Automakers love extreme versions of already extreme vehicles. A Turbo model isn’t good enough? Porsche will gladly sell you an up-rated Turbo S. Don’t like the performance of your Mercedes AMG? Again, step up to the S model. For Toyota, that extreme of an extreme is its TRD Pro line.

Established a few years ago, the TRD Pro nameplate has been reserved for the most off-road focused versions of Toyota’s truck line. After taking a model year off, Toyota is brining back the TRD Pro treatment for its Tacoma mid-size pickup truck for 2017. Keen to test out the Tacoma TRD Pro’s off-road chops, we flew to the island of Maui to put the toughed-up truck through its paces.

A better TRD
The Tacoma is already one tough cookie when outfitted in TRD Off-Road trim, but the Pro package takes everything to the nth degree.

Compared to the standard Tacoma TRD, the TRD Pro stands an inch wider and two-inches taller thanks to a new suspension system from Fox (the regular TRD Pro uses Bilsteins at all four corners). That lifted suspension doesn’t actually change the truck’s ground clearance, but it allows for an inch more wheel travel and better approach and departure angles.

Those Fox shocks are progressive, meaning they start out soft and firm up the harder they’re hammered. As a result the TRD Pro has a little more inherent body roll than its TRD counterpart, but Toyota has countered that somewhat with thicker anti-sway bars.

Off-roaders tend to load up their rigs with aftermarket driving lights, but that won’t be necessary with the Tacoma TRD Pro. Toyota teamed up with Rigid Industry to design a bespoke fog light system for the Tacoma that’s small but mighty. Whereas most factory lighting systems throw out a beam that’s 8 meters by 12 meters, the Rigid units on the Tacoma are capable of lighting a path that’s 15 by 20 meters.

In order to protect vital components, the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro comes standard with a 1/4-inch aluminum front skidplate. That skidplate shouldn’t be the hassle it was in years past as Toyota has included a trap door to make oil changes a little easier.

The TRD Pro is powered by a 3.5L V6 that develops 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Although unchanged from the standard Tacoma, the TRD Pro model sounds a little meaner thanks to a factory-fitted cat-back exhaust system. Buyers can pick between a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

Visual enhancements for the truck include blacked-out headlights, black hood scoop accent and special TRD Pro badging. Wheels measure 16-inches across the board and sport a black alloy finish; a set of off-road tires from Goodyear come standard. In order to facilitate easier cleaning after a day in the mud, all TRD Pro models ship standard with a leather interior.

The Tacoma TRD Pro comes loaded to the gills, with the only option being a set of mud guards.

When the going gets tough
As a sign of just how off-road capable Toyota believes the Tacoma TRD Pro to be, our day-long test drive didn’t include a single stretch of paved tarmac. Instead, we spent the day putting the Tacoma TRD Pro through its paces in the forests and mountains of Maui’s Hana region.

Interestingly, in our pre-drive meeting Toyota kept pushing the TRD Pro’s “high-speed element.” Although you might think of previous TRD Pro models as slow-speed boggers, Toyota is positioning the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro as something of Ford Raptor junior. The Tacoma lacks the all-out speed to be a true pre-runner type vehicle, but Toyota says it has the suspension to cover choppy ground at a decent clip.

In order to showcase that, Toyota carved out a half-mile rally track on a piece of land overlooking the Pacific ocean. The Tacoma might have out-shined that beautiful vista.

The Tacoma TRD Pro is one tough mudder, proving its merits by bounding over the uneven terrain at speeds approaching 40mph. A fresh rain made for extremely slick conditions, but the Tacoma TRD Pro kept hammering lap after lap. Even during wide skids on the slippery mud, the TRD Pro and its four-wheel drive system was a breeze to control.

After we had our fill of high-speed mudding, we moved on to a steep technical course and stream crossing designed to highlight the TRD Pro’s advanced CRAWL Control system. Lifted from the standard TRD model, the Pro’s CRAWL Control system essentially acts as an autonomous driving aid for off-roading. Fitted with five different speed settings, CRAWL makes traversing tough off-road sections a matter of set it and forget it. The system constantly monitors what’s going on at each wheel and divvies out just the right amount of power to keep things going at a constant speed. With the system engaged, it’s just about impossible to get the Tacoma stuck.

The biggest difference we noticed between the standard Tacoma TRD and the TRD Pro model was ride quality. The standard Tacoma TRD we drove last year had fairly choppy ride; the Tacoma TRD Pro, with its upgraded Fox shocks, rides much smoother. So while the Tacoma TRD Pro is ultimately designed for off-road prowess, it might actually be the better option for daily commuting.

A bit more power would help with the Tacoma TRD Pro’s high-speed element, but the standard 3.5L V6 certainly provides enough grunt to get the job done. And thanks to the Pro’s standard cat-back exhaust, you can actually hear that grunt a little better, too.

Brakes are discs up front and drums in the rear. Although a bit old fashioned at the rear axle, we found the brakes in the TRD Pro to provide plenty of stopping power.

The six-speed auto in the Tacoma TRD Pro proved well suited to off-road duties. It stayed in the lower gears when we needed more power and shifted smoothly during faster runs. Hard-core off-roaders can opt for a six-manual that does away with the Tacoma’s CRAWL Control system in favor of locking differentials.

And the interior?
As you might expect, the interior of the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro largely carries over from the regular Tacoma. However, you do get leather seats that are easier to clean than the cloth seats used in the last-generation TRD Pro. You also get some visual upgrades like red accents, patterned seat cushions and TRD Pro embroidery on the front headrests. As with he standard Tacoma, we found the front seats to be comfortable, although the seating height is just a smidge on the low side.

Infotainment is provided via a dash-mounted 7-inch touchscreen. We didn’t spend much time fiddling around with the system, but it paired easily with our phone and offered good resolution. One thing to note: While the system features Siri Eyes Free, it lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. It does, however, boast Toyota’s Entune App Suite.

Pricing for the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro starts out at $40,760 for a manual and $42,760 for the automatic. Both prices exclude a mandatory $940 destination charge.

While certainly steep for a truck that can be had in base form for just over $24,000, an apples to apples comparison alleviates some of that sticker shock. Build up a similarly equipped TRD Off-Road model and you’ll be paying $39,330. In essence, that makes the TRD Pro a $3,430 package, which seems fair considering the kit that comes with it.

Leftlane‘s bottom line
In the world of tough compact pickups, the 2017 Toyota TRD Pro reigns supreme. With an up-rated suspension system, trick off-road lighting and a fitting appearance package, the Tacoma TRD Pro improves on an already capable platform. With he Tacoma TRD Pro, weekend warriors needn’t apply; this is a truck for only the extreme.