Toyota USA pulled the wraps off the TRD Pro version of its Tacoma ute at the Chicago Auto Show in February.
The Tacoma is similar in style and size to our Hilux ute – just a little bigger and, of course, there’s no diesel engine option for the Yanks. The Tacoma is powered by a 3.5-litre, direct-injection, Atkinson-cycle petrol V6 with a choice of manual or automatic transmission.
The excitement starts with a TRD-tuned suspension featuring FOX 2.5 internal bypass shocks and TRD-tuned front springs with a one-inch lift and corresponding rear leaf spring upgrade. The off-road goodies continue with 16-inch TRD black alloy wheels wearing Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain rubber, a TRD Pro aluminium front skid plate and Rigid Industries LED front fog lights.
Then there are all the dress-up parts, including a bespoke TRD bonnet vent, colour-coded body parts, model-specific badging and so on.
On the inside, TRD Pro buyers get black TRD Pro leather-trimmed heated front seats with TRD Pro logos, premium audio with navigation, a TRD shift knob, TRD Pro floor mats and a GoPro camera mount integrated in to the rear-view mirror. This is a neat accessory available on many Toyota 4x4s in the USA for owners who like to capture their off-road action on camera.
The TRD Pro Tacoma joins the bigger TRD Pro Tundra that was released a year ago, and these models with their good looks and high-performance off-road suspension are Toyota US’s answer to the Ford Raptor.
Don’t hold your breath for any such exciting models from Toyota Motor Corporation Australia. A TMCA spokesman told us that, while he loves the looks and concept of the TRD Pro vehicles, Toyota Australia had no such plans for the Hilux here.
This comes despite the fact the Hilux has no competitor to Ford’s popular Ranger Wildtrak, and new car sales so far in 2016 show the Ranger is putting up a strong challenge to Hilux’s dominance of the sector.
Ford’s dress-to-thrill Wildtrak lists at $57,890 to cap the Ranger line-up, while the top-spec Hilux SR5 double cab is $53,990, suggesting there’s room for a sportier-looking model – the specs list suggest the same.
Our tip is that at some time this year we’ll see a dressed-up Hilux range-topper that, like the Wildtrak, has all the add-ons but sans the good bits like uprated suspension and tyres.
The last and only time TMCA applied the TRD touch to the Hilux was back in 2008 with a limited run of utes featuring a supercharged V6 engine, Bilstein-tuned suspension and a smart-looking body kit. But the blown engine failed to deliver a worthwhile performance increase and the suspension tuning was off the mark.
The TRD Hilux died a quick death along with the TRD brand in Australia. Toyota says there are currently no plans to re-introduce TRD to Australia but “never say never”.
We live in hope.