The Toyota Tacoma has been a staple on off road trails since it originally debuted in 1995. Known for it shear indestructibility, the Tacoma has been modified and used by many to get wherever they wanted to go. Great engines and a smaller body contribute to the love of the Tacoma and its off road spirit. The Tacoma itself, like many of Toyota and Lexus current SUV options, is actually quite dated but enough was done during the 2016 model year refresh to consider it “all new”. Some of the big changes include replacing the old 4.0L V6 with a newer 3.5L V6, adding more high strength steel for ridgeness, and updated many of the front and rear body panels to a more masculine look. The truck looks nearly similar but you can definitely tell its newer.
The TRD Pro package to this pickup not cheap, but the changes make for a very capable truck. Some of the big items include Kevlar armored 35” tires mounted to 16” wheels specifically made for the TRD Pro Tacoma and Fox shocks that provide better handling for the off road bits. Overall, this truck is optioned much better than the Tundra I tested back in December. The lack of heated seats on the Tundra was inexcusable, a mistake Toyota did not make twice.
On the road the Tacoma is actually quite nice to drive. The Fox shocks meant to help off the road are equally as compliant on it. Combined with the very large tires, speed bumps, potholes, and rough roads are easily soaked up. In the corners the Tacoma becomes unsurprisingly floaty as the large tires flex sideways and the body roll takes its effect. The scariest thing about this Tacoma on the road was the severe brake dive. When you hit the brakes hard, it feels like everything is moving around you. It is not confidence in spring in the least bit.
As far as drivetrain, this particular Tacoma may also be one of the more Tacomas ever made. Of all 250,000 Tacomas sold this year, only 5% are a Manual. That does not even account for the fact that this is a V6 TRD Pro with the manual. The 6 speed made the best use possible of the 278 hp and 265 lb-ft provided but was not without its quirks. The sloppiness of the gearbox meant reverse and first gear were very easy to switch while skipping a gear and possibly ending up with a “money shift” was quite possible. I still very much preferred it over the automatic though.
The interior of Tacoma is not perfect, but it’s also not a terrible place to spend some time in. I really never got that comfortable in the Tacoma as it is notorious for a weird seating position alienates those around 6’ or taller. The backseat has enough room for an average sized person to be comfortable or to stow lots of gear, but it is by no means the cavernous space of the Tundra. The leather work is nice enough and this TRD Pro thankfully came with heated seats (looking at you Tundra). Other than seating position my only other complaint came from the blocky shift topper. It sat at a weird angle where your hand was grabbing a corner but also would not turn. In a case like this, I would have preferred something more that would fit more people’s hands comfortably.
Unlike the Tundra, I was unfortunately not able to take the Tacoma off-road but I have a few thoughts anyways. As great as a manual is on the road, I have actually never been a fan of them off road. Dealing with a stalled engine while trying to avoid hitting a rock when rolling back in your over $50,000 truck does not sound optimal. A Lexus LX570 with the automatic was perfect for letting me enjoy my time off road and ensuring I just had to focus on where to go and not how to get the power to go over it. The Tacomas clearance would be great, but the steps sliders that stick out are just asking to catch on a rock or tree. Brute force seems like it would just as soon rip them off.
Overall the Tacoma is a great vehicle and perfect for anyone looking to do a bit of off-roading. If you are just running around town, the brake dive might get you but the manual is fun and the Voodoo Blue grabs the attention of everybody. At nearly $50k, the Tacoma is only $6k short of admittedly bare bones but much more powerful and larger Tundra. If you are set on an off road friendly Toyota, I would recommend the non-Pro Tacoma TRD Off-Road and some modifications of your own. With the nearly $10,000 price difference, you can build a vehicle that fits your specific needs perfect. If you have the money and want the cool factor though, a TRD Pro is a great truck.