and the buyer’s choice of color so long as it’s Cement, Barcelona Red Metallic, or Super White.
Toyota also added Active Traction Control for the TRD-Pro only, a 4WD traction control system that uses the four-channel ABS system to control power flow to the front and rear wheels, all without cutting throttle input, the company said.
Of course, like all other new Tacomas, the TRD-Pro will include a GoPro mount on the windshield. You also get Toyota’s Entune audio and navigation system, fancy leather-trimmed “TRD”-stamped seats, and Toyota’s Crawl Control that’ll help you get of the mud, sand, or snow that you’ll inevitably be stuck in.
It might not be a true Raptor rival — it has 270 horsepower to the Ford’s 450 and is markedly smaller — but the Raptor, for all its strengths, is difficult to live with in urban settings when you’re not romping in the wilderness.The Tacoma is smaller, and its less rugged demeanor makes it a better cohabitant for paved roads and day-to-day commuting. It might offer less than your average American Joe wants in a truck, but doesn’t offer more than you need. It might just be the ideal truck for the casual weekend warrior.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS