Overlanding the 2019 Toyota TRD Pro Lineup

    Four days off the pavement

    Tim EsterdahlWriterJered KorfhagePhotographer

    Our convoy of clean, Super White Toyota TRD Pro vehicles left the majestic mountain oasis of Ouray, Colorado, bound for an overlanding journey that included splashing through mountain streams, climbing over massive rocks, and nearly getting lost in dust clouds. As we left Ouray, it was the last time we would see the TRD Pros that clean, and that’s just the way we like it.

    The four-day overland camping trip was the brainchild of Toyota, and the trip was designed so we could test out the new trio of TRD Pro vehicles. Our trip would see us drive across the 160-mile Rimrocker Trail on our way to Moab, Utah. Spending about 80 percent of our trip aired down on dirt paths while craning our necks to take in the stunning scenery, we put the Tundra, Tacoma, and 4Runner through the paces.

    New Upgrades for 2019

    The Toyota TRD Pro vehicles have been mildly refreshed for the 2019 model year with new shocks for Tundra and 4Runner, additional safety equipment, a new Voodoo Blue color to go along with Super White and Midnight Black, and an assortment of off-road–oriented upgrades. The 2019 lineup not only builds on the successes of the previous generation of TRD Pros, but it also draws from Toyota’s rich history of off-road racing. Engineers have taken the lessons learned between the starting line and the checkered flag and incorporated them into the capable and dependable vehicles we know today.

    The big news on the TRD Pros is new Fox shocks replacing the prior generation’s Bilstein versions on the Tundra and 4Runner. The Tacoma uses the same Fox shocks found in the ’17 TRD Pro. Also, there are now piggyback reservoirs for all the vehicles on the rear shocks to reduce shock fade. The 4Runner and Tacoma both come with a 2-inch-diameter reservoir, while the Tundra has a larger 2.5-inch-diameter reservoir. Another new item for 2019 is standard Toyota Safety Sense-P technology. This safety equipment varies depending on the vehicle. Finally, the 4Runner and Tacoma get an upgraded JBL audio system.

    2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

    When we first laid eyes on the Tundra TRD Pro it was clear—this is no base model. Toyota has prominently spelled its name across the grille, added Rigid Industries LED foglights, and put a massive hoodscoop on the front end. Along the sides, Toyota carried over the TRD Pro stamping on the bed’s rear quarter-panels. The stamped metal looks great and is an upgrade over just a sticker. Visually, the Tundra TRD Pro sits more level with a 2-inch front lift, and the new 18-inch BBS forged-aluminum, five-spoke satin black wheels add to the brawny look.

    Inside the Tundra TRD Pro, red stitching has been retained and continues to accent the dash, seats, and armrests. Toyota designers added a variety of TRD Pro logos that adorn the front seats, shift knob, floor mats, and center-console emblem. The use of the logos and stitching hits the mark in terms of style and creating a different feel than a stock SR5.

    Mechanically, the new Fox shocks offer 11 bypass zones (7 compression, 4 bypass) in the front and 12 bypass zones (8 compression, 4 bypass) in the rear, along with 3.35 fewer pounds of un-sprung mass per wheel and increased wheel travel (1.5 additional inches front, 2 inches rear); the Tundra rides better and is clearly more capable than stock versions.

    While we drove with the tires aired down to 20 psi during the entire trip, the Tundra’s 5.7L V-8 engine mated to a six-speed transmission provided all sorts of power at our disposal for any challenge we could throw at it. The Tundra does lack a locking rear differential compared to the Tacoma and 4Runner; however, the traction control, 381 hp, and 401 lb-ft of torque helped to keep the Tundra moving forward. We spent most of our time in 4-Lo, allowing us to control the transmission gear selection as well as to increase our fun with having traction control off. Speaking of fun, there is just something about the TRD Pro’s upgraded exhaust that kept our foot heavy on the go-pedal, just to hear its throaty roar.

    The TRD Pro was the largest vehicle of the three vehicles we tested, but it was right at home laden with camping gear, capably cruising through the backcountry.

    2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

    After a day in the Tundra, we switched into the smaller Tacoma to see how it would like the rocky terrain. Like the Tundra, it did not disappoint. Toyota clearly puts a lot of research and development behind the Tacoma, and it shows.

    The Tacoma sits 1 inch taller due to new TRD-tuned springs and carryover 46mm Fox shocks—the same size found on the Tundra. These shocks provide 8 bypass zones (5 compression, 3 rebound) on the front and 11 bypass zones (7 compression, 4 rebound) on the rear. The Tacoma also gets a larger front sway bar to help with cornering and handling. It rides on 16-inch TRD Pro black alloy wheels wrapped in P265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler Kevlar All-Terrain tires. Lighting is improved with Rigid Industries LED foglights, and there’s an after-cat TRD exhaust with black chrome tip. It has a blacked-out grille similar to the Tundra, along with several other TRD accoutrements.

