Went Back to the TRD Sport

Introduction

Awhile back I wrote about my experience with the TRD Sport and TRD Pro where I concluded the Sport is better suited for me. Since writing that post, knowing that the Pro just isn’t right has been nagging at me. The ride and handling are the biggest things I keep coming back to. Spur of the moment I decided to trade my Pro for a Sport.

Model

Model year

2018
Cab
4 door
Bed
Short bed
Engine
V6
Transmission
Automatic
Drive
4×4
Seats
Cloth
Climate
Standard single zone with dials
Safety
Parking sensor and blind spot monitoring
Tow package
Yes

What’s special about this truck is, it’s nearly what I wanted when I got my first TRD Sport. When I went to get the 2016 Tacoma I wanted an SR5, 4×4 with cloth seats. I didn’t realize the Sport had an upgraded infotainment system at that time. Otherwise I would have wanted the Sport back then. Even the color is the color I originally wanted. Funny how if I had gotten this in the very beginning I probably wouldn’t be on my 3rd 3rd gen Tacoma.

I’ve had the new Sport for about a month now and I want to revisit some things from the last post. With having the two so recently there are some things I forgot and a few things that I didn’t realize how pronounced they are.

So far I’ve driven around town and I’ve gone on a long highway drive out of town for a business trip. I’ve done my normal commute as well as around an unfamiliar area for a few days.

Powertrain

One huge change with the 2018 model year that blew me away is the powertrain. It’s the same as the 2016 and 2017 but Toyota did something to fix it. It actually shifts properly. It shifts much smoother and at the proper time. It’s still an older automatic design and there is still lag between when it shifts. But it’s actually not bad. I don’t know what Toyota did but it’s much smoother and doesn’t feel like it’s bogging down nearly as much when you accelerate.

It still can’t compare to the 10 speed Ford is putting in the F150 but whatever Toyota did, they made it feel like a different truck. It’s pretty decent now and not aggravating. There isn’t unacceptably excessive lag before it decides to downshift, and it doesn’t stay in the wrong gear all the time.

Handling

Something I forgot about is, the Pro has had more play in the steering than the Sport (either of them). The loose steering means you have put in more input to correct the normal drifting within a lane. I wouldn’t call the Sport direct but it needs far less steering input.

The steering also feels lighter with the Sport, which is nice. I’m not confusing play with weight. For play I’m comparing actual distance the wheel needs to move to cause the same amount of direction change. I’m not sure if it really is any lighter but it feels that way. Making a u-turn is easier in the sport since you’re not pulling the wheel hand over hand with nearly as much force.

Cornering is probably the biggest handling difference between the Sport and Pro. The Pro always felt like it was understeering and had a lot of body roll due to the soft suspension. The Sport feels planted and I don’t question if it will go the direction the wheels are pointing.

Obviously body roll is going to factor into handling. Since the Pro has a soft suspension you get a lot of it. The Sport being firm, not so much.

Stability

The Pro almost always feels unstable because of the body roll and understeer. A strong wind on the highway or faster moving traffic always cause the truck to rock side to side. I don’t feel this in the Sport which is much harder to unsettle. The Pro isn’t dangerous on the highway or anything like that but I never felt I could really relax in the Pro on the highway.

Ride Comfort

On rough roads the Pro hands down is far more comfortable. Even speed bumps are nicer. The Pro just floats over imperfections and smooths out bumps. Not only does it ride over bumps smoother, the side to side motion it causes is also more pleasant.

The Sport has a firm suspension and you feel every bump. You are thrown up and down in your seat instead of gently swaying side to side. Speed bumps in the Sport you really feel. Especially the back end which feels more like it’s falling over them than driving over them.

I went on a  short drive out of town and what I thought were mild roads felt horrible in the Sport. I was bounced around all over and the trip was just plain unpleasant. The road didn’t look bumpy at all but in the Sport I felt every single one. It was a constant hard bounce the entire way. I didn’t feel any of this the last time if drive that road in the Pro.

Now smooth roads are a different story. The Sport cruises down the road and you barely feel it. When there aren’t imperfections or if they’re very minimal the ride is great. Unlike the Pro where you really felt the off road focused tires unforgiving side walls. I go out of town a handful of times a year and the longer drives are all highway. If I lived out of town and had to drive a long bumpy roads regularly I don’t think I could handle the Sport’s suspension.

Moderately weathered (normal) roads the two are pretty different but I’ll say they feel comparable. You feel the bumps in the Sport and you feel the hard sidewalls in the tires in the Pro. They’re both still trucks and on an average road you get a mix of rough and smooth spots.

Driving Fatigue

Over long distances fatigue from the two is by and large the same. The only time it really differs is, again, on rough roads. The Sport’s firmer ride means the suspension really transfers vibrations into you. On a smooth highway no problem. A long drive over bumpy roads and you’ll feel better getting out of the Pro.

