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'24 Tacoma TRD Pro and Trailhunter (pictured below) have off-roading chops for overlanding and rock crawling.

2024 Toyota Tacoma Comes in Off-Road Flavors

The 2024 all-new Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Trailhunter trims look to help maintain Tacoma’s leadership in the midsize truck category.

The biggest deterrent to owning a midsize truck these days is the relentless jounce and head sway from a stiff body-on-frame chassis. And unless there are retracting running boards to help the egress, I’m out.

Fortunately, Toyota has solved some of those objections with its all-new Tacoma, especially with its TRD Pro and Trailhunter trims.

In the TRD Pro trim, the truck is equipped with about the coolest seats on which I have ever rested my rump. There are two red shocks on the back of the front seats, and they even have pressure gauges. Whether on the roads around San Diego, or the off-roading course Toyota has invited us to traverse, it just doesn’t feel overly truck-ish with tiring on-road manners to go with brawny, utilitarian off-road performance. It certainly bests the previous Tacoma TRD, as well as competing trims of the Ford Ranger or Chevy Colorado.

Then, a Toyota engineer who is in the passenger seat with me directs me to an incline on the course and urges me to take the crest of the hill at 40 mph (64 km/h). “Why? “To go airborne,” he says. “Come again?” I say. I put some trust in him like he is Sully Sullenberger teaching me to fly, and off we go.

The truck indeed launches, about two feet in the air, and comes back down to earth like it was landing in its mother’s arms. How? Each oil-filled seat shock absorber (pictured, below) has a pressurized air reservoir that adjusts for horizontal and vertical movement, we are told. Those butt shocks even have a hand-operated air pump that allows you to set air pressure for each one. How much to set? Well, Toyota has a handy-dandy app in which you put in the weight of the passengers and the seriousness of the off-roading, and it tells you where to set it for optimum performance. Baja, here I come! And when it’s time to go back on road, the system has…wait for it…an off-switch that resets it for road driving. Sometimes simple is just what the engineer ordered.

Toyota tacoma-trd-pro-24 isodynamic-performance-seat.jpg

Genius. I emerged barely knowing I had been airborne, with no lasting damage to my spinal-stenosis-riddled back.

The smoothness and stability of the ride is no doubt achieved in large part with the TRD Pro’s Fox QS3 Internal Bypass Shocks, but the seats pull their weight (and mine) as well, as I definitely feel the difference after I am back on the paved road with the system off. More rigid drive, yes, but, again, not as stiff and jouncey as the outgoing model.

This is the trim you want if you relish overlanding, because there are more custom-setting features for ride and jounce control. Under the front suspension is a handy knob sticking out of the shocks that has three settings. This allows you to manually adjust compression damping and the firmness of the shocks to achieve the best ride for the road conditions. For normal driving, Toyota recommends Level 1. For rough-road overlanding with hills and turns, Level 2. If you are out to get a little crazy, Level 3.

May the i-Force Be With You

The standard powertrain is the i-Force Max hybrid Toyota has had the good sense to offer or make standard on its body-on-frame trucks and SUVs. The engine mates a 48-hp electric motor between a 2.4L turbocharged inline-4 and 8-speed automatic transmission. That adds up to a combined output of 326 hp and 465 lb.-ft. (640 Nm) of torque. Think the hybrid made the system weaker? Think again. This Tacoma TRD Pro has 75% more torque than the previous truck’s V-6.

The TRD Pro rides on standard 18-in. black alloy wheels with Goodyear Territory Rugged-Terrain tires. For crawly off-roading, there is a 24.6-degree breakover, 22.6-degree departure and 11.5 ins. (292 mm) of ground clearance. A 5-ft. (1.5-m) bed is standard and the only choice.

Other serious hardware includes a manually disconnecting front stabilizer bar, which makes things less rigid when seriously overlanding, an electronic locking rear differential, a 20-in. (51-cm) light bar for the front fascia and rear bumper, plus tow hooks from accessory partner ARB.

Toyota Tacoma_TRD front 1.4.jpg

Lots of Flavors

There seems to be a different flavor of Tacoma for every customer. No wonder it is the category sales leader and has been since George W. Bush was strolling the White House. While Ford, Chevy and Dodge (now Ram) left the midsize market during an era where they were overproducing fullsize trucks – and heavily discounting them to the point of making midsize trucks irrationally priced – Toyota has stayed the course with Tacoma. Besides being a fan favorite for performance and recreation, it has also consistently registered the best resale value in the used market.

Amid the Tacoma onslaught is also the Trailhunter trim for those who prefer crawling dry creek beds and mountain passes to overlanding. You get lots of crossover goodies from the TRD Pro, like that standard i-force Max hybrid, disconnecting stabilizer bar and locking rear differential. But it has Old Man Emu position-sensitive monotube shocks with remote reservoirs tuned to accept greater weight – like gear – while off-roading, and Toyota says they are better performers when rock crawling. For those folks who do this sort of thing, it also comes with trim-specific rock rails. And there is a “sport bar” arching over the bed with removable MOLLE panels. The Trailhunter comes with either a 5-ft. or 6-ft. (1.8-m) bed.

All this overlanding and rock-crawling, hill-jumping sizzle comes at a price. The Trailhunter starts at $62,900 and the TRD Pro starts ringing the register at $63,400. That is before you start ticking extra accessory boxes. At those prices, buyers will cross-shop the Ford Ranger Raptor, priced a bit lower, but with fewer features, and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. Stellantis’s Ram brand is due out in the next year with a redux of the Dodge Dakota, and we expect overlanding and rock-crawling features and capabilities aplenty from the company that manages Jeep.

The midsize truck category is really back with a vengeance, to the delight of people for whom the fullsize truck has just become too massive for many garages and driveways.

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