In the world of big attitude, kick-ass, pickup trucks the new Toyota TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Pro, is taking aim at the established big boy on the block, the Ford Raptor, or are they?
In an environment where pickup trucks are becoming a family staple, sporting sophisticated chrome accents and electronic packages that would put the first space shuttle to shame, Toyota is shedding its glamorous accessories and bulking up, much as Sly Stallone would before an important scene in a Rocky movie.
Enter the new Toyota TRD Pro-series line of vehicles. This new offshoot being introduced by Toyota covers the Tacoma and Tundra pickups and the 4Runner SUV. Gone are the sophisticated shiny accoutrements reserved for the city, the new Pro series is meant for the sandbox, so Toyota has changed its clothes. Bold black grilles make a statement, skid plates add to that statement, and black wheels with beadlock style rims increase the cool factor.
The new vehicles look good, but appearances can be tricky. Sometimes bold fashion statements on the exterior are nothing more than that, like a barbecuer passing off a rump steak as a T-bone. They may both smell like meat, but there is a difference to the cut, bone aside.
Does the new Tundra TRD Pro take aim at being a Raptor contender? Short answer. No. Which is a shame as Toyota has the ability to create something as good as the Raptor. All one has to do is turn to the legendary Baja 500 and 1000 desert races in Baja, Mexico, for proof. Toyota has entered and won that grueling competition numerous times, so their racing pedigree is not in doubt.
What does the new “Pro” package specifically offer? In the Tundra’s case, apart from the more aggressive look, it offers two inches of increased suspension through the use of high-performance Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs and tuned front springs. It offers a massive skid plate as can be seen from the front, and it offers a new dual exhaust. All offerings are Toyota TRD products. By pinning “TRD” and “Pro” together, Toyota confidently states; “the Tundra TRD Pro can handle just about whatever you throw at it.” That’s a bold statement considering everything else about the truck remains the same. Not that the Tundra is a bad pickup, it is a very good pickup, but it was never designed as a desert racer. Two inches of suspension lift, a skid plate, and fancy wheels does not a desert racer make.
Toyota needs to be careful with the marketing here. When a genuine trait becomes the illusion of a trait, followers can start to wander. TRD is a claim, or branding exercise, that many believe has not lived up to its promise in recent years. The goal behind TRD is to offer the consumer something that has been developed and tested in real world racing environments.
Whether it be suspension modifications, transmission tweaks, or simple aerodynamics, TRD products are supposed to offer some kind of direct developmental benefit in areas such as performance, strength, or longevity. When a manufacturer slaps a specific nomenclature on a vehicle, it needs to be accurate, otherwise the consumer will see through it. Toyota has made improvements to the Pro-series, but whether they are substantial enough to warrant a “racing development” label is dubious. For many that is unimportant; for the dedicated, once bitten, twice shy.
Has Toyota TRD taken aim at the Ford Raptor? Visually, yes. Mechanically, no. The new TRD Pro series is nothing more than a styling exercise, and as long as consumers are aware of the extent of its modifications, or lack of, it will appeal to many, just not the hard-core. The fact is, the new Pro series offers more rump than T-bone.
Editorial by Scott Wilson