2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro first drive review: the everyman's Raptor Page 2

Underneath, the TRD Pro offers up the same running ground clearance as its siblings thanks to a relatively low-hanging rear differential (which isn't to say that 9.4 inches is measly), but its approach and departure angles are better and will reduce the risk of smacking an expensive bumper (although the GoPro footage may earn you enough to buy a new bumper). 

We'll stop short of calling the Tacoma TRD Pro with its 212.3-inch overall length "nimble," but it does feel lighter on its feet than its girth might suggest. The thin air of our Colorado testing grounds robbed the 3.5-liter V-6 of some of its sea-level 276 horsepower, but the 6-speed automatic downshifts quickly and the TRD Pro exhaust only intruded slightly on conversation in the cabin. 

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

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It has something of a dual personality in town.

Just a week prior to driving this Tacoma TRD Pro, I traversed many of the same roads and trails in a Raptor. Sure, the Raptor has a lot more power and its mash-the-skinny-pedal-and-go personality is a hoot. But the real surprise? The Tacoma TRD Pro is far more civilized to drive. Its wheelbase is shorter, but there isn't nearly as much bucking at high speed on concrete. Moreover, its proportions make it much more manageable in town.

The well-insulated interior suffers from little wind noise or road rumble from the Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear tires, which are about as aggressive as anyone not likely to spend time in deep mud will ever need. The Fox shocks reduce lean into hard corners, even though there's not much feedback through the excessively thick four-spoke steering wheel. 

Our only complaint is in the way the Tacoma stops—and this is something we've noticed in just about every body-on-frame Toyota product. Its brakes are soft; combined with the rock-ready suspension, the truck's nose dives and the passenger compartment porpoises even under modest braking between traffic lights. 

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

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Quirky interior

One thing Toyota doesn't do particularly well is make pretty cars and trucks, and the Tacoma is no exception. Its snout is too long and too blunt and its side profile looks a little like someone stepped on it to create a relatively low greenhouse.

But it's inside where we find the most fault with the Tacoma's looks. The buttons and switches are laid out somewhat haphazardly; you'll have to get acclimated to the controls so that you don't accidentally turn off the inductive device charger when you want to activate the locking rear differential. The center console has three spots for beverage cups (plus one in each door) plus an area sized just right for a smartphone. Neat idea, except that when I put the Taco in drive I jammed the gearshift into my iPhone, cracking its apparently unprotective case. Perhaps Toyota's TRD division should get into smartphone shrouds, too. 

In the end...

Like any off-roader, the 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is a compromised, flawed vehicle—albeit one that wears its charms on its sleeves. It's a more realistic off-roader for the way most truck owners will actually use their vehicles than the Ford F-150 Raptor. However, a few tweaks like a height-adjustable driver's seat would make a good truck a great one.

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