This one is personal. Long before I wrote for Car and Driver, I worked at the Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds as an engineer tasked with chassis development and suspension tuning. My first big project was tuning an off-road package for the first-generation Tacoma that would be sold (unbeknownst to me) as the TRD Off-Road package. Many of the elements that make up this pickup truck's very popular package were put into place at that time: specially tuned front and rear springs, Bilstein monotube shock absorbers, and BFGoodrich tires, plus a lockable rear differential.
At the time, Bilstein's smallest 36-mm shocks (that's the internal piston's diameter) were all the bean counters would allow me. A Bilstein rep and I tuned them so they worked well on that smaller first-generation Tacoma, but as the truck grew in size and weight for the second and third generations, the 36-mm dampers were outgunned. I would have spoken up had I still been there when the second-generation was in development, but I had moved on to another job. I only realized how truly undersized those 36-mm shocks were on those newer trucks when I took a Honda Ridgeline to Death Valley alongside a third-generation Tacoma TRD Off-Road earlier in my automotive journalism career, and the Taco's rear shocks failed spectacularly on an ordinary (but admittedly long and severe) washboard dirt road.
All of that is history with the arrival of the 2024 fourth-generation Tacoma, because the TRD Off-Road finally has right-size Bilsteins: larger 46-mm units with the added cooling benefit of external reservoirs, front and rear. The rest of the package remains familiar, in that it has specially tuned springs and BFGoodrich tires, plus that lockable rear differential. But this newest iteration of the Tacoma TRD Off-Road also has two things I never had access to back in the day: a five-link coil-spring rear axle and a disconnectable front stabilizer bar. There's a lot to take in underneath the new Tacoma TRD Off-Road, so, via video, we unbolted those wheels and had a look.
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