2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport Review

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport Review by Auto Critic Steve Hammes

Toyota Racing Development, or TRD for short, is Toyota’s in-house speed shop if you will, providing performance parts and variants of the brand’s trucks, like this Tacoma TRD Sport.

My first test-drive of this new generation Tacoma came last year in one of the other TRD choices – the Off-Road. I came away largely disappointed with most of my criticism directed at the anemic automatic transmission. The 2017 Tacoma is available in 31 models based on two cab types, each available in 4×2 or 4×4 configurations.  With a starting MSRP of about $34,000, the TRD Sport is labeled by Toyota as the “athletic” one in the lineup, situated 3rd among the 6 model grades.  It comes standard with the 278 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and yes, a 6-speed manual…the first truck I’ve had with one of these in a long time.  This is the access cab with 2 useless rear seats and a 6’ long bed optioned up to about $38,500.  Trucks are expensive; what can I tell you?

Tacoma TRD Sport models are exclusively equipped with sport-tuned Hitachi shocks, 17” wheels and are one of only 2 Tacomas with a hood scoop, if that interests you. It rides on Toyo highway, all-season tires. But frankly, if this truck handles or rides any better than the others I can’t tell. The stick shift is certainly appreciated in that it makes the Tacoma far more agreeable to drive but don’t worry truck guy, this isn’t a Camry so it still feels and sounds like a big rig. Speaking of which, my tester has the optional TRD Pro Performance Exhaust system and unlike on the Tundra where it plays loud and proud, I can’t even tell it’s installed. A performance air filter and shift knob round out the TRD options. Drum brakes are still used in the rear.

There’s little to the TRD Sport beyond the hood scoop and sport-tuned shocks and those certainly don’t make for a true sport truck. The biggest improvement here over the TRD Off-Road I last tested is the manual transmission but even here I’ve got an issue…follow me.

At 6’1” I’m not particularly tall but each time I go to press the clutch pedal my shin rubs up against this hard piece of plastic.

You hear a mechanical clunk with each gear change which seems less synchronized than in other manual gearboxes. Confusing 1st for reverse and missing 4th when downshifting sometimes happens.  That being said, it still beats the automatic but not in fuel economy, where 18mpg can’t match the auto’s 20mpg.  For off-roading, just dial into 4-high or 4-low.

During the last redesign, Toyota eliminated the ability to place your foot on the bumper once the tailgate was down. In order to compensate for that, there’s this step assist but only on the driver’s side

It’s a $300 option while the bed mat adds $120. The Premium & Technology Package keeps the cabin up to date with dual zone auto climate control and heated seats while rear park assist, a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert add the electronic safety goodies. The Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation is standard and works well though we know Toyota doesn’t work with full Apple or Android integration.

I kept searching for more sport but never found it, leading me to wonder if a truck like this somewhat dilutes the TRD name. But it’s all good at Toyota where despite some new competition, the Tacoma is still far and away the segment sales leader.

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