WHAT IT IS: As anyone with functioning eyes has noticed, trucks and SUVs have gotten bigger and their price tags have followed right along. The mid-sized pickup truck has fallen mostly by the wayside, but Toyota has continued to produce the Tacoma and it’s been the most popular choice in the segment. The current model was introduced as a 2016 model and it received a face lift for the 2020 model year which includes a revised exterior and some new technology.
Currently mostly built in San Antonio, the Tacoma comes in six different trim levels, with three of those being designated as TRD (Toyota Racing Development) trims that offer varying levels of tuning provided by the TRD team. The TRD Sport ($32,745) has improvements aimed more at the on-road driving experience while the TRD Off-Road ($34,000) and TRD Pro ($43,960) are for leaving the pavement behind. The Off-Road adds a locking differential, TRD-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and special Goodyear tires. The TRD Pro takes things to an entirely different level by adding skid plates, FOX shocks, special wheels, TRD exhaust and much more.
Fortunately, all 2020 Tacomas get Toyota’s Safety Sense P, which provides automatic emergency braking, dynamic cruise control, lane-departure alert, and automatic high beams. When building an Off-Road, you have your choice of either a two-door or four-door model, and if you choose a four-door either a 5- or 6-foot bed. A 278-horsepower V6 is standard, and you get a choice of 2WD with an automatic transmission or 4WD and an automatic or a manual. Roughly $7,000 in additional options are available from a Tonneau cover ($650), parking technology package ($770), to the advanced technology package with multi-terrain monitor with premium audio and navigation ($4,085).
The driving experience is surprisingly different from full-sized pickup trucks. The larger trucks do have a bit more capability and have a smoother ride, but the Tacoma is significantly easier to park and maneuver. The capabilities really are extremely similar, with a Tacoma able to tow 6,400 pounds and Tundras able to handle 8,800 to 10,200 depending on configuration. The nearly 300 horsepower is plenty to push the Tacoma around. With the stagnating competitors, the only real competition for the Tacoma is the new Ford Ranger.
MPG: 18 city/23 highway (automatic with 4WD)
Price: $36,965 for base TRD Off-Road with double cab. $42,710 as-tested.
Upsides: Much easier to handle on a day-to-day basis.
Downsides: Still as fuel-inefficient as a full-sized truck.
Wrap-up: Buying a new Toyota Tacoma makes a lot of sense. It has extremely low depreciation which helps to balance out mediocre fuel economy. It still provides all of the benefits of a truck but doesn’t require you to drop $50,000 or more that the latest full-size pickup trucks are asking. My biggest complaint: the lack of available technology, has been mostly handled for the 2020 model year, so there aren’t a lot of questions left to ask. It may not be the most macho or exciting pickup, but the Tacoma TRD Off-Road will check effectively every box for a potential truck owner, as long as they are willing to own a slightly smaller truck than their friends do.