Toyota amps up TRD with Pro Series

Toyota has a well-earned reputation for high quality and building vehicles that seem unbreakable. But until the company scion Akio Toyoda, an executive that drives as hard on a track as he does in the office rolled up his sleeves, the automaker’s culture of repeatable durability seemed to prohibit building any fun into its product lineup. That’s changed, and for proof, the TRD badge and tuning treatment is putting a real edge on a variety of Toyota offerings. Okay, there’s not a Prius TRD yet, but there is an Avalon TRD and it looks pretty sick in teen slang.
Tuning Pickups

The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) came to our shores in 1979 to support Toyota’s racing program and provide authorized performance parts for enthusiasts. Then in 1997, the TRD logo appeared on the rear flanks of mid-size Tacoma pickup models with the fun bits and pieces as part of a new model offering. The youthful staff in Toyota’s engineering group won over the marketing team when they showed how performance helped blacken the bottom line. Soon the big Tundra pickup had TRD parts and badges and it was off to the races.

Unlike performance badged offerings like Mercedes AMG and BMW’s M where engines get big horsepower tweaks, TRD spends less time under the hood and more time modifying suspension and brake systems. We recently evaluated two TRD Pro offerings, a Tacoma pickup along with a 4Runner, a rugged SUV that builds its rugged persona from body-over-frame Tacoma roots. From FOX shocks, stouter springs and thicker stabilizer bars to bigger brakes, both were trail ready. Yet both were not unpleasant to drive on paved roads if the journey wasn’t crossing state lines.

Looks That Kill

Toyota clearly isn’t trying to build a racecar for street use. If that was their wish, they certainly have the knowhow, since they produce winning cars and trucks in motorsports competition from NASCAR to NHRA, off-road and even drifting. So instead of bolting on superchargers, they turn shiny bits to black, install fun, functional gear like our truck’s desert air intake, skid plates and a deepthroated, flow-through exhaust system. The admiration from the enthusiast public helped justify the impressive MSRP of these fun rides.

I’m not sure how many buyers choose between a pickup, with its cargo hauling capability, or a similar chassis and powertrain underneath an SUV. In the case of Tacoma vs 4Runner TRD Pro models, there’s not much of a price difference. Our Tacoma retailed for $48,413 while the 4Runner was $52,147. Both prices include freight but not tax or dealership wrangling and either will take you wherever you need to go.

THE FINE PRINT

2020 Tacoma TRD Pro

TYPE:  Front engine, all-wheel-drive

ENGINE:  4.0-liter V6

HORSEPOWER:  278 @ 6,000-RPM

TORQUE:  265 lb.ft. @ 4,600-RPM

BASE PRICE: $45,565

PRICE AS TESTED:  $48,413

FUEL CONSUMPTION:  

18-city, 22-hwy, 20-comb.

THE FINE PRINT

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

TYPE:  Front engine, all-wheel-drive

ENGINE:  4.0-liter V6

HORSEPOWER:  2701 @ 5,600-RPM

TORQUE:  278 lb.ft. @ 4,400-RPM

BASE PRICE: $48,765

PRICE AS TESTED:  $52,147

FUEL CONSUMPTION:  

16-city, 19-hwy, 17-comb.