What Is the Most Capable Version of the Toyota Tacoma?
The midsize Toyota pickup offers a dizzying array of off-road configurations.
If you’re looking for a durable pickup truck, it’s hard to beat the Toyota Tacoma. These rigs have a reputation for providing years of worry-free utility. For 2023, the Trail and Nightshade Editions return along with the same six trims from 2022. If you’re looking to take your Taco off-pavement, you’ve got several options to get your heart racing.
Under the Hood
Starting with the basics, every Tacoma is available in two- or four-wheel drive. Lower trims come with a standard 2.7L four-cylinder engine. The 3.5L V6 is a better choice here, with more power. The six-speed manual ekes out the most power, while an ancient (in automotive terms) six-speed automatic is also available. As in the Toyota 4Runner, the powerplant is not the star here. The Tacoma shines thanks to its features.
Just a Warm-Up
The SR5 represents a great value with its manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) starting under $30k, though it does rise as you check the option boxes. Topping out at just over $40k, the Trail Special Edition Package includes a locking rear differential for better traction over the rough stuff and a front air dam delete for better ground clearance. There is a 1.1-inch front lift for a better approach angle while the rear gets a small half-inch lift, improving departure angle. Added goodies include skid plates, nifty 16-inch bronze wheels for a slightly wider track and more aggressive all-terrain tires. This is a great starter package.
The TRD Off-Road steps it up a notch. This truck is well-equipped with the Multi-Terrain Select technology offering five drive modes to help the truck get through a variety of terrains. You’ll also get crawl control, which functions as an off-road cruise control, keeping the truck at one of five low-speed settings so the driver need only focus on tire placement. A rear differential locker, skid plates and specially-tuned Bilstein shocks finish out the trim.
The Big Boy
If you’re after serious off-road shenanigans, you’ll have to step up to the TRD Pro. Only available with the double cab, four-wheel drive and a 5-ft bed, you’ll get everything that comes with the TRD Off-Road trim with the bonus of a front skid plate. Although ground clearance remains the same at 9.4 inches, a suspension lift gives the TRD Pro approach, departure, and breakover angles of 36.4 degrees, 24.7 degrees and 26.6 degrees, respectively.
Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks with rear remote reservoirs soak up the bumps. While this isn’t a long-travel setup, these components are tuned a bit softer and allow for faster speed over tough desert terrain. Rounding out the package are 16-inch lightweight wheels that increase track width, and are wrapped in beefy Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires. Some might find the standard, forward-facing Multi Terrain Monitor helpful, but the camera resolution isn’t great. You’ll find a clearer picture from Ford and Jeep.
Should you be up for the TRD Pro, you’ll pay close to $48,000 for the privilege. A similarly equipped Ford Ranger with the Tremor package is a few grand less, as the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is comparable in price and also features a front differential locker. Still, the Tacoma TRD Pro represents stellar build quality and has a history of holding its value.