Toyota kicks up off-road appeal for trucks

Toyota will market TRD Pro options on the 4Runner starting this fall and on the Tundra and Tacoma pickups with the 2015 model year.
UPDATED: 2/6/14 10:53 am ET

CHICAGO -- Toyota will take three of its best-selling trucks to a new trim level of off-roading features and styling under the banner of TRD Pro Series.

Toyota will introduce TRD Pro options on the 4Runner this fall and on the Tundra and Tacoma pickups in the 2015 model year, the company said today at the Chicago Auto Show.

The series, inspired by Toyota's involvement in Baja desert racing, will incorporate specially tuned front springs, Bilstein-brand performance shocks, protective front skid plates, TRD-designed floor mats, shift knobs and front grilles, and also feature black wheels, Toyota says.

The TRD Pro Tundra models also get retuned springs, a 2-inch front end lift and dual exhausts.

The rugged niche enhancements come as Toyota attempts to develop a sportier and less conservative brand image. Last month at the Detroit auto show, Toyota also declared its interest in the high-output sports car segment with a flashy concept called the FT-1.

The TRD Pro packages were created by Toyota's in-house engine and chassis design arm, Toyota Racing Development of Costa Mesa, Calif. The operation began tuning special off-trim packages on Toyota trucks in 1998.

Toyota sold 3,958 4Runners in January, a 12 percent decline from January 2013; 9,842 Tacomas, a decline of 15 percent; and 7,890 Tundras, a 13 percent increase from a year earlier.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at