Although it’s December and we’re at the end of the 2021 model year, there are some mostly-carryover models that go from year to year without many changes. This week, Daddy’s Digest takes a look at the outgoing 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro with a six-speed manual transmission, which is the top trim available with three pedals. We’ll compare it against a few changes happening for 2022, and while the basic guts of the Tacoma are staying the same, it does get a few extra goodies that keen Toyota truck fans may want to know about.
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For the uninitiated, the TRD Pro gets a smorgasbord of off-road equipment under the Toyota Racing Development banner. These include Fox shock absorbers with unique rear leaf spring tuning, a locking rear differential, a front TRD-stamped skid plate, and 16-inch wheels shod with all-terrain tires. Other features include LED headlights, TRD-specific leather seating, an awesome-looking heritage “TOYOTA” front grille, a (sadly non-functional) hood scoop, and a TRD shift knob.
For 2022, for automatic cars there’s an additional suspension lift kit with machine-forged upper control arms, the audio system is upgraded to a premium JBL unit, and improved 16-inch wheels and tires (more track width). Lastly, the as-tested Lunar Rock colour moves down to being available on lower trims, and a snazzy and bright Electric Lime Metallic becomes available. Price-wise, the 2021 TRD Pro with the manual rings in at $52,760 Canadian before taxes and fees, and the new updates and extra parts bump the 2022 model by about two-and-half grand, to $55,230. Automatics will sell for $59,360.
Inside, the 2021 and 2022 models are about the same. Fit and finish are the usual solid effort by Toyota, although the materials and design are a little bit lower-rent. The gauges are clear and easy to read, and there are plenty of ergonomically superior hard buttons and knobs for various automatic climate and infotainment controls. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are standard equipment in all trims, which is helpful for seamless smartphone pairing for communication, navigation, and music streaming.
With seating for five, front-seat comfort in the Tacoma was better than expected after a road trip between Toronto, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec to attend a media launch event for the new Corolla Cross. Back soreness was kept to a minimum, although thigh support leaves a lot to be desired, even with a five-foot-eight driver. Parents who have small children may find that child seats eat into front legroom quite a bit in order to safely accommodate them. If you plan on having six-footers up front and have kids, make sure you try fitting in your family before you buy.
On the safety front, all Tacoma trims are equipped with Toyota’s “TSS-P” Safety Sense system of driver assists. This means a forward-collision warning system with daytime pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure alert system (but without steering assist), and automatic high beams. TRD Pro models also get a blind spot monitoring system.
Under the hood of both model years and all trims of Tacoma is a 3.5-litre V6 engine that makes 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. It’s a relatively smooth unit and the “GR” family of V6s are a known-good quantity that have been around for nearly two decades in one form or another. It gets paired to a rarity in the truck world nowadays – a six-speed manual transmission. The combination is a pretty fun unit to work with, although shift throws and clutch engagement are most definitely truck-like – expect long shift throws and a hefty clutch pedal. The engine is a little bit down on low-end torque, so this powertrain ends up being the most enjoyable when wrestled a bit harder than usual: it takes some effort to drive, but for those who insist on rowing their own gears, the effort is rewarded.
Drivers who plan on pulling things with their Tacoma TRD Pro can take 6,400 pounds (2,903 kilograms) behind them, which is a bit behind the Ford Ranger (7,500 pounds) or the GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado (7,000 pounds with the 3.6-litre engine). In four-door Double Cab and five-foot Short Bed configuration, payload capacity is 1,133 pounds (514 kilograms). While these numbers don’t keep up with the Tacoma’s American rivals, Toyota has historically rated their capacities a bit lower; when considering that they generally have the most reliable vehicles as a whole, they may know something that we don’t in this case – we’ve got some questions about the others’ durability as one approaches the top end of the towing and payload scale.
Unloaded, the ride quality of the Tacoma TRD Pro is generally good, especially on an open road. There’s no getting away from the typical body-on-frame shakes and shimmies over rough pavement, but the high-profile 265/70R16 tires offer plenty of sidewall cushion when hitting bumps. The 2022 model’s extra ride height and resulting changes in suspension geometry may affect ride and comfort, but we can expect things to be similar or better than 2021.
While the 2022 models receive incremental updates more than anything, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is still a solid and very popular choice in the small (midsize?) truck segment. Toyota’s reputation for durability, reliability, and resale value are certainly good reasons to buy one, although given the pandemic-induced car market shortages as of late, getting your hands on either model year may be easier said than done. With an intensely strong used car market, the tie should go to a new model, if both are available at your local dealer. While it’s not the best at everything compared to its peers, it’ll be the one least likely to let you down, especially in the long term, and for a lot of people, that’s enough for them to sign on the dotted line.