    Clearly, the most standout feature is the new Desert Air Intake, which sprouts from the passenger side. This combination factory- and dealer-installed addition (factory installs front fender, dealer installs Desert Air Intake) brings fresh air into the engine, avoiding the dirty air commonly found when off-roading in a convoy such as what we were doing.

    Stepping into the Tacoma, we found that the cabin largely resembled the stock trim level, with the addition of the TRD Pro logos on the floor mats and headrests. Speaking of the interior, one of the common complaints on the pickup is the seat height and entry/exit of the cabin. A long day on the trail brought both of these shortcomings to our attention, and while seat height is a personal preference, we discovered (between various drivers of different heights) that contorting your body to get into the pickup gets old after a while.

    The standard off-road equipment like Crawl Control and A-TRAC proved their mettle climbing up the steep inclines we actively sought out. Dropping the Tacoma into 4-Lo returned the most power from the Atkinson-cycle 3.5L V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic. Rated at 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, the engine proved plenty powerful on the trail, but feels a bit sluggish on the open road.

    After logging three days of dirt miles, the Tacoma TRD Pro reaffirmed its dominance within the midsize truck segment, sponging up washboard-riddled roads and steering nimbly between obstacles, all while the Desert Air Intake kept the truck’s sinuses clear of dust.

    2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

    The 4Runner’s Fox shocks are new, but the overall design and powertrain date back to 2009 (mildly refreshed in 2014). The driving experience is a mix of the 4Runner showing its age while still proving it is one of the more underappreciated off-road vehicles on the market.

    On the exterior, the 4Runner carries a lot of sharp angles and lines, giving it a rough, unique look. Toyota takes this look and adds in a blacked-out grille with Toyota lettering, a smattering of blacked-out TRD Pro badges, a 1/4-inch-thick front skidplate, and an after-cat TRD exhaust with black chrome tips. Sadly, Toyota skipped the Rigid Industries foglights and black bezels found on the Tacoma.

    The 4Runner sits 1 inch taller thanks to the same TRD-tuned springs as the Tacoma, and it also has an additional 1 inch of wheel travel. Like the other TRD Pros, the Fox shocks provide more rear bypass zones with 11 (7 compression, 4 rebound); the front has 7 zones (4 compression, 3 rebound).

    A unique feature for the 4Runner is a new TRD roost shield designed to provide additional protection for the inverted shock design in the rear. This shield is basically needed since Toyota is upfitting the older 4Runner platform with TRD Pro equipment. The 4Runner TRD Pro rides on 17-inch matte-black TRD alloy wheels wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler P265/70R17 A/T tires.

    On the inside, TRD Pro floor mats, shift knob, headrests, and red stitching are found throughout. These accents add some new style to the SUV, but don’t improve the tight cabin with the button-overloaded center stack.

    Our 4Runner came equipped with a standard-for-2019 TRD Roof Rack that is a perfect place to stash extra (or smelly) equipment for longer expeditions. While the rack is not the defining feature of the TRD Pro 4Runner, it does improve utility and gives the rig some adventure appeal.

    Before we got to the dirt, the 4.0L V-6 engine (270 hp, 278 lb-ft of torque) mated to a five-speed automatic was nothing to write home about. The SUV felt sluggish off the line and heavy in the corners. However, on the trail, the smaller size of the 4Runner TRD Pro and its additional ground clearance made it a great rig to wheel with. The 109.8-inch wheelbase, about 1 inch shorter than a four-door Jeep Wrangler, was an asset when steering amongst obstacles. When 4-Lo, Crawl Control, and A-TRAC worked together with the locking rear differential, neither deep mud nor steep, rocky climbs could hold it back.

    Final Thoughts

    After spending a few days with the new TRD Pros, it is clear that they offer improvements over the prior generation, and their renowned reliability makes them a big player in the off-road scene. They are solid vehicles that shine in the dirt.

    Does it Work? Testing the 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Desert Air Intake

    The big news item on the ’19 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is the Desert Air Intake.

    Toyota made it clear it isn’t a “snorkel” meant to increase water fording depth, and there is no water fording depth listed on any of the specs. The Desert Air Intake is meant for getting cleaner air into the engine bay. Toyota tells us they got the idea from seeing vehicles crossing the Australian Outback in convoys. Many of these vehicles have high-mounted intakes that connect to the airbox in order to avoid clogged air filters, or worse, thick dusty air pushing into the engine.

    After a few days of driving in convoy fashion, often in a wall of dust, we removed the air filters from the Tacoma and 4Runner and did a side-by-side comparison. Since the Tacoma’s air intake rises above the roof line, while the 4Runner’s air intake brings in air by the wheelwell, we weren’t that surprised by what we saw. The Tacoma air filter was considerably less dirty than the 4Runner, even with the 4Runner’s foam pre-filter protecting it.