So much buzz went on when Toyota first announced in Feb. 2014 that they will be launching a trio of off-road vehicles that will cater to novice and expert trail junkies. Typically, the SUV and truck segment of the automotive industry is heavily dominated by domestic vehicles. With this announcement, it reawakened the off-road gods and goddesses as well as stints from Baja 500 and 1000 endurance races; Toyota showed off the TRD Pro vehicles – the TRD Pro Tundra, TRD Pro Tacoma and TRD Pro 4Runner.
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is an in-house hop-up / tuning shop for Toyota, Lexus and more recently Scion vehicles. TRD accessories and upgrades are readily available to update a common Toyota vehicle with performance enhancements such as supercharger, big brake kits, and suspension components. In recent years, it seemed that Toyota had concentrated its efforts to promote TRD components for the new sport compact baby – the Toyota GT 86 / Scion FR-S. With the introduction of the TRD Pro vehicles, Toyota encourages an enthusiast to kick some dirt and be ready to discover uncharted places.
With the current media demand, it took some time to get a hold of at least one vehicle from the TRD Pro fleet. It seemed like everyone wanted to get the first crack on how these vehicles performed on and off-road. Tagged with the phrase, “Let’s Get Dirty!” while aligning with the summer season, everyone in the industry wanted to put these pre-production babies to the test. Luckily, the team was able to get a hold and go Behind-the-Wheel of the 2015 TRD Pro 4Runner.
The 2015 TRD Pro Series trucks only comes in 3 color pallets – Black, Super White and the all-new exclusive color Inferno. “It is the most-advanced yet in a long line of TRD packages for Toyota trucks that dates back to 1998 when the first off-road package was introduced for the Tacoma.”
The Super White TRD Pro 4Runner does have that intimidating front end and exterior. It seemed to be really bold and unconventional which could be a love it or hate it affair. Some said it looked like a Star Wars Stormtrooper or as one DaYUUM Instagram (@instaDaYUUM) follower chimed in and said it looked like Bane from Dark Knight. However, it just slowly grows on you – as you get to appreciate the lines and overall outlook. Also, the TRD Pro Series fleet are the only trucks that rock the unique front grille “TOYOTA” badge that pays tribute to iconic models such as the FJ40 and FJ Cruiser. Additional blacked out TRD Pro emblems can be found on the side panels showing people this isn’t an ordinary family hauler. While on the rear end, you can hardly notice any distinguishable accessory aside from the blacked out lower bumper accent piece that differentiated it from an ordinary 2015 4Runner.
To get a good feel of the TRD Pro 4Runner enhancements, the vehicle needed to be evaluated on and off-road. Surprisingly, the truck was very comfortable to drive through the city streets and highway speeds. Cracks, bumps, dips or any on-road imperfections were all trampled by the TRD Pro Series 4Runner. Weaving through traffic isn’t its forte due to its width and length, however it is more than capable with the use of its 270-horsepower / 278-lb-ft of torque 4.0-liter V6 (1GR-FE) engine coupled with a 5-speed automatic transmission.
The team decided to dust up the truck so we took it to Cleghorn Ridge Trails off the I-15 and 138. Joining in for the run, we also took a 2013 Tacoma Pre-runner (TRD Package) as well as the 2013 Trail Team Edition FJ Cruiser.
Inside the 4Runner, premium convenience was incorporated to satisfy the driver and passenger. Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite, the Black SofTex-trimmed seats with red stitching, TRD shift knob and TRD floor mats were included in the TRD Pro 4Runner package.
Even before arriving at the trail I was already impressed with the ride of the TRD Pro 4Runner. It wasn’t too stiff but just enough for the daily travel. I was more impressed as we took the truck to the trail – with how the TRD Pro 4Runner conformed with the rough terrain that Cleghorn trail served us. The TRD-Tuned Front Springs gave the truck a 1.5 inch front lift. This unique tuning provided decreased spring rate improving ride quality over the rough or harsh terrain. The front shocks also have a 1.0 inch of additional wheel travel and improved approached angle. It used 60 mm pistons and 18 mm shafts as opposed to the 32 mm piston vs 12 mm OE shock counterpart. The rear also provided a 1.0 inch of additional wheel travel. The addition of the remote reservoirs increased the oil capacity for efficient heat management and for more controlled suspension articulation. These were also beefed up with 46 mm shock piston which was 14 mm bigger than the OE shock piston.
As we arrived at the trail, we also found some Jeep Rubicon owners getting ready to trail as well. I am sure that these trucks are more that capable to rock crawl as well –seeing their beefed up long travel suspension and bead-locked wheels.
With its trail stands dialed in, the 17 inch matte black TRD alloy wheels wrapped with Nitto Terra Grappler tires (P265/70/17) were great complements for the suspension upgrade. The Nitto Terra Grappler tires were to my surprise quiet and nimble both in highway and trailing speeds. Also, protecting the front end of the vehicle is a quarter of an inch thick aluminum “TRD” stamped front skid plate with venting for the front differential.
Some may recognize the 2013 Trail Team Edition FJ Cruiser as this was also featured in one of our Behind the Wheel post – Now comes equipped with an audio upgrade from OEM Audio+ as well as a few exterior and lighting pieces from Metaltech, Rugged Ridge. Warn, DigiDiodes and Fourtreks.
There is an outpour of eagerness for the launch of the TRD Pro vehicles in the market. It is anticipated that give or take only 7500 units total will be released for the TRD Pro trio. Rumor has it that if you aren’t on a waiting list for the Tundra or Taco you might be the unlucky one who will not get a unit. However you may have a greater chance of getting the TRD Pro 4Runner that is due to be released next month September 2014. With what I have experienced during the few days driving this vehicle, you will not be disappointed. Be ready though to cough up that gas card as it gulps quite a bit- averaging 17.5 mpg on regular gas. Who buys an SUV for its gas mileage anyways???. With its menacing looks and stance, I really liked it a lot to the point that I was having separation anxiety as I gave back the keys. Overall, the highlight of this vehicle is the great engineering put in the suspension components / assembly straight from Toyota with factory warranty. The vehicle stayed composed on turns and rough surfaces at various speeds. It was a good balance that catered both On and Off-road duties. What did I expect from a well-engineered, tested and tuned vehicle from the experts of Toyota Racing Development (TRD)? Nothing less than exceptional. So let’s dust it up going places and “Let’s get Dirty!”
Until the next one…. Peace!