In today’s world of the me too crossovers, it’s nice to know that there are still some options out there if you want to have a little fun on the weekends. Yes there are sports cars still out there, but what about something a bit more rugged? You’re probably thinking about a Jeep Wrangler now, but while the Wrangler is fun, you can’t haul nearly as much stuff in it like a truck. How about the Toyota Tacoma? The Tacoma has stuck with the same formula of pure, rugged fun for years and today Toyota even offers two off-road hungry versions, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road and the Tacoma TRD Pro.
The Tacoma TRD Pro is, like its name suggests, the perfect off-roading truck, but it’s $43k starting price might be a hard pill to swallow. The Tacoma TRD Off-Road is a little more tame, but it’s also a little more accessible with its $34k starting price. After spending a week with the Tacoma Off-Road, the Tacoma proved why it continues to outsell its rivals.
The 2018 Tacoma TRD Off-Road is available in both Access Cab and Double Cab versions in either 4×2 or 4×4 versions. It’s powered by a 3.5L V6 with 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft. of torque that can be mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. To prepare it for off-road adventures, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road gets a TRD off-road suspension with Bilstein shocks and electronic locking rear differential. 4×4 versions also get Crawl Control and a Multi-terrain Select system.
Inside the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is spacious, but it’s high floor and low ceiling does hurt headroom a bit. The interior features a 7-inch touchscreen and even a cool GoPro mount on the windshield so you can film all your adventures. There’s also a rear backup camera and wireless charging for your phone. And that’s basically it, if you want something with more tech features, like Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hotspot or even a digital gauge cluster, you’ll be disappointed. But then again, the Tacoma isn’t about the latest tech fads and is more about pure, old school fun.
On the road, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road’s suspension smooths out most of the bumps, which makes it easy as a daily driver. There is a bit of nose dive during hard braking and the steering is a bit too light. On paper its V6 and six-speed automatic look up to the job and for the most part the powertrain does work well, but try to push it hard and the engine strains, while the automatic transmission awkwardly hunts for the right gear. Even cruising down the freeway with the cruise control on, the automatic transmission eagerly downshifts with the slightest incline in the road.
Once the road ends, it doesn’t matter. Flip the switch into 4×4 and get ready for some fun. The 16-inch off-road tires eat up the dirt and four-wheel drive system keeps you chugging down the trail without any drama. The Tacoma TRD Off-Road is ready to tackle anything you throw at it.
The midsize pickup segment got hotter when GM reintroduced the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, but it’s about to get even more competitive when the 2019 Ford Ranger makes its return early next year. The Tacoma will continue to put up a good fight against its newer rivals, with its brawny exterior and “go anywhere” capability. The Tacoma is showing its age a bit with its lack of tech features and a powertrain that could be better. Either way, we have to give Toyota props for continuing to offer the fun Tacoma when others abandoned the segment.