Somewhere in the desert outside Las Vegas, at the helm of a bright orange 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, I got a little lost. If there were trail markers along that particular stretch, they escaped me. All I know is that one minute I was bounding along a well-traveled dirt path through the scrub brush at about 45 miles per hour, and the next I had a bunch of gnarly-looking bushes dead in my sights.

Making matters worse, it wasn't even my truck; this was a Toyota-sponsored driving event, and my Tacoma had a big Prototype Vehicle sticker on the sun visor.

So I did what (I think) anyone would do and just floored the gas and hoped for the best. And the strangest thing happened: nothing at all. The Tacoma TRD Pro dominated those bushes like they were blades of grass, and it made quick work of the rocks on the other side, too. As I found my way back to the trail, it occurred to me that this truck doesn't even need a trail. You could simply veer off any highway in Nevada and take the sandy route instead, and that's basically what the TRD Pro line is all about.

Secret Sauce

Here's the thing, though: Toyota has offered TRD (Toyota Racing Development) accessories on the Tacoma for many years, and you can already get a full TRD Off-Road package on the Tacoma. So it's tempting to think of the TRD Pro as overkill. What can it do that the other Tacomas can't?

The answer is exactly the sort of driving I was doing in the desert: fast and fearless, and where composure and compliance are top priorities. To this end, the Tacoma TRD Pro features a 2-inch lift up front and a decreased spring rate to smooth out big impacts. These modifications join forces with TRD-tuned Bilstein shocks and BFGoodrich off-road tires to convert the Tacoma into something like a Baja-style desert runner. The casual driver may not push hard enough to feel the difference, but if you know what you're doing, you'll find yourself going faster with more confidence than ever before.

Back on the Beaten Path

Much like the seemingly invincible Ford Raptor, the Tacoma TRD Pro is actually more comfortable than a typical truck when you're back in civilization. Although the decreased spring rate is designed for off-road duty, a nice fringe benefit is the relatively luxurious around-town ride that those softer springs provide. I found myself thinking that the Tacoma TRD Pro would be perfect back home on the broken-down streets of Los Angeles. No matter how big the pothole, chances are you'll barely feel it in this rig.

What's My Motivation?

Don't be fooled by the Tacoma TRD Pro's rather vocal TRD sport exhaust, because it has the same powertrain as any other 6-cylinder Tacoma: a 4.0-liter V6 rated at 236 horsepower, with your choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic. Having driven the automatic, I'd recommend giving the manual a shot, as the auto's shifts weren't always smooth, and in general it left me with the impression that an update or replacement was due. I also wasn't blown away by the V6's acceleration, even though it's said to hit 60 mph in well under eight seconds. Fortunately, TRD offers an accessory supercharger that gives you 304 hp; I'd definitely look into that if I were considering this truck.

AutoTrader Says

The 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro pushes off-road performance to a possibly unprecedented level for midsize trucks. If you're the rare driver who'll really put it through its paces, you'll be amazed by what it can do.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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