That said, the Sports more direct and lighter steering allows you to relax more overall. In the Pro I always felt like I had to work to stay in my lane. This is especially true on the highway with faster moving traffic. As other vehicles would go by the Pro would become unsettled and I’d have to compensate far more and more often than in the sport. I feel more confident about what the truck is doing on the highway in the Sport.

There are two other types of suspension between the extremes of the Sport and Pro but I don’t have any experience with them. Possibly the Limited/SR5 or Off Road is a good compromise between the two hard Sport and soft Pro.

Another big fatigue factor is the noise. The Pro’s exhaust drones and sounds horrible. You don’t hear any road or wind noise because all you can hear is the exhaust. It’s very monotonous and annoying. I felt disconnected to the drive because of the soft suspension and only being able to hear the exhaust.

The Sport is very quiet by comparison. I can hear road and wind noise but they’re not nearly as loud as the Pro’s exhaust. Plus they change constantly so there is a bit of variety. It’s a night and day difference between the two and I’m amazed at how much the exhaust note irritated me.

Seat Comfort

I said previously that the cloth seats are more comfortable and I’m sorry to say I was wrong. The only time I prefer the cloth seats is on a long (4+ hour) drive because they’re  softer. That said, it’s easy enough to stop and walk around for a few minutes every 2 or so hours. That completely alleviate the leather seats being a bit harder.

Getting into the leather seats in the Pro it was sit down and go. The cloth seats are sit down, wiggle until you find the right position, get going, and readjust. Then you’re good. The reason is the leather seats are the right shape, for me, and they don’t change all that much when you sit in them. The cloth seats being so squishy you really have to find the right spot to be comfortable.

I can definitely tell when I’m not sitting just right in the cloth seats. After awhile I’ll start to feel tension in my neck and shoulders. That wasn’t happening nearly as much in the leather seats.

The cloth does help when going around turns. You stay in place better with the friction of the cloth. Versus the leather where you slide to the side. This is especially noticeable in the Pro because the suspension has you moving side to side much more than the Sport. The body roll in the Pro means you slide with every turn no matter how mild. However, the leather seats are so easy to get positioned just right it’s a small annoyance more than anything.

The leather seats are better. Unfortunately, I don’t believe you can get leather (only leather trimmed) seats in the Sport. I’m considering having the seats reupholstered in the future. I’m not sure I want to put in all the work myself this time.

Less Worry

The Pro is a more expensive truck and looks a lot nicer. The two Sports I’ve had/have aren’t nearly as nice and don’t look as good. Which means I’m less bothered about getting dings and chips.

The Pro being a status symbol, because of what it is, I aways wanted to keep it looking perfect. The Sport is still a very nice truck but I’m not as worried about it. It’s less stressful to own because I’m not nearly attached to it.

Fuel Economy

The Sport, even with 4 wheel drive, is lighter and has better areo. It gets better millage than the Pro did (17/20). I’m getting about 20/23 right now in this Sport. That’s much better than the Pro and right around where I’d expect to be vs my previous 4×2 Sport (21/25).

Conclusion

So far I like this new Sport better than the Pro. I don’t miss any of the off road features the Pro has that I don’t have on the Sport. I never used the locking diff, or crawl control and I actually don’t even notice they’re not there. Except when I put my sun glasses away because the Sport has a sun glass holder where the crawl control controls go.

Driving the Sport is better. It handles, and turns better. It’s more stable and less stressful to drive. However, the ride of the Pro is so much smoother on any surface with imperfections. Any moderate roads the Sport just rattles you and on really bad roads, well, I’m happy I haven’t had to drive on anything other than moderate roads and even then it’s not very often.

That said, the Sport does do the most important things for me better. Which is handling, stability, and fuel economy (least important of the important things). I think where I live it’s a good choice and a better choice than the Pro.

The only thing I really miss about the Pro is the way it looks. The grill, skid plate, black fender flares, slightly higher front and being leveled made the Pro look fantastic. It also had understated styling with a small black Pro badge on the tail gate and small Pro emblems on the side. It’s nothing like the giant TRD 4×4 Sport stickers across most of the bed sides I have now. I know I can make changes to the appearance but I’m looking at this from the standpoint of how it comes from the factory.

There are other trims and maybe the Limited or Off Road would have been a better choice. I really don’t know because you really can’t get a feel for any vehicle from a test drive. You really need to drive it daily for at least a month and drive a lot. For me I need to drive the same roads at different times, and different temperatures. I also need to drive places I go but not regularly. There isn’t really anyway to do this so you’re left with reviews that never do this sort of comparison or take a chance and buy it.

Thankfully I had a Sport previously and I knew I would like it better than the Pro. And I do.