2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro First Drive Review: Rocky Mountain High
Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro quickly became a staple among midsize off-road trucks since its introduction for the 2015 model year, yet the company continues to make constant improvements to the truck. The 2022 model is no exception, and we headed to the Rocky Mountains of western Colorado to give the updated Tacoma a thorough flogging doing what this pickup truck does best. From there, we’d embark on a two-day trek through the wilderness and return to civilization in time to kick off the 2021 Overland Expo: Mountain West event.
Our adventure in the 2022 TRD Pro, the Tacoma’s most off-road-focused variant, took us along graded dirt roads, down rocky trails, through dense pine forests, across flowing rivers, up to more than 13,000 feet above sea level, and over the Continental Divide on multiple occasions. Although we didn’t encounter many other folks during our nearly 100-mile off-road adventure, those we did encounter were often driving Toyotas of all types and excited to see our parade of Electric Lime Tacoma TRD Pros. It validated we were doing the right thing in the right place with the right trucks.
What’s New For ’22?
The changes for this year include enhancements to the off-roader’s suspension, with the addition of a new forged aluminum front upper control arms, which provide for an improved upper ball joint angle. The TRD Pro’s suspension lift also increases from 1.0 inch to 1.5 inches in the front; the rear remains raised by the same 0.5 inch versus the standard Tacoma. Combined, these changes allow the truck to offer about 1.0 inch of additional rebound wheel travel and provide significant boosts to the approach, departure, and breakover angles. Ground clearance remains the same at 9.4 inches. Rounding out the off-road upgrades, the new black 16-inch TRD wheels wear 265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT tires.
The refreshed truck received a few choice appearance updates, too. These include that Electric Lime paint, which is exclusive to the ’22 TRD Pro. The TRD Pro stickers are gone, replaced by debossed stampings in the truck’s bedside panels. Unique hood graphics are newly available, as well.
On-Road Ride and Handling
For better or worse, not much has changed about the Tacoma TRD Pro’s on-road driving dynamics. The 2022 TRD Pro draws power from the familiar 3.5L V-6 engine that churns out 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Our test truck was fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission, though the TRD Pro is available with a six-speed manual—making it one of the last pickups to offer that do-it-yourself option.
This engine and transmission combination are probably the biggest downside. Aside from having the lowest power and torque figures among midsize pickup trucks, the Tacoma also has the fewest number of cogs in its transmission. The truck spent much of our time driving up and down steep mountain roads hunting for the right gear, seemingly in a constant struggle to maintain the proper rpm for the driving condition. Toyota swapping in a more modern eight- or 10-speed transmission would likely fix the issue.
The Tacoma’s seating ergonomics continue to divide opinions: With a high floor and low seat, the driving position isn’t always the most natural for every person. For 2020, Toyota gave the TRD Pro a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat with better thigh and lumbar support and the ability to be raised as much as 2 inches. This improved things slightly, but it still takes a while for some people to find a comfortable position. We’ll note, however, that several folks on our staff like the Tacoma’s unique seating position.
Overall, the Tacoma TRD Pro is still a decent highway companion, as far as trucks go. Despite being taller, the new pickup doesn’t have excessive body roll in corners, and it tracks relatively true to your commands on twisty mountain roads. Under load, the truck’s TRD exhaust system adds a deep and throaty growl without the obnoxious drone sometimes found with aftermarket setups. We did experience a hearty amount of nose dive under braking, though, as the pedal is incredibly sensitive to pressure. We’re not sure if this is a product of the Tacoma still utilizing rear drum brakes or some other factor, but it took us a solid two days to adjust to the truck’s ideal amount of brake modulation.
On pavement, the ride is compliant without being overly stiff, the cabin is quiet and comfortable, and the truck comes loaded with the entire suite of Toyota’s advanced safety and convenience features, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
If there’s one thing the Tacoma is known for above all else, it would be its ability to tackle the great outdoors with ease. On graded dirt roads the Tacoma TRD Pro drives like a large rally car with a bed, the suspension soaking up bumps with aplomb and—with the traction control disabled—the tail swaying back and forth as you have a little slip-slidey fun in fast corners. We say “a little” because the Toyota never really allows you to fully disable stability and traction control.
We next headed to steep, rutted, and rocky paths where shifting into low range was necessary. Here, the Tacoma TRD Pro showed its true skill. With a super-capable rear suspension and great approach and departure angles, we were easily able to pilot the TRD Pro through and across the rough terrain with no risk of damaging the vehicle. When things got slippery, a quick press of the electronic locking rear differential button provided the extra traction needed to continue moving forward. And during the one time we did lose forward momentum while ascending a climb on loose gravel, we used Toyota’s innovative Crawl Control to allow the Tacoma to sort out how to handle the scree and continue us along the trail without the need for outside assistance.
And let’s clear up a common misconception we see online: Although the TRD Pro is fitted with Fox internal bypass dampers, that doesn’t mean the stock truck is some sort of all-conquering Baja 1000 champion-esque runner. When the bumps get big, the Tacoma TRD Pro can’t hang. That said, it does manage small to midsize whoops with relative ease, and the Fox shocks provide the comfort and control to get down the toughest trails.
We covered the 100-plus miles off-road with very little in the way of driver fatigue. The truck went where we pointed it and did so with grace and composure. We found the new Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT tires provided excellent traction on the surfaces we encountered, but we didn’t get a chance to really test them in mud, snow, or ice. The improved approach, departure, and breakover angles were a huge help, but we didn’t notice a marked benefit of the increased rebound wheel travel over the outgoing 2021 model.
The height of the TRD Pro’s power dome hood made outward visibility a challenge at times. If the hood scoop isn’t going to be functional, we’d prefer it go away simply so we could see better. We did appreciate the 360-degree trail camera that Toyota added for the 2020 model year, but the resolution is low enough that a coating of dust on the camera lenses makes picking out details difficult and renders them pretty useless on the trail.
How Much Does the 2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Cost?
The new TRD Pro starts at $47,150 with a manual transmission and $49,855 with an automatic. For comparison, a 2021 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 starts at $45,395 and a comparable 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor starts at $47,140. Production of the 2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is slated to begin in November, and trucks should land on dealer lots shortly thereafter.
If you don’t dig the price tag of the Tacoma TRD Pro but still want a Toyota truck that can get you deep into the backcountry, you could check out the 2022 Tacoma Trail Edition. This truck, based on the SR5, is equipped with a modest 1.1-inch front lift, 0.5-inch rear lift, bronze 16-inch TRD wheels, all-terrain tires, underbody skidplates, an air dam delete, and an electronic locking rear differential, all of which makes it a sweet choice for someone who wants pure off-road capability without fancy items like Crawl Control or leather seats. A 2022 Tacoma SR5 4×4 double cab runs $36,870, and adding the $3,765 Trail Edition package brings the total of $40,635. At almost $10,000 less than the automatic TRD Pro, the 2022 Tacoma Trail Edition is a downright bargain.
At the end of the day, even with its so-so on-road powertrain performance, the 2022 Tacoma TRD Pro reaffirms why the Tacoma is beloved among a wide swath of midsize pickup buyers. Toyota knows what owners want to do with their trucks, and with desirable, capable variants like the TRD Pro, the Tacoma is likely to remain popular for years to come.
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