If overlanding is your thing, this is the truck for you.
Unless you've just emerged from your bunker after going underground on 16 October 1962, you probably know there's an all-new Toyota Tacoma out. There's much to explore, especially since Toyota has widened the gap between the various grades and set the two halo models down completely different paths.
We've already covered the most important things you need to know about the TRD Pro, and now it's the all-new Trailhunter's turn. At the SEMA show last year, Toyota gave us a small taste of what the Trailhunter concept is all about. Now it's officially a trim level aimed specifically at overlanding enthusiasts, being spun-off in a separate direction to the TRD Pro's desert-running ethos. We love the idea, especially as Toyota's off-roaders generally tend to be brilliant base vehicles for an overland build.
Like the TRD Pro, the Toyota Tacoma Trailhunter is exclusively available with the i-Force Max hybrid powertrain, a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-pot with an eight-speed automatic gearbox with an integrated electric motor. The combined power output is 326 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful engine ever fitted to a Tacoma.
We've seen some comments questioning the reliability of this new engine compared to the old (and horribly outdated) V6, so let's address the elephant in the room. Toyota has a stellar reputation for building rock-solid products. It has a problem bolting wheels to electric vehicles, but other than that, it almost always knocks it out of the park.
Remember that the Japanese brand pioneered hybridization, launching the world's first mass-produced hybrid two decades ago. The engineers probably know what they're doing by now, is what we're saying.
So with that addressed, let's look at five things that make the Trailhunter such a special midsize truck.
Instead of going at it alone, Toyota approached ARB 4x4 Accessories for help. For those unfamiliar with the brand, ARB dates back to 1975 when the company founder was on an off-road trip through a remote region of Australia. If you've ever been to Oz, you'll know it doesn't suffer fools and poorly built cars.
After many trips in the harshest conditions Australia could throw at him. Tony Brown noted a series of product deficiencies across multiple brands, designing a host of standardized replacement parts.
Today, ARB is a globally respected company, and customers appreciate the investment the brand makes in each of its products. In these safety-conscious times, ARB tests its products extensively, even ensuring that a massive steel replacement bumper has no impact on how the car's safety systems operate.
ARB was massively involved in the design of the Trailhunter. The Australians even sent their engineers to work on-site with Toyota's people.
While the TRD Pro is equipped with Fox shocks, the preferred brand of choice for go-faster trucks, the Trailhunter has fitted an Old Man Emu (OME) setup, co-developed between Toyota and ARB.
The Trailhunter has 2.5-inch forged monotube shocks with rear external piggyback-style remote reservoirs, and instead of coping with the occasional jump, these shocks are built for the long run. Overlanders often find themselves in remote locations for weeks on end, and the last thing you want is a bent shock absorber because you hit an unseen hole in the road, or off it.
Other benefits include a smoother ride and the ability to adjust the compression valving. For a quick weekend off-road excursion, you can use a softer setup with greater articulation for improved grip. For longer trips, where you may need to tow a trailer, a firmer setup at the rear will provide greater rig control.
Toyota dived deep into the ARB parts catalog and poached a steel rear bumper with robust recovery points. There are also light- or heavy-duty ARB bed racks for the five- or six-foot beds, providing ample space for overlanding equipment like rooftop tents, bike mounts, or weatherproof cargo bags.
To protect whatever precious cargo you have stored in the bed, the Trailhunter has a bed utility bar with Molle panels.
Toyota provided a few images of a built-up Tacoma Trailhunter, giving customers an idea of what's possible when using this particular truck as a base car.
All of the above is just the beginning. Toyota recently set up the Associated Accessory Products (AAP) program, allowing customers to include over 100 accessories, including recovery gear. Whatever you choose to fit is included in the price and rolled into the monthly payment, making it a more affordable way of building an overlander.
Toyota says AAP will continue to evolve and grow over time, and it's also open to the standard Tacoma.
In addition to the Old Man Emu shocks, the Trailhunter comes standard with 33-inch Goodyear Territory R/T tires. These tires claim to offer the comfort of an all-terrain while providing the traction of proper mud-terrain rubber. We're big fans of the reinforced sidewall. In our experience, most tires are killed by the smallest, sharpest rocks on an overland trip, and they always go for the darn sidewall.
The tires give the Trailhunter an additional two inches of lift at the front and 1.5 inches at the rear. Instead of the TRD's fruity exhaust, the Trailhunter has a high-clearance trail exhaust and an air intake routed up the passenger-side A-pillar.
It also has hot-stamped high-strength steel skid plates and robust rock rails. You can head into the unknown, feeling confident that the car already has all the protection it needs straight from the factory.
On the practical side, the Trailhunter is equipped with a 2,400-watt AC inverter straight from the factory. It provides power to two locations. The Trailhunter is also pre-wired for accessories, with three auxiliary toggle switches on the dashboard. By doing this, Toyota is already saving possible customers time and money. Installing a system like this isn't cheap, and the wrong shop will often use poor-quality auxiliary switches in the most awkward locations.
The lighting in the bed is triangulated, so there are no dark spots; little things like this matter on a moonless night in the desert or forest. The grille has an integrated 20-inch LED light bar and white/yellow color-switching Rigid LED fog lamps.
From a style side, the Trailhunter is good-looking. The bronze alloys and "TOYOTA" heritage-inspired grille are sublime.
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