Aired down tire rubber molding itself around a rock, splashing through a stream then followed by miles of kicking up dust, our trio of new 2019 Toyota TRD Pro models crisscrossed the Rimrocker trail on our way to Moab. Our journey would see us getting behind the wheel of each of the new vehicles – Tundra, Tacoma and 4Runner – while overland camping along the way. This trip would test all the vehicles as well as test our desire to return back to the hustle and bustle of modern life.
The trio of new 2019 Toyota TRD Pro models were fresh off their reveal at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show. These new models, following up on the 2014 models, each added a few new features aimed specifically at the overland explorers and weekend campers.
All the vehicles swap Bilstein shocks out for new Fox shocks. They also get more standard safety equipment with Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology.
The Tundra and Tacoma get the additional standard equipment found in the Toyota Safety Sense P. This standard package includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning System, Automatic High Beams and high-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
The 4Runner does not get the safety sense package due to its current exterior design limiting Toyota engineers from adding the necessary equipment.
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The first day we climbed behind the wheel of the new 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. Clad in Super White like all the other TRD Pro models on our trip, it features color-matched bumpers, mirrors and blacked-out girl with the word TOYOTA spelled out.
Like the other TRD Pros, the 4Runner swapped the Bilstein shocks for Fox. These new shocks offer 7 bypass zones (4 compression, 3 rebound) on the front and 11 bypass zones (7 compression, 4 rebound) in the rear. Also, the rear shocks have a 2-inch piggyback reservoirs to reduce shock fade. Finally, there is an interesting looking roost shield on the rear offering additional protection for the inverted shock design. Basically, it protects them from getting crunched when rock crawling.
The new 4Runner sits more level thanks to a 1-inch lift on the front due to TRD-tuned front springs.
Going with the improved suspension, Toyota gave the 4Runner 17-inch matte-black TRD alloy wheels wrapped in Nitto Terra Grapple P265/70R17 all terrain tires with an additional 1-inch wider track.
On top, Toyota added a new roof rack for stashing gear and a new, upgraded JBL radio both of which are standard.
Finally, there is TRD Pro badging and red-stitched seats inside and LED fog lights.
On the trail, the 4Runner quickly proves why its been such a solid choice among off-road fans. The size, wheelbase length and off-road goodies like Crawl control and a locking rear-differential means getting stuck is considerably more difficult than stock 4Runners.
While the off-road prowess is great, it is hard to be a big fan of the 4.0L V6 producing 270 HP mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. It is simply sluggish on the pavement and the 17/21 city/highway MPG isn’t going to make any owner happy. On the dirt, it performs better getting the SUV up the hill, but it simply seems like an old powertrain combination in desperate need of an update.
2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Next, we climbed into the 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro with its recently refreshed interior and exterior. The perennial sales king among mid-size pickups, we had high hopes for the Tacoma which were mostly met.
Like the other TRD Pro models, it shared the similar exterior styling updates and the interior was filled with badges and the aforementioned red stitching.
It also got the Fox, Bilstein swap with 2.5-inch front shocks, 8 bypass zones (5 compression, 3 rebound), and 2.5-inch rear shocks, 11 bypass zones (7 compression, 4 rebound), with 2-inch piggyback reservoirs.
Also, like the 4Runner, it has an additional 1 inch front lift thanks to the TRD-tuned springs as well as the upgraded JBL radio.
It also uses an upgraded skid plate with TRD red lettering, a cat-back TRD exhaust with a black chrome tip and LED fog lamps from Rigid.
The Tacoma employs a large front sway bar to help with ride quality and a 1-inch wider track for both front and rear thanks to 16-inch TRD Pro black alloy wheels wrapped in P265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler Kevlar tires.
The most noticeable upgrade is clearly the passenger side mounted Desert Air Intake (the snorkel-looking thing). This air intake funnels air into the air box in an attempt to reduce the amount of dirt getting built up in the air cleaner as well as getting into the engine. And it really works.
During our drive, we spent hours and days following behind the other vehicles and often the dust was so thick, we could only make out the silhouette of the vehicle in front of us. Prior to the journey, we aired out the air filter and when our trip wrapped up, we compared the results to the 4Runner’s air filter. It was clear to everyone how much more dust the 4Runner’s air filter has accumulated than the Tacoma.
