There are some vehicles in which you expect to receive an abnormal level of attention while driving. Some of them, like sports cars, are fairly predictable. The Bullitt edition Mustang I drove a few months ago comes to mind. Others, like the Kia Stinger GT I drove earlier in the year are less predictable, and yet generate crazy reactions from the public simply because it is so gorgeous and most people have no idea what it is.
The 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD-Pro that we drove last week falls somewhere in between and while the whole package, bathed in a bright blue hue known as Voodoo Blue, is pretty damned sexy, there was one feature in particular which drew an unbelievable level of attention: the snorkel.
The most frequent commentary came in the form of a question which surprised me greatly: “What is that black thing sticking out of the hood of your truck?” It came from guys and girls, some of them were people I thought would know.
I guess I have been around the truck world for too long, because I sort of assumed that everyone knew what a snorkel was.
The next comment was of the “sweet truck, love the snorkel” variety. There were lots of those.
A few asked why the exhaust came out of the hood.
Then there was the snarky, smart-ass off roaders who threw jabs like “nice fake snorkel dude”.
And here lies the connundrum with the Taco’s most recognizable feature. The snorkel is not fake, but it also isn’t what an Ontario 4X4 enthusiast needs.
First off, for those who may not know, allow me to explain what a snorkel is. Starting at the beginning, I will remind you that along with a fuel source such as diesel or gasoline, an internal combustion engine requires a specific quantity of air, fresh, clean, atmospheric air, to run. That air has to come from outside the vehicle, which in most vehicles is accomplished through an air intake box somewhere down near the front bumper, behind the grille.
That is not the optimum position in many off road situations, such as when crossing a body of water, when the liquid may reach far enough up the vehicle to be sucked into the air intake. At best, this condition can potentially cause an engine to stop running. At worst, it can cause a catastrophic failure of the engine. The solution then is to add a tube which brings the air intake up above any reasonable water level that one might expect to successfully drive through.
How then, is the TRD snorkel a fake? It isn’t. It is just a different kind of snorkel.
Toyota has a long, illustrious history at the legendary Baja 1000 race, at the hands of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart, dating back to 1983. The current crop of TRD-Pro equipped trucks, including the 4Runner, Tundra and of course Tacoma, have been fitted with equipment suitable for driving at speed in the desert.
In the case of the Tacoma, that means under body skid plates, FOX Racing shocks with remote reservoirs and TRD springs in the front and back. It also include the addition of a free-flowing stainless steel TRD spec exhaust and a TRD “high mount desert air intake”, among a host of subtle branding cues.
Remembering that the internal combustion engine requires clean air to operate, the high mount air intake is an important thing for those running in the desert, where dust from previous vehicles can hang in the air, being sucked into conventional air intakes, clogging up air filters and robbing power.
While the Taco’s snorkel is in no way fake, desert style dust isn’t a concern for most Ontario buyers, but to be brutally honest, who cares? How many of those who buy and build off road trucks are actually making deep water crossings? For those who are, I am sure the aftermarket has a simple solution. For the rest of us, this snorkel simply looks badass!
Hell, I even saw some dude taking a selfie with it!
It has been over a year since I first drove this truck, in the wilds of Northern Ontario and truth be told, that was more like a play date than a road test. I didn’t really get to experience the truck on the road for more than a few kilometers.
Knowing that the Tacoma loves to play in the dirt, this time around, we put the truck to work to see how it fared out in the real world.
The biggest challenge that most potential Tacoma buyers will face is the seating position. Toyota’s mid-sized truck has a unique seating position which some have called “sitting on the floor”. It is kind of a love-it or hate-it situation, which Toyota truck fans have loved since the dawn of trucking. Those who don’t dig it had best look elsewhere.
Beyond that, the Tacoma is an unapologetically old school truck and there are no surprises when driving it. The truck simply feels like it is ready to take on anything you might throw at it.
There are however, a couple of TRD-Pro specific observations that some buyers might want to think about before choosing that package.
Bear in mind that at 52 years old, I still have a teenage obsession with noisy vehicles. The internal combustion engine, especially a normally aspirated V-6, is a glorious thing and deserves to be heard and the TRD exhaust sounds fantastic, if maybe even a bit too quiet for my liking around town. The challenge is that when towing even a light trailer on an undulating highway, the Tacoma’s transmission often shifts down to fourth gear, spinning the engine at just the right speed to create a constant droning noise. It isn’t terrible, but is just enough to be an annoyance.
The other observation has more to do with the desert racer spec than it does about the Tacoma. The soft rear springs required for jumping berms in the desert are not the best choice for towing, causing the back end to sag, the moment a trailer is loaded up. I have experienced the exact same condition with the even more racy Ford Raptor. For light towing, it is fine, but when images are posted on social media, inevitably some troll comments that the truck is weak or that you have overloaded it.
If you are smitten with this truck, there is a problem. The TRD-Pro version of the 2019 Tacoma had super limited availablity and the Voodoo Blue version was even more rare. Most of them were likely snapped up before they even hit dealer showrooms. For 2020, the hot colour is called Army Green with white, black and grey being the only other options. If last year’s sales are any indication, anyone wanting to buy the current model had best hurry and don’t plan on trying to haggle the $57,000 price.