33 degrees. That’s the angle of repose for a hill of loose cinder, like the one found on Maui’s Hana Ranch. It’s the greatest angle at which the brown, sharp volcanic rock will naturally stack itself into a pile. And it was deemed, by Toyota, as decidedly too tame. Cue: backhoes and course builders, fashioning a freshly packed 45-degree slope rising from the earth like a black-diamond ski run for trucks. All that, and I didn’t even get to drive it myself.
2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Transmission: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Torque: 265 lb-ft
Base MSRP: $40,960
“It’s like cruise control for off-roading,” Chief Engineer Mike Sweers said before I activated Crawl Control in the Tacoma TRD Pro. “It will make the weekend warrior look like an expert to his buddies.” (Sweers also mentioned that Crawl Control could unstick a car stuck up to its axles in sand.) The feature, which adjusts the level of acceleration and braking for each individual wheel, automatically carried me down the harrowing slope, free of drama. I handled the steering; the tech handled the grade. Off-road purists may cry foul, I suppose, but they are more than welcome to keep the feature turned off.
The Tacoma is good for plenty with all the tech off, too. It was more than capable in 4Hi, zooming around a mud track high on a bluff over the Pacific. It was comfortable and peppy navigating around the slimy dirt roads of Hana Ranch too, flanked by fields of mango and papaya. We had no trouble pounding it through a menacing and seemingly impassable creek bed full of rock outcroppings.
It’s powered by the same 3.5-liter V6 engine in the base-model Tacoma, but sits one inch higher, and with a stance that’s also wider by an inch. Standard features include Rigid Industries dual headlamps, 2.5-inch Fox shocks, and Goodyear’s burly Kevlar tires. The nifty aluminum underbody skid plate is complete with a trapdoor to facilitate oil changes.
Toyota says their aim for the truck was high-speed off-road, a set of words designed to invite comparisons to the Ford Raptor — though the company claims they never used that truck as a barometer. Maybe so, since the six-speed automatic TRD Pro costs $43,000; the Raptor can hover anywhere between $50,000 and $60,000. A Toyota “Raptor killer” will probably never come from any automaker, but the Tacoma TRD Pro embraces intense off-roading with comfort and style.
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