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2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro First Drive: Hybrid Power Helps Aplenty

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro front 3/4
  • The Tacoma TRD Pro is reborn with a brand-new laser focus on going fast off-road.
  • The Trailhunter is here to do the opposite.
  • How do they stack up? How's the Tacoma's hybrid powertrain? We answer all that here.

We've already talked at length about the new Toyota Tacoma, but there are two more pieces to this puzzle. The Tacoma TRD Pro you'll likely already know, but the Trailhunter is an all-new addition to the lineup. Both models use Toyota's i-Force Max powertrain which blesses the 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a hybrid system. But trucks also have very specific off-road missions, with one geared toward going fast and the other made for tackling technical trails.

In the TRD Pro and Trailhunter, the i-Force Max hybrid powertrain makes 326 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque — a big increase over the non-hybrid's 278 hp and 317 lb-ft. On the road, the Tacoma really gets up and goes. Burying your right foot in the accelerator at speed gives a quick hit of electric power followed by a low-pitch roar from the engine as it gains revs. It almost sounds as guttural as the Tacoma's old V6 (which it now outclasses in every way), and the eight-speed automatic transmission responds appropriately with quick downshifts when more power is demanded. 

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2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro rear

The Tacoma's on-road livability takes a big step forward thanks to this hybrid powertrain. One of our complaints with the standard engine is that it feels a little gutless, and though the eight-speed transmission helps with smart shift timing, it's obvious the base 2.4-liter engine is missing a little oomph. The hybrid fixes that one niggle and has the added benefit of improved fuel economy. Four-wheel-drive Tacos with the standard engine will get up to 21 mpg combined (20 city/23 highway), while the TRD Pro and its heavy off-road tires manages 23 mpg combined (22 city/24 highway). 

That's all well and good on paved roads, but these are the TRD Pro and Trailhunter trims we're talking about. So, let's get dirty.

A more focused TRD Pro

The old Tacoma TRD Pro was designed to do a little bit of everything. It had to handle going quickly over whoops and dunes while also being competent when the going got slow and rocky. That meant it had a little bit of an identity crisis — a jack of all trades, master of none. Luckily for lovers of the Tacoma's most recognizable model, the focus for this fourth generation's TRD Pro is much more singular. 

Now the TRD Pro is focused entirely on going fast over the soft stuff. The basic hardware is the same as much of the Tacoma lineup — a double-wishbone front suspension and coil-spring rear make the unladen ride softer while adding a greater degree of control, both when tracking straight and during cornering. TRD Pros get aluminum front upper control arms, Fox internal bypass manually adjustable shocks (with external reservoirs), and internal floating piston bump stops at the rear to help take the edge off heavier hits. Throw in a disconnecting front anti-roll bar, locking rear differential, multiple Crawl Control modes, different settings for all sorts of terrain types, and its switchable two- or four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case, and this truck is ready to play in the sand.

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro hard front

The end result of all these changes? Sadly, it's hard to say right now. Toyota set up one medium-/high-speed off-road dirt track where we were able to drive the TRD Pro, and it was a cakewalk. The Pro handled steep ascents and played around in the muck like it was nothing at all. We even did the course a second time in two-wheel drive and it was just as easy. 

The hybrid setup made a good impression in the dirt, though, serving up oodles of power whenever we asked for it. The Pro also stopped, steered and gripped onto the loose surface with a confidence that was missing during fast running in old Toyota products. Has the Pro evolved into something better? Yes. But we'll have to wait until we can put it up against a Chevy Colorado ZR2 and Ford Ranger Raptor to know if it's been truly transformed.

The IsoDynamic what now?

The TRD Pro's new IsoDynamic seats quite literally have shock absorbers in them, and they're designed to round off the truck's harsher impacts and keep your noggin from bouncing off the ceiling when you're going fast in the desert. In short, they do exactly what they're supposed to. The difference perhaps wasn't as drastic as we were expecting given the seats' aggressive appearance, but we can confirm that from the seat of our pants, the ride was at least better than it was in a Trailhunter, which won't get these fancy chairs. 

It's worth noting that the TRD Pro comes with these seats as standard and, sadly, they obliterate rear legroom. The fourth-generation Tacoma is pretty tight in the back, and that's before you add these seats up front. While we appreciate the level of effort that went into these seats, making the rear bench in your pickup nigh-on unusable is a pretty poor trade-off. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro rear seats

The Tacoma Trailhunter likes it slow

Since the TRD Pro is now dedicated to being your desert runner, the Trailhunter is here to do the exact opposite. Picture yourself going slowly over craggy rocks, crawling down steep descents and setting up camp at your destination after a long day of exploring. These Tacomas get specially tuned Old Man Emu dampers, 33-inch off-road tires that are heavier and knobbier than the Pro's, sports bars on the back, and an automatically adjusting adaptive suspension. 

As is the case with the TRD Pro, the off-road course Toyota set up for the Trailhunter was just too easy. That said, it did demonstrate just how much articulation this truck has with the front anti-roll bar disconnected and just how competent it is at slow rock crawling. Toyota has evolved its crawl control software, too; it's as easy as turning a dial to set the speed you want and all you have to do is sit there and steer while the Taco sorts out braking and acceleration. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter

Both of these trucks start at over $62,000, and if they're worth all that coin when they hit dealerships later this year is ultimately up to you. That said, these two Tacoma models absolutely deserve to be the top-of-the-ladder flagship trucks they are, and the hybrid powertrain didn't disappoint us one bit.

That said, it's clear that Toyota didn't want us breaking their new darling Tacomas during our time in the dirt. We get it. We're excited to see what these brand-new trucks can do once we show them some real rough terrain. Don't worry, Toyota, we promise to be careful. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro dashboard