Back on the trail, the Tacoma is simply a stud. Shifting down into 4 LO, we tapped into all the 3.5L V6 had to give mated to a 6-speed transmission we manually shifted. Quite often, the Tacoma simply sailed across most obstacles thanks to its size and wheelbase as well as upgraded wheel travel.
On the road, the Tacoma just is a slug. The 278 HP feels like it is more like 200 HP these days and while we have driven the Tacoma on many other occasions spending a full day on dirt with a slight amount of pavement really showed the stark differences in performance.
The reality is if you live for playing in the dirt and/or can learn to adapt to a vehicle’s powertrain, the Tacoma is a great option. However, if you want a vehicle that isn’t gutless, the Tacoma isn’t for you.
Ultimately, we are big fans of the Tacoma since we love the dirt and put reliability high on our list of wants.
2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Our last day was spent behind the wheel of the 2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro which is making a return after a one-year hiatus in Toyota’s lineup. This full-size pickup donned the Super White exterior color with a color-matched bumpers, mirrors and a cloth interior with TRD Pro badging on the seats and center console. There is a blacked-out grille spelling out TOYOTA and the TRD Pro words are stamped onto the rear fender on both sides.
It is powered by a 5.7L V8 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission well known for being a reliable powertrain. The powertrain produces 381 HP and 401 lb-ft. of torque while returning 13/17/15 city/highway/combined fuel economy in the four-wheel drive setup.
This powertrain roars to life thanks to the TRD Pro performance dual-exhaust system with black chrome tips. It is deep, throaty exhaust note that can be felt in the driver’s seat and makes the engine seem a lot more powerful.
New for 2019, the Tundra is now equipped with new Fox 2.5-inch front shocks with 46 mm pistons. These pistons replace the Bilstein shocks found in the prior generation of TRD Pros. They provide 11 bypass zones (7 compression, 4 bypass).
The pickup also has an additional 2 inches of front lift with an increased front wheel travel of 1.5 inches thanks to the TRD-tuned springs.
In the rear, there are also 2.5-inch Fox shocks with an additional compression zone (8 compression, 4 bypass) as well as a 2.5-inch piggyback reservoir to reduce shock fade. Wheel travel is also increased by more than 2 inches in the rear.
Other upgrades include new Rigid Industries LED fog lights, without a doubt a good light upgrade, as well as LED headlights and accent lights. These lights really light up the trail ahead and incidentally make the non-LED lights found on the Tacoma and 4Runner look pretty poor in comparison.
Finally, Toyota has changed the wheels to new 18-inch BBS forged-aluminum, five-spoke satin black wheels. Toyota says they reduce un-sprung mass by 3.35 lbs per wheel which improved cornering and overall ride quality. These new wheels are wrapped in Michelin P275/65R18 all-terrain tires.
Behind the wheel, the large pickup seems ready to conquer any terrain especially with a 1/4-inch skid plate running under the engine bay. With no fear, we climb over rocks, hit the gas on the dirt roads and make our way with little concern of getting stuck. The Tundra does lack a locking rear differential and Toyota’s Crawl Control system found in the other models, but it doesn’t really matter. In 4 LO, we control the transmission through the manual shifting model and the large V-8 provides all the power needed to make it over any obstacle.
The Tundra is an easy favorite with the roomy cabin and plenty of power albeit it would be nice to have more off-road goodies like a front camera and the aforementioned locking differential and Crawl control. It would have been nice, but not necessary.
Also, the new shocks combined with the aired down wheels work well in providing a smooth ride with the only jarring feeling coming from climbing over large rocks.
Pulling into the red-colored canyons of Moab, the white TRD Pros stood out, well, the roofs stood out since the rest of them were covered in dust and mud from our three day trip along the Rimrocker trail. Finding the pavement, we pulled over and filled the tires with air, with the air hose hiss signaling the end of our journey.
While the journey was through, we didn’t find we were done with any of the TRD Pro models and each one had its strengths and weaknesses. The reality is Toyota has made what seem like incremental improvements compared to other manufactures, however, they have keyed in on what their core audience demands: bigger tires, off-road equipment, blacked-out styling and reputation for reliability. The last item may matter the most since getting stuck is one thing, but losing your engine on a remote trail is a whole different matter.