Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A green 2024 Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter and a white 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD are shown from the front while off-road.

Trailhunter vs TRD Pro: Which Off-Road Tacoma Trim Should Fuel Your Adventures?

The Toyota Tacoma is long known as a versatile truck that can handle the road, the off-road, and the job site effortlessly. For the 2024 model year, those who want to emphasize this truck’s off-road personality have a new option and a revamped old one at their fingertips. As part of the first new Tacoma generation in eight years, the TRD Pro trim has gotten a major redesign, while a new trim—the Trailhunter—is joining it in the battle for off-road supremacy.

If you’re looking at a Toyota Tacoma for sale to take you far away from the roads, you’re going to have a tough choice to make. While both these trucks are excellent ways to explore the world, they’re not necessarily meant to explore it the same way. Any off-road veteran will tell you that, if you use a truck that was configured for rock-crawling instead for dune-bashing, you’re not going to get as much out of it. Toyota designed the TRD Pro and the Trailhunter with these differences in mind.

So which is which, and is there any crossover for people who love all kinds of off-roading? Join us as we travel over a few hills, rocks, and sand piles to see how these truck trims best enjoy getting dirty…

The Tacoma TRD Pro: The Desert Is Its Oyster

For the third generation of the Toyota Tacoma, the TRD Pro stood as its headlining off-road trim. Replacing the TRD T/X Baja trim that enticed buyers the previous three years, the TRD Pro built upon the all-purpose TRD Off-Road package while staying true to the Baja spirit. Since the beginning, this truck has been meant to run through the desert with abandon. Toyota even dubbed it the “Taco Supreme”—a perhaps slightly insensitive reference to the way it could aggressively yet gracefully rumble over dunes and around cacti south of the border.

The TRD Pro was originally a limited-edition trim like the T/X Baja with approximately 1,200 trucks produced in the first year. However, it’s shown to have some staying power. Though Toyota doesn’t release trim-specific sales numbers, one estimate puts the current TRD Pro numbers between 2,000 and 3,500 trucks annually. With Toyota freshening up the Tacoma, the rising tide—or dune, if you will—has lifted the TRD Pro as well, with a new hybrid powertrain, eight-speed automatic transmission, standard four-wheel drive (FWD), and active traction control just a few of the ways it prepares you for arid fast-paced thrills.

A green 2024 Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter is shown from the front at an angle.

The Tacoma Trailhunter: Overlanding Reimagined

Its name gives you a big clue as to what the Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter is for. Before now, overland enthusiasts either had to do the best they could with the TRD Off-Road from the factory, add some customized parts, or gravitate toward another manufacturer. Now, however, Toyota finally has a trim aimed specifically at driving over rocky terrain.

This truck is for going off the grid. Features such as high-clearance bumpers and underbody protection come standard on the Trailhunter. You don’t even have to drive home before heading to the nearest mountain or woodland trail! Toyota has partnered with leading aftermarket off-road brands to offer high-performance parts and equipment integrated into the truck from the get-go. They also created the Associated Accessory Products (AAP) program so people can order more than 100 other accessories, from camping gear to snowboard carriers, for installation on their Trailhunter before it leaves the factory.

What Makes These Trims Different?

The question becomes how Toyota achieves the subtle yet important differences needed for these types of off-roading. A big part of the answer lies out of sight. Both trucks are based on the independent front suspension and five-link rear coil suspension standard for upper Tacoma trims. However, they are tuned in to optimize performance on their targeted terrain. The Old Man Emu forged monotube coil-over front shocks on the Trailhunter offer industry-leading durability and control, while the racing-inspired FOX adjustable shocks on the TRD Pro are for going fast on dunes and pavement.

Underbody protection is also more prevalent on the Trailhunter with an added rear differential protector and rock rails; the Trailhunter’s protection is made of steel, while the TRD Pro’s is aluminum. Since the TRD Pro is made for going fast in a hot desert, it gets a premium cold-air intake for maximum performance. The Trailhunter has a more standard intake with a high mounting to reduce debris. The TRO Pro also gets the first-ever IsoDynamic performance front seats; these patent-pending seats have their own shock absorbers for smoother riding.

Talking about visual differences, both trucks are equipped with Rigid Industries LED fog lights, but the Trailhunter’s lights can switch between white and amber hues to help with visibility. The Trailhunter has a raised exhaust tip and vintage bronze wheels, while the TRD Pro has a regular-height black exhaust tip and matching wheels. Also of note, the TRD Pro is only available with the five-foot bed configuration, while Trailhunter buyers have the choice of a five-foot bed or an XtraCab six-foot bed for larger cargo. These differences may seem subtle to some people, but experienced off-roaders will be able to tell whether their truck is truly ready for the trip ahead.

A white 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is shown from the front at an angle after leaving a dealer that has a Toyota Tacoma for sale.

What Makes These Trims Alike?

Even with the things that set the TRD Pro and Trailhunter apart, one must remember they are built on the same platform; this means plenty of similarities that off-roaders of all stripes will find appealing. For starters, an identical i-FORCE MAX hybrid engine beats at their heart. This 2.4L turbocharged I-4 offers 326 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. (That’s 48 more horsepower and 200 more torque than the V6 of the previous Tacoma generation.) It’s mated to an eight-speed intelligent automatic transmission with part-time 4WD and a two-speed electronic transfer case for just the right amount of pull.

As part of the revamp, all Toyota Tacoma trucks now have a body-on-frame construction, so they’re more rugged than ever. The limited-slip rear differential the TRD Pro was known for is swapped on each truck for an electronic locking differential; since pretty much any terrain can have potential traction issues, this is a welcome addition.

Here are some of the other ways the TRD Pro and Trailhunter are made for tackling anything that’s not pavement:

  • One inch of front lift and a half-inch of rear lift for getting over obstacles.
  • A high-clearance front bumper for better approach and breakover angles.
  • Front and rear stabilizer bars with a disconnect mechanism if you want some extra lean.
  • An ARB steel rear bumper with integrated recovery hooks for getting out of trouble.
  • Goodyear 33-inch rugged-terrain tires on 18-inch alloy wheels for more traction and clearance.
  • A bed storage box for tools, equipment, or luggage.
  • Heated and leather-trimmed steering wheels for comfort in cool weather.
  • Multiple driving modes, crawl control, and downhill assist control.

Two Prime Off-Road Trims

When announcing the new generation of the Tacoma in May 2023, Toyota referred to it as “the ultimate adventure machine.” Looking at the new Trailhunter and the updated TRD Pro, it’s hard to argue with this claim. Toyota has provided overlanders and dune-bashers with a pair of well-made trucks that don’t need any work from the factory to be prepared for some swashbuckling—but if you want to customize them for a personalized experience, you certainly can.

The best way to describe the top-end, off-road Tacoma trims is this: the TRD Pro is for going fast, and the Trailhunter is for going far. Whichever is your goal, your chosen truck will deliver on its promises—with the latest infotainment technology and safety features to boot.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *