- TRD Pro's enhancements make it the most capable Tacoma yet.
- Trail Edition handles the rough stuff off-road, at a more attainable price.
This generation of Toyota Tacoma has been on sale since the 2016 model year, but continuous improvements mean that the newest version is often the best. That's certainly the case with the range-topping, trail-busting TRD Pro. We've already touched on the changes for the 2022 model year, but the two days I spent behind the wheel in the Colorado wilderness gave me a fresh perspective. The modifications for this year were even more apparent with the inclusion of several 2021 TRD Pros, allowing me to sample the two models back to back. A pair of plucky Trail Editions were also part of the convoy and held their own on our trek. Read on for notes from the trailhead.
My journey began in Golden, Colorado, where I was greeted by a fleet of several stock and modified Tacoma models. The first leg consisted of 200 miles of pavement, dirt, loose gravel, mud and rock terrain that, per Toyota, pushed the limit of stock-height vehicles. Our guide and escort vehicle was a heavily modified current-gen Land Cruiser, as if anything else would be more appropriate to shepherd nine body-on-frame Toyotas through the wilderness.
There were absolutely zero off-road surprises. I reduced the air in my 2022 TRD Pro's tires to 20 psi and proceeded to tackle every obstacle without issue. However, when driving the '22 Tacoma TRD Pro, one intriguing element above all else was the most pleasant of surprises — the transmission. All other Tacoma models I sampled during the drive felt familiar to Tacomas that Edmunds has reviewed in the past, and that meant a transmission that was reluctant to downshift when you eased onto the accelerator. But the 2022 TRD Pro felt happy to respond with much less throttle application and was eminently intuitive. When asked about this, Toyota reps reported that transmission tuning was modified between the 2020 and 2021 model years, so I'm at a loss to explain the difference between the 2021 and 2022 TRD Pro models. I'll be interested to see what our vehicle testing team makes of the 2022 TRD Pro when we get one in the office.
One thing we know for sure is that the TRD Pro is taller than its predecessor. New suspension hardware translates to a 1.5-inch lift in the front and a 0.5-inch lift in the rear. The extra height naturally means better clearance, approach and departure angles. That makes the Tacoma TRD Pro a little more capable off-road without sacrificing on-road comfort. The brakes also feel less touchy than before but, again, I hesitate to say they're categorically better until we can subject a TRD Pro to the gauntlet of L.A.'s stop-and-go traffic.
I really like the TRD Pro, but unless you're the type who needs leather seats or does a lot of multi-terrain off-road driving, then you probably don't need a TRD anything from Toyota's truck or SUV offerings. I will admit that TRD trims have an allure — they are a key to exploring beyond roads, offering minimal compromise and little worry. Trust me, I get it. I'm shopping for a TRD Pro 4Runner myself. I'm one of those "needs leather seats" types. But what if I wasn't?
I would 100% elect for the Trail Edition. This lovely new Tacoma and 4Runner trim offers everything you'd need to go most places. It feels like the Trail Edition is an SR5 that moved to Colorado and assimilated into the outdoors culture. The big deal here is that it features a locking rear differential, which when paired with Toyota's 4x4 system gives the driver the ability to go as far as most of us would even think to go. Why do I sound so confident? The Trail Edition Tacomas on our two-day journey managed to go everywhere the TRD Off-Roads and TRD Pros went, with absolutely zero issues. In fact, both of the early production Trail Editions on the drive had malfunctioning rear differential lockers, meaning I was actually unable to test the very feature that makes this trim so enticing for aspiring off-roaders. And yet they soldiered on, never missing a step or slowing the convoy down.
Off-road capabilities aside, the Trail Edition looks great aesthetically. This is an undervalued and very welcomed element of midsize trucks, where I personally feel the "cool-looking" ones are always the most expensive. The Trail Editions look like they've already been hit with a batch of tasteful mods before even leaving the factory. Bronze badging and TRD wheels adorn the Trail Editions, adding unique character touches that do a solid job at differentiating the truck from a general contractor's SR5 work truck. The cloth seats feature a bronze stitching that elevates the interior above lesser models. The bed features two storage lockers — one of which is insulated — that come standard and are exclusive to the Trail trims (for now).
Toyota nailed it with the Trail Edition for shoppers who want a capable, cool 4x4 on a budget. If my TRD Pro hunt doesn't pan out, I'll be getting into one of these.
The revised TRD Pro and new Trail Edition continue to satisfy the Tacoma's role in the midsize truck market. We think that these 2022 models are the best versions of the Tacoma to date.