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2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro first drive review: A better off-roader with familiar problems

The off-road version of Toyota's popular midsize truck gets a few nice improvements, but the Tacoma still suffers from a lot of the same old issues.

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro hasn't changed much since it launched in 2015, but buyers just can't get enough, and it's easy to see why. The Tacoma has a whole has been the best-selling midsize pickup for more than 15 years, it has massive resale value and it lasts for-freaking-ever. Buy a Taco now, eat it for 20 years.

Still, this hasn't stopped Toyota from giving the Tacoma incremental improvements over the years, including a few new changes for 2022. No, these updates aren't major, and they aren't what I think the Tacoma really needs, but they do help make what is essentially a good truck even better.

Perhaps the most striking change for 2022 is the Tacoma's new Electric Lime Metallic paint, which is the color I've been waiting for my entire life. I doubt it will be a huge seller, but hot damn if that truck doesn't look good in bright green. There are a few other small cosmetic details specific to the Tacoma TRD Pro. The badge is stamped on the rear quarter panel, there are some newly designed 16-inch wheels that look pretty dope and you can get some new hood decals if that's your jam.

If you're an off-roader like me, you'll appreciate the TRD Pro's increased front lift, which is now 1.5 inches over the standard Tacoma instead of 1.0, in addition to an 0.5-inch lift at the rear. This translates to better off-road geometry with an approach angle of 36.4 degrees, a departure angle of 24.7 degrees and a breakover angle of 26.6 degrees. When you look at the competition, the TRD Pro bests the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Nissan Frontier Pro-4X and tops the Ford Ranger Tremor in all angles but departure. If you want a better approach and departure angle than the Tacoma you'll have to step up to the larger Jeep Gladiator, though you will suffer a maximum 20.9 degrees of breakover angle, making it harder to get up over sharp crests.

Along the rock-strewn trails of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the TRD Pro drives a skosh better than last year's model. The improved off-road geometry means I can tackle steeper rock faces without fear of damage, although I also have skid plates underneath to help with that. I can attack rock walls with confidence and a heavy throttle pedal makes it easy to keep a steady speed -- even if I'm only going a few miles per hour.

The TRD Pro has a 1.5-inch front and 0.5-inch rear lift over a standard Tacoma.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Another great improvement is the addition of forged upper control arms and a repositioned ball joint mount. This gives the 2.5-inch Fox internal bypass shocks more rebound stroke and results in less passenger jostling than in previous years. Even though I don't get any smooth dirt at all up here in the mountains, the Tacoma's ride is compliant and I feel like I could drive for 8 hours straight on these trails and not get out of the truck all stiff and sore. I'd like to get the TRD Pro out on some high-speed desert runs to see if this increased rebound stroke helps it tackle the whoops, but up here in the high country, the Tacoma easily scrapes up everything in its path.

Otherwise, the TRD Pro drives like it always has. The 3.5-liter V6 engine pushes out 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The six-speed automatic transmission is fine when picking your way slowly through the trails, but it's a dog on the highway, slow to shift and always hunting for the right gear. Luckily, the TRD Pro is available with a six-speed manual transmission as well.

There are drive modes for Mud and Sand, Rock and Dirt, Rock, Loose Rock and Moguls, but truth be told, you don't really need them. Low-range four-wheel drive and a steady throttle will get this Tacoma through just about anything. The TRD Pro gets a rear locking differential that helps in sketchy situations, but the front doesn't have this feature. If you're planning on going for extra-hard trails like the Rubicon or Pritchett Canyon in Moab, you'll want to look at the Colorado ZR2 or Gladiator with their front-locking setups. Further, the TRD Pro's crawl ratio is only 36:1, which is more than adequate for the mountain trails of this trip, but again, serious rock climbers will need more capability.

The forward-facing camera's resolution is total crap.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Toyota's Crawl Control is standard on the TRD Pro, where drivers can select from five different preset speeds and then just worry about steering the Tacoma. This tech works best on flat or downhill terrain, but man is it noisy. If I didn't know any better I'd think the whole drivetrain was about to drop right out from underneath the truck. Fortunately, keeping the Tacoma in four-wheel-drive low and a manually selected first gear keeps my foot off the brake most of the time.

Driving aids like precollision braking with pedestrian detection, high-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic high-beams are all standard as part of the Toyota Safety Sense-P package. But, holy cow, does the Tacoma need help in the cabin tech department. The forward-facing camera is so blurry I can barely distinguish another Tacoma sitting about 25 feet ahead of me, and all the infotainment graphics on the 8-inch touchscreen are super fuzzy. But hey, at least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

For a truck that purports to be the top off-road trim, the navigation system leaves much to be desired. It's tough to get accurate latitude and longitude readings and there is no way to see your current altitude. What's more, I can't see things like transmission, coolant and oil temperatures. When I'm wheeling above 10,000 feet and far from civilization, the more information I have the more secure I feel.

The Tacoma's charging options are par for the course, with one USB-A for phone mirroring and two 2.1-amp USB-A ports in the center console for charging. Wireless charging is also standard on the TRD Pro, as is a 120-volt/400-watt AC power outlet in the bed.

It'll take you anywhere.

Toyota

When it comes to payload, the TRD Pro Tacoma can haul 1,155 pounds in its bed when equipped with an automatic transmission. That's the lowest rating of all the off-road midsize trucks, so if Home Depot runs are in your future, look to the Ford Ranger Tremor, which can carry 1,430 pounds. The Tacoma TRD Pro is rated to tow 6,400 pounds, which isn't bad, but once again lags behind the Ranger Tremor and Gladiator Rubicon.

The 2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro with a six-speed manual transmission starts at $47,150 including a $1,215 destination charge, which is an increase of $1,610 over the 2021 model. If you opt for the six-speed automatic transmission, expect to pay $49,855.

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is an old truck. I'm not saying it's a bad truck, but it's time to stop with the incremental tweaks and give this thing a proper overhaul. The transmission needs to go, the infotainment needs a major update and the Tacoma needs to do practical truck stuff better. Still, if you want a truck that'll get you out into the wild, the Tacoma TRD Pro will not only do the trick, it'll do it for years and years to come.


